In our November R2W meeting, Gareth Moore, long-time R2W member and artist, brought up a conversation he happened to have that he just couldn’t shake. He was talking to a volunteer running a foodbank in Belfast who told him how much they were struggling this year because so many people were asking for support; for basic necessities - food and heat.
We had to do something that offered help but which also highlighted that this should not be happening. We don't have to live in a society where foodbanks exist.
Often in our planning sessions for campaigns, Gareth comes up with mad ideas that are nearly impossible. One Halloween, it was a high-concept campaign centred around Dante’s 9 Circles of Hell, and I’m thinking, can we not just stick on black bags and masks and blast Thriller? It’s an artist’s brain, and something that adds magic to our campaigns.
So this year when Gareth suggested an art auction, my logical brain goes: how on earth can we turn this round in 4 weeks? Where there’s a will (and a lot of brass necks), there’s a way. Several members of the Right to Work:Right to Welfare group are artists; this year the arts sector took huge blows and the future remains uncertain for many of its workers. It was important for us that this campaign would celebrate and promote artists and art, as well as raising money and highlighting poverty.
We were blown away by the spirit and generosity of people and organisations who offered help by donating work or money, sharing the information, and asking others to support in any way they could. Together, we raised almost £8000. Hopefully it’ll give some relief to those who need it this Christmas. But there is more work to be done.
Positive change is always possible and if anything, that’s something we can take away from this mad time.
This year saw huge changes in the world - amongst the terrible tragedies in this pandemic, we also saw big changes we were told weren’t possible, things happened that we were told could never be done. Changes were put in place to create safety nets for those who needed it.
Positive change is always possible and if anything, that’s something we can take away from this mad time. PPR created a hashtag and website called No One Left Behind. These 4 words are a powerful reminder that in a year where we valued and looked after each other, there are still those who need that safety net. We can make it happen if we continue to lend our voices collectively.
Fionnuala Kennedy is a freelance theatre director and and an activist with the Right to Work: Right to Welfare campaign.