Join the trade union counter culture – come to the Liberating Arts festival next month
Liberating Arts is a major new cultural initiative from the GFTU that celebrates the best of contemporary creative activism, journalism and political art, and asks how trade unions, political parties and social movements can better use the arts as tools for campaigning and political education.
The arts and culture have been central to Momentum’s strategy to boost the appeal of Jeremy Corbyn. Their powerful use of imagery, comedy and music on social media platforms has transformed UK politics and shifted electoral power to the young. The World Transformed festivals at the Liverpool and Brighton Labour Party conferences have been inspiring and invigorating for the public and activists alike.
Liberating Arts is to the trade union movement what The World Transformed is to the Labour Party – an inspiring, invigorating and thought provoking celebration of the ‘counter-culture’ that draws so many of us into the struggle for freedom and economic justice in the first place.
I’ve been working at the intersection between politics and popular culture since the mid 1970s, and for all those years people have been saying to me things like, “relax, Chris, it’s only television… only a film… only a song… only a play… it’s only entertainment… the arts never changed anything… art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake…”. But as Bob Dylan once said in one of those supposedly pointless political songs, The Times They Are A Changin…
The counter-cultural power unleashed by cheap production technology and social media has played a huge part in this shift to the left and encouraged perhaps the most healthy counter-cultural arts scene we’ve seen in the UK in the last 20 years. At the Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival this year all the feature films were homegrown and we had more than two thousand entries to our Small Axe activist film competition. Two thousand! When we started only four years ago we had half a dozen.
Similarly the line-up of Liberating Arts demonstrates the sheer depth and vitality of the UK’s counter-culture. Performers include some of the stalwarts of the last thirty years such as Banner Theatre, Red Ladder and Attilla The Stockbroker but we also have the next generation of counter-cultural artists such as Captain Ska, Itch from The King Blues, Kate Evens, Anthony Anaxagorou and Francesca Martinez.
This new generation of counter-cultural activists has lived their entire lives surrounded by relentless neoliberal propaganda and yet they have seen through it and embraced the ideas of equality and social justice that just two years ago seemed to be consigned to a different era. These talented young men and women have also understood that cultural expressions of their core beliefs and values are not merely ‘entertainment for the troops’ but are crucial to inspiring hearts and minds and thus to changing the world.
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