Thursday, 30 July 2015

Take To The Streets

Here is a speech I gave last night for ArtsBarge's inaugural PechaKucha night. 

Take to the streets
Take to your homes
Take to your schools
Take to your gardens
Take to your pubs
Take to the library, to the village green and to the town square
Take to the cafes
Take to your offices, your farms, your work places
Take to your social spaces
Take to your castles and priories
Take to your churches and places of worship
Take to your bedrooms
Take to your shops
Take to your superstores

And fill them.
Fill them all. 

Fill them with singing
With talking
With debating
With playing
With music
With laughter
With words
With challenges
Fill them with stories
And drawings
And imaginings and wonderings. 

Wonder aloud. 
Do not wait to be asked.
Do not wonder when you will be asked. 

Talk about it. 
Dance about it. 
Colour about it.
Write about it.
Play about it and pass it to someone else. 

Keep your hands open and see what they might pass back. 

Do not wait for permission. 
Do not wait for an invitation. 

Take to your streets and fill them with art. 
With stories. 
With imagination and wonder and don’t spend the time wondering ‘what if?’
Get up and do. 
Take to a space. Any space. And give. 
And stand in that space waiting to receive. 

Do not wait for someone in a suit to tell you you can, because you can just start doing. 
Sing on the bus and see who sings with you. Start a bus choir. 

Because art doesn’t belong to anyone. Art is not created at the behest and the say so of doctrines or policy or litigation or committees - arts belongs to us. To people. 

And it is people who populate the streets
Who sit in the pubs
Who meet at the library 
And who you see every day at work. 

And all of those people -
All of us -
Live in the here and the now, in these places and in these times. 

And - in these places and in these times - all of us might find it hard. 
But, in the words of Neil Gaimen, ‘Make great art.’

My history is, perhaps, hazy. 
But I don’t think Bertolt Brecht waited for the go ahead.
I doubt Ibsen wrote in response to a local council brief. 
Nina Simone didn’t graduate from a television show. 
They are people, in the midst of other people, who took to the streets - or their pens or their stages or their pianos. 
And they made a noise. 

Here is a proposition. 
We open our spaces and we make art. 
We meet in our pubs and we make art. 
We gather in our streets and we make art. 
We meet after school and we make art. 
In the coffee breaks at the office, we make art. 
On the platforms of the train stations we make art. 
We invite our friends and our families in to our gardens and we make art. 

And - sure - in the theatres and the galleries and the music halls and the publishing houses we make art too and that is for us and because of us because the world is populated by people. And, yes, people have invented councils and applications and funding strategies. But councils and applications and funding strategies did not create art. That sits in our hands. 

That sits in our hands and heads and hearts and bodies. We have those. 

Art is powerful. 
People are powerful. 
And neither should be diminished by the parameters we have created for ourselves. If we put up the fence, then we can take down the fence, dig under it or just walk around it. 

Care fiercely. 
Do not wait for the world to do the caring for you. 
Open your arms - open your spaces - and make things happen. Invite people in. Give them a paint brush or a bit of script or a ukulele or a melody to sing back to you. 

Do not demonstrate your value to the suit that sits on the council. Create something valuable with your neighbours, your friends and your family. One of them, eventually, will be the suit that sits on the council. 

No great artist has created their work because someone asked them to, because someone gave them permission to. They took to the streets and they created, proudly and passionately. No one gave them permission to be an artist. But they gathered and they talked and they shared - in public, in private, in secret - and that art resonated far beyond their scribblings and sketches. It resonated through people. So we should gather and talk and share - in public. 

I can stand and happily talk about the transformative, unifying, social, provocative power of art. But that’s not half as much fun as showing people. 

So let’s cook together, create together, play together, sing together. Let’s take to the streets not because of the bureaucracy and bullshit - but because they are our streets. They are trodden day to day by people, by us. 

So in your gardens, your schools, your pubs, your cafes, your shops, your taxis, your libraries, your churches and mosques and gurdwaras, in your offices and your fields, in your foyers and toilets, in your bedrooms and windows, in your tents and your cars and your hotel rooms, in your roadways and petrol stations

in your streets

Invite people to make great art. Do not wait for someone to invite you. 

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