01 Nov Plymouth talk on “Craft for Campaigning and Training”
“I work for a national campaigning organisation, specifically an educational campaigning organisation that’s been in the news a fair bit over the last 12 months. Most of the time I love my job, especially when it comes to working with really amazing and inspiring young campaigners or being surrounded by like minded individuals; however what I love more than my job is making stuff and the craft group I’ve been running in Plymouth for the last 3 years. So by some odd twist of fate I got invited to run a workshop on ‘Craft for Campaigning and Training’ at our last staff training day.
After a brief ‘oh my god how to I make this session not sound like I’m just someone with a wool fetish’ moment, I had a bit of a trawl through the internet and came across the work of the Craftivist Collective, which was, well, mightily exciting and confirmed my longstanding belief that rude notes highlighting bad practise for the likes of some retailers are definitely best delivered via cross stitch.
The session itself started with a very brief look at Chartism, Craft Unionism and the Luddites to give craft a bit of social context and also draw some parallels with the work our organisation does. I work with further education colleges, which are much more centred around trade, craft and skills, and servicing the needs of the communities they are part of, which for me is where we make links to movements like the Luddites who organised to protect the rights of workers and the craft they practised. Even more potently is that one of the reasons around the initial Luddite uprising in 1811 was the move away from traditional apprenticeships and employing poorly skilled young workers on even poorer wages. With modern apprenticeships making a huge comeback and unwaged internships haunting some organisations in the press at the moment, it’s vital that government and business learn their lessons from history. If you want to read a really rad article on the Luddites, check this out.
After the history lesson we looked at DIY movements from Riot Grrrl and making zines to local punk rock scenes and pressing your own records/printing your own t-shirts and why people choose to organise in communities. We also talked about the importance of skills sharing and the support networks craft groups and DIY communities offer their participants. Then I threw a plush toy sperm I made for an old sexual health campaign at a colleague, she screamed, I won’t be doing that again!
Part of my induction into the world of creative campaigning was because I went to a university where I was 50 miles from the main campus and our SU was poorer than most of its students. I got to know quite a resourceful bunch of campaigners and event organisers who were pretty nifty with staple guns and poster paint. The campaigning we used to do at uni took quite a holistic approach when it came to preparing for demos, events and fundraising. Everything was hand made, borrowed or hand assembled to keep costs down, any campaigning preparation was turned into a social event, and every student on campus felt that they had some kind of ownership over the campaigns we ran. Personally I think that’s pretty important when it comes to campaigning; I love seeing the old trade union banners for different branches all hand embroidered and depicting a bit of their own local heritage. Having worked a few demos’ over the last few years the generic placard graveyard at the end of a protest always makes me a bit sad but it’s so exciting seeing that there are still people who believe that the medium is still part of the message!”