Brixton based arts activists, Tony Cealy and Chloe Osborne, with support from Ubele Initiative and Edge Fund are catalysing a cultural programme called 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance - a community led programme of activity that will draw on the 40 year anniversary of the Brixton uprisings (2021) to:
provide a lens on our contemporary experience of equity in the area
catalyse collaboration between disparate, diverse grass roots organisations
engage the changing demographic of the area’s rich activist heritage
explore, discover and champion new modes of shared creative advocacy, enabling hidden voices to be heard and championed within the collective experience
create 81 radical acts of exuberant defiance and incite future radical responses*
*reclaiming the word by referring directly to the etymology of the word - meaning “root,” as in, “going to the root of the problem’ and embracing the idea of radicalisation as choosing to take it upon yourself to work towards a stronger, shared future world.
We started our project in the 1 year by holding "Ideas Feasts" with the aim of testing out the concept with local residents, artists, activists and community leaders. We worked together to think about potential impact, processes and programming ideas that would enable people to connect across difference.
Moving beyond the usual suspects and including a broad range of lived experiences within the local area; we began to build a community-led steering group to inform the process and help the programme move forwards.
Together we identified core themes of;
Resist - exploring strategies of resistance
Insight / Incite - Gaining Insight into the events of 81 and exploring the action that the this incites
Respect - A tribute to fallen and future activists
Reform - Calls to Action
Regroup & Renew - Exploring collective agency and the subversive act of togetherness
We then spent 6 months using these concepts to talk to people and organisations, including tenant’s association, schools, community groups and representatives from particular estates and local areas. We were concerned with how we build a sense of identity for project, and employed black led design company to help us build a visual identity that would help people to grapple with the ideas in a more tangible way. This created the 81 Acts logo and a holding page - https://81actsofexuberantdefiance.com
This also helped us to broker new conversations with local authority about permissions for dynamic interruptions in the public realm.
We held our first steering group on the 1st November, with 62 people turning up, instead of the 20 we were expecting! We delved deeper into working together, reflected on personal resonances that had brought everyone into the space and began unpacking some of the logistics for how we would like to work together. This included a proposal for clarity of roles; including; steering group members (split into two sub groups; builders (logistics & operations) & dreamers (visioning the artistic programme), allies, advocates, advisors and Radical Act Makers.
This has enabled us to harness the energy and ideas given by so many people into what feels like a dynamic and realistic process for creating 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance.
We are now moving towards the next phase of development - generating support for a pilot programme in 2019-20 (including the development of a ‘human library’ which will house multiple narratives about the lived experience of the 1981 Uprisings and provide new opportunities for people to; forge new, intergenerational connections within the community. The idea for this was that instead of taking a book out of a library, and only receiving information, an interested person could take someone with first hand experience out for lunch or a coffee, and have a two way discussion about the 81 Uprising, and it’s relevance today.
We are focused on building the scaffolding and structures to help us move forwards sustainably. Finding ways that we can hold a space for multiple perspectives without hierarchy and reaching out into new spaces to invite Brixton in all its eccentricity and diversity, to participate. We are really grateful for the resources Edge Fund provided to help us with this, without it we would not have been able to a) galvanise the support, b) develop and test the ideas, c) experiment with a new model of community-led programming and d) begin to find radical ideas to fuel future community actions.