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.
Divest West Midlands is part of the growing international divestment mission coordinated by Fossil Free calling for organisations, institutions and individuals to demonstrate moral leadership and end their break their ties with the fossil fuel industry.
On 14th September, 2018, we used money provided by our Edge Fund grant to organise a day of action calling for Coventry Council to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels and fracking, and to invest in clean energy - this follows Birmingham City Council agreeing to do the same in 2017. This campaign kickstarted our Coventry group, getting more people engaged in our meetings.
The money we received has enabled us to book rooms, maintain our website, and to prepare for this event – as well as to plan for actions in the new year. A massive thanks to Edge Fund!
The Galway Feminist Collective is a grassroots intersectional feminist group that stages direct actions, educational workshops and uses different forms of art to give platform to marginalised voices and conversations related to the intersection of gender, race, sexuality and class. As well as the actions and events that we organise, we believe how we organise is fundamental to creating a radical alternative to the current culture of individualistic consumerism. Therefore, we challenge our own power and privilege, we organise anti-hierarchically and reflect on the collective level what is needed individually for trust and relationships to flourish and to manage burnout within the group.
In February, two of our members traveled to London to pitch GFC and to learn about other radical projects in the UK. This was a great experience to learn of a participatory and truly radical way of distributing funds while meeting fellow activists that are carrying out really inspiring work. We left this funding day feeling inspired, motivated and part of a larger network of radical activists. What we appreciated most was hearing about the diversity of projects and their roots in community-led struggles.
The funds that we received from Edge Fund went towards our third annual ‘The F Word Feminist Festival’ which took place in August and incorporated the three pillars of what we do and our anti-hierarchical, self-organising approach.
Over a period of a week we held eight actions and events, including a women and non-binary bike workshop, a feminist true storytelling night, a feminist community art exhibition and open mic, a zine-making workshop, a public talk collaborating with the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland, a Take Back the Night march and demonstration, a full-day of collaborative and diverse workshops and finally, a feminist music night to close the festival. Our day of workshops was the highlight of the week, which provided a radical space to learn about the struggles of different grassroots groups and movements, including; sex workers, Trans and non-binary folk, an environmental direct action group and a tenants’ union.
The Edge Fund Funding Day
We recently took part in the funding day hosted by the Edge Fund in Manchester. What made the biggest impression on us was the way the decisions were made - the group voting system was very democratic and combined with the responsibility to spend the money according to the needs of your group, at odds with the hoops that can need to be jumped through for some other funding applications.
We also pointed out the need to understand the difference between Scottish law and English law and gave feedback on the fundraising toolkit Edge Fund are developing. It was good to get a bit of extra time for Ian to explain about our group, this is important to allow a more inclusive discussion.
More than anything else, the stories of other non-mainstream groups, working hard for equality, rights and progress, encouraged the feeling of like-minded souls, forging ahead often the face of overwhelming odds.
Groups not doing things for glory, just because they needed action, and carrying things out with the people involved, not “doing to”. The sad thing is that many of these causes are seen as fringe or extreme, when in fact equality respect and human rights are the very least we should expect in a modern compassionate world.
We look forward to a day when more people don’t sneer but instead listen, understand and get involved in these valuable causes, let’s keep stoking the fire!
Ian and Alastair
The Learning Disability Group of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire
Overview of our Round 9 Funding Day
Prepared by MORRIS SAMY OF –‘ SANDWELL YOUTH IN ACTION’
Sandwell Youth In Action (SYIA) gives the space for youth to share their stories, practice leadership, and create change in their communities and in their lives. At SYIA, we understand that those individuals most affected by a problem are in the best position to determine solutions.
SYIA has successfully secured funding from Edge Fund to run its campaign against increased adoption in the region to punish low-income women, who are increasingly losing their children due to poverty especially among women of colour and refugees, which the group calls “the unjust separation of children from their mothers”. Charges of neglect are used to punish, especially single-mother families, for their unbearably low incomes. Our campaign is to petition for the ‘adoption policy’ to be revisited to reduce the number of children in care.
On October 27th, 2018, I attended the ninth Edge Fund funding day, in Manchester, on behalf of Sandwell Youth in Action (SYIA). This day was honestly one of the most democratic and consistent modes of fund distributions I’ve ever experienced with activists and community organisers deciding where the money goes – pooling together our diverse expertise, experience and passion because every group is doing such incredible and inspiring work to share a little between a lot.
I was extremely thrilled to see SYIA being voted by the various groups as being one of the 5 groups who were to be awarded with the full amount of £3000.
I was particularly moved by meeting Virginie from Unity Sisters in Glasgow as our group has an interest in campaigning for amnesty for all and right bill for single mums and children. I came to know they were also interested in the type of activities we were campaigning for i.e. Children unnecessarily removed from parents (a drive to increase adoptions as a punitive for low-income families).
The voting system was inspiring and very well coordinated and organised. Every participating group was actively involved in the process and spent a good hour going around, asking questions. Each group had chickpeas to distribute amongst the organisations gathered – and I could put as many or as few in each “tub” as I wanted to. I put something into every tub and more into others and was relieved in the knowledge that we would all be going home with something – everyone would take home £1500.
We encourage new groups working on issues of social justice to come forward with their inspiring approaches of addressing social injustice to Edge Fund for support.
The £3000 we were awarded by Edge Fund creates an incredible opportunity for us to invest in young people and supports us to connect with other activists organising across UK to skill-share and network.
A big thank you to Edge Fund who not only gives funding to amazing people working on the ground, but set a precedent for how money can be distributed in activist communities, one that I hope will be taken up nation-wide.
A huge thank you also to all groups which were represented at the event. I learnt so much from you in such a short space of time and I am overwhelmingly grateful that you all exist.
Tower Blocks UK Report
On Saturday 27 November 2018 two of us who work as volunteers with Tower Blocks UK travelled to Manchester to present our case for funding from The Edge Fund.
As we walked along the canal to the venue we could see how Manchester has been developed and “gentrified’ in similar ways to London but we were struck by how much quieter than London it all seemed.
The Bridge 5 Mill community venue was very comfortable and well-appointed and the vegan lunch was delicious. We valued the chance to talk with representatives of the other fifteen groups who were applying, some other funded groups, members and staff who are part of the “Edge Fund community”.
The applicants encompassed some which were quite locally or specifically focussed and others which were tackling wider strategic or policy issues. For example; Rising Up who are seeking to overhaul consumerism, a group for parents of young men imprisoned because of Joint Enterprise Laws, groups seeking justice for asylum seekers and a food growers land use network - to name a few!
They were all so important and worthwhile it was a privilege to be amongst all the participants who were energetically committed to their causes. It was empowering to be amongst those challenging poverty, climate change and discrimination and fighting for better lives in the UK and Ireland.
Our organisation has been operating for about a year prompted by the Grenfell Tower fire. We aim to highlight the life and death risks in some Tower Blocks and provide advice and support to Tower Blocks tenants. In our two minutes presentation Liz Lowe outlined how Tower Blocks UK is building on previous campaigning from the 1980s and Danielle Gregory described how they had highlighted risks on her Peckham estate.
All the groups were guaranteed £1500 and had the opportunity to receive a further £1500 by participating in the voting system with 30 chickpeas each group to share amongst the organisations. We were very pleased and surprised that we were in the top five to receive the extra grant. We are also proud to receive money from such an innovative and creative fund which works so hard to support grass roots projects.
The £3,000 we were awarded will enable us to continue to run our website, produce and share accurate public information, offer advice, support and build the momentum to ensure that no-one continues to live at risk in a Tower Block.
Edge Fund Report from Common House
Firstly, it was very good to get out of London, and find out what radical folks were up to in other parts of the UK. London can sometimes feel like a hermetically sealed bubble where you forget that other things are going on. So I had a nice train ride up with my comrade, and enjoyed the greenery out of the train window.
I was blown away by the work of other groups during the people's short presentations. People were struggling against fracking and land injustices, fighting the brutal criminal justice systems, defending their communities, running social centres and many other impressive and inspiring things. I was excited about activism again, and had to resist that urge to get involved with more groups and tell myself to focus on what I was doing!
Lunch was delicious and plentiful, and was one of the only networking events I've been to where I haven't just stood around awkwardly wondering what to say to people. It was a friendly crowd, and I felt like I wanted to speak with everyone, find out what people were doing and share ideas. I was really happy to connect with a comrade from a feminist group that my group had worked with, but who I had never met. Functioning day to day in a capitalist society, in one of the most capitalist cities on the planet, I forget what a breath of fresh air it is to speak plainly with people and talk about what's really been on my mind. I felt optimistic, as if things could be different.
I also appreciated the efforts to be democratic, and encourage people to take ownership of the work of the Edge Fund through the voting system. I did not feel like merely a recipient of a grant but that I was helping to contribute to an organisation that provides essential infrastructure for the left. I was gratified with the results of the vote and felt that as a group we had made the right choices.
On the whole, a grand day out!
The Common House - a collectively managed space for radical groups, projects and community events
Edge Fund members have finished the lengthy but satisfying process of scoring and reviewing applications. We are pleased to announce that our shortlist for Round 9 has been finalised.
The following groups will be considered for either £1500 or £3,000 at our final funding day in Manchester on Saturday 27th October:
- Not Guilty By Association, Disabled People Against Cuts, Community Action on Prison Expansion, Open Lavs, London Coalition Against Poverty, Learning Disability Group of Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, Land Justice Network, Disabled People Against Cuts Glasgow, The Common House, SOAS Detainee Support, Rising Up, Tower Blocks UK, Sandwell Youth in Action, Unity Sisters and Belfast Solidarity Centre/Just Books.
The following groups will automatically received the grant they asked for based on their position on the shortlist and as they asked for £1500 or less:
- Fforwm yr Eliffant Binc, Liverpool Social Centre Collective, Positively UK, Kushti Bok
The following groups will receive a small grant between £1000 to £500 based on their position in the short list.
- Friends of Detainees, Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh, African Rainbow Family, Peabody Family Voice (PFV), Ubuntu Women Shelter, Sister Supporter, The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley, LGBTIQ Outside, T.O.R.C.H. (Taking On Rape culture, Consent, and sexual Health) Collective, Berkshire Anti Fascists, Fuel Poverty Action, Leeds Anti-Fascist Network, Frack Free Upton, JENGbA Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association and Scottish Farm Land Trust.
We would like to thank all of our members and previously funded groups for their hard work in scoring applications!
The next step in our grant giving process is our Funding Day in Manchester on Saturday 27th October, in the Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick St, Manchester M4 7HR, where the top 15 applicants and our members will come together to vote on which groups will get the larger grants. Check out our report on Round 8’s funding day, to see what’s involved.
We are now open applications, deadline is midnight Sunday 24th June. Please make sure to read over the funding criteria before making an application.
If you’re unsure about whether you fit the guidelines you might want to take a look at our previous grants. You’re also welcome to contact us by email email@example.com or call 0776 712 6915 or 0300 123 1965