Watch the Keynotes & Roundtables part of the Festival at the British Film Institute, 17 – 18 June 2019

Welcome by the Creative Interruptions PI, Sarita Malik

The Creative Interruptions: Festival of Arts and Activism provided an opportunity to reflect on the Creative Interruptions project, showcase some of the art produced during the research, and combine this with a range of talks, roundtable sessions, workshops, exhibitions, films and live performances that bridge activism and creativity.

Neoliberal Inequalities and Postcolonial Interruptions, Gurminder K Bhambra

Neoliberal Inequalities and Postcolonial Interruptions: From Open Borders to Reparations Our times are marked by the unprecedented attention given to the movement of peoples. This is so, even though the numbers moving today are nowhere near the proportions moving in the nineteenth century. Of course, then they moved largely from Europe to colonise other lands; whereas today, many are making journeys to Europe, often as a consequence of the depredations of Europeans upon their lands. These postcolonial interruptions to the standard accounts are rarely addressed in the media representations, political pronouncements or academic analyses of such movement. Instead, migration is primarily understood in presentist terms and seen as responsible for exacerbating cultural conflict and political polarisation. At the same time, for some commentators, migration is seen as the most effective way to address issues of global inequality and there is a growing argument for ‘open borders’, albeit with a recognition of the problems this is said to present in the receiving countries. In this talk,Gurminder K Bhambra discusses arguments for open borders in the context of an understanding of our shared histories of colonialism and ask the question of whether ‘open borders’ is an effective political solution to the problems of global inequality.

Decolonising Everyday Practice, Karen N Salt

The critical activism that has sparked recent movements for decolonisation often focuses its energies, and perhaps rightly so, on large, structural dynamics – curriculum, employment, commissioning, histories. Challengers and battlers see in these apparatuses and processes systems of being and engaging that continue to re-encode dispossession, inequity and unbecomingness for significant swathes of people routinely demarcated as ‘others’ or the amorphous, undifferentiated ‘diverse peoples’. Although motivated by these movements and inspired by their calls to action, this talk offers up new terrain for decolonisation: everyday practice. Rather than focus on the grand, Salt asks us to ponder the minutiae and the common, to insert the same radical potential for transformation and the demand for reparative justice into every acts of entanglement. In stressing this work as practice – to be practiced and to be in practice – Salt draws from the rechants of others, including Alexis Pauline Gumbs, in order to carve out a way forward for social change that envisions creative transformations across scales and relation.

Race and Class in Contemporary Politics: A session with Lowkey 

Lowkey, is a British Iraqi rapper and activist based in London, England. He first became known through a series of mixtapes he released before he was 18. He released his second solo album, Soundtrack to the Struggle, independently on 16 October 2011. After a five-year hiatus, Lowkey released a string of singles between 2016 and 2018 to precede the release of his third album, Soundtrack to the Struggle 2, released on 5 April 2019.

Words of Fire: Creative Citizenship and the Right to Have Rights, Lyndsey Stonebridge

One conspicuous feature of our times is the failure of public discourse to register atrocities as political atrocities – as motivated crimes of race hatred, for example, or as the consequence of the corruption of governance, or of institutional violence. It is perhaps no surprise that the language of human rights has lost its resonance in the same time period. The co- opting and taming of human rights by global and national neoliberal institutions has left platitudes in the place of poetry. ‘A man speaks over their action, with a narrative arc that makes everything OK, if incredibly sad,’ Daniel Renwick has written of the public banalisation of the Grenfell atrocity in a recent essay. ‘The country keeps calm and carries on.’ There is, he concludes, ‘evil in this process.’ It is not, of course, that other languages expressing resistance and new forms of local and transnational human solidarity are not being spoken, it is, as Renwick memorably puts it, that these voices are put ‘on mute.’ This talk tries to argue for a counter-poetics of the right to have rights that is making the language of rights do new kinds of work, both as creative critique and as public acts of speech that claim and re-define the meanings of citizenship today. Refusing the pathos of the suffering victim, this poetics interrupts the banality of everyday violence by giving proper political and moral weight to the atrocities of the past and present.

Roundtable discussion in collaboration with Runnymede Trust, policy makers, and artists

This Roundtable consisted of Bidisha SK Mamata, Euella Jackson, Shagufta Kiqbal, Jane Hackett, Charles Lauder and chaired by Jenny Waldman During the Festival, Runnymede – the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank – hosted a Round Table about Inequalities in the Cultural and Creative Industries, to enable a conversation between artists from different communities on the one hand, and, on the other, arts and cultural policy-makers that represent a mainstream institution. The roundtable theme touched on questions such as: How do artists from global Diasporas, migrant communities and other communities of colour cope in a nation – still divesting itself of a colonial legacy – that works to marginalise, alienate and disenfranchise them? How do they create art under straitened and challenging, even traumatic personal circumstances? What are their forms and strategies of resistance? And how can their art – and collective voice – breakthrough mainstream arts institutions and ultimately insert themselves into Britain’s national story?

Art, Activism and the Archive in the New Millennium

Art as activism engages with the democratisation and availability of the artistic works, which gain cultural significance and can impact on social and political change. To address this subject, and how marginalised communities use the arts, media and creativity to challenge forms of exclusion in the field of cinema, we will bring together a panel of filmmakers and curators across two generations. The panel will explore some of the historical tendencies in British art and culture that have influenced the politics of race and cinema and other aspects in the wider arts and creative industry. The discussion will be framed around new questions of the relevance to artistic work in the digital age, which is equally defined by new power relationships between the artist/creator and the audience/consumer; and the product/archive and cultural institutions.

This illustrated panel featured – Adeyemi Michael (Sodiq, Entitled), Ngozi Onwurah (Welcome to The Terrordome, Shoot The Messenger), Gaylene Gould (No Direct Flight) and Imruh Bakari (Riots and Rumours of Riots, Blue Notes and Exiled Voices, Big City Stories) (Chair)

Colonialisms, Partition and Memory

This panel will discuss the radical potential of memory projects which interrupt dominant narratives about Punjabi heritage and culture in India with a special focus on the grassroots Mela (festival) held at Preet Nagar, the site of a 1930s utopian community in Punjab. To produce the Mela, artists worked with local craftspeople and community members to produce work that responded to themes of Partition and memory. The realm of the imagination, a shared cultural tradition, or language cannot be partitioned. But that shared realm can be forgotten, or the conditions for it to exist or thrive can be undermined.

Restoring Screen Culture, Resisting Erasure

The Palestine strand of Creative Interruptions has sought to explore how Palestinian cinema has challenged hegemonic narratives and resisted the erasure of Palestinian history and experience. The panel explored the ideas and assumptions in popular culture which resist the Palestinian narrative and also highlight the experience and obstacles that have existed in trying to build a Palestinian film industry and culture under occupation. The roundtable reflected on the various ways in which Palestinian cinema interrupts the status quo. It touched on the project’s experience of screening Palestinian films in the UK as well as our attempt to interrupt erasure through restoring film culture; supporting the creative use of archive to narrate Palestinian pasts and presents. The speakers reflected on the continued state of urgency and the need to challenge the ‘hostile environment’ in the UK and abroad. Speakers: Anandi Ramamurthy (Sheffield Hallam University), Paul Kelemen (Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange), Shahd Abusalama (Sheffield Hallam University) , Mahasen Naser Eldin (filmmaker), Salim Abu Jabal (filmmaker), Yousef Nateel (filmmaker), Ken Fero (filmmaker and consultant), Hanna Atallah (artistic director, FilmLab Palestine)

Civil Rights Legacies

This roundtable session considered the interpretation and legacies of the struggle for civil rights in the north of Ireland on the 50th anniversary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association’s campaign for equality. It looked at the ways in which civil rights activists there, past and present, creatively interrupt the status quo, and explored related issues of cultural memory. Fionntán Hargey opened with a presentation on the short film We Must Dissent: A Community Speaks—the outcome of a series of storytelling workshops conducted as part of the Creative Interruptions project. The film looks at the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the limitations of civil rights within a neoliberal economic dispensation. Sarah Campbell will considered the cultural memory of the northern Irish civil rights movement, with a particular focus on its reputational trajectory in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement. She discussed how the movement continues to be an enduring collective memory for the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, and as such is ripe for appropriation by different groups. Michael Pierse presented some of his recent research on the use of creativity by civil rights activists and the ways in which their calls for change in the 1960s and 1970s intersected with radicalism in local and international cultural contexts.

Festival Focus

We will explore how marginalised communities use the arts, media and creativity to challenge exclusion. The festival hopes to shed light on the local and global dynamics that rupture, alienate, and marginalise communities and the creative tools used to address and tackle disenfranchisement. Bringing together activists, artists, academics and policy-makers, the festival aims to create new networks and facilitate local, national, and global debates surrounding the arts, media, diversity and inequality.

The current uncertainties around immigration, cultural difference, rights and responsibilities have resurfaced global debates on colonialism, borders, race, and resistance and brought to light the creativity that these circumstances produce. With this in mind, theaim of this interdisciplinary festival is to explore why and how particular kinds of creative forms, textures and (alternative) aesthetics are used in arts and activism. What is it about theatre, film, or the digital medium that makes each of them the most appropriate or enabling forms and spaces to communicate, share and enable activist messages, for example around race and class politics? In what circumstances does everyday creativity constitute a creative intervention?

Call For Contributions

The festival will combine talks with creative presentations and outputs(including VR, films and exhibited material), as well as panel discussions with an opportunity for participants to discuss the relationship between arts, media and inequality. We welcome and encourage contributions across a wide range of related subject areas including the following:

  • Grassroots creativity, state structures and disconnection
  • Creative legacies of partition and civil rights
  • Co-creative, decolonial, and participatory methodologies
  • Historical understanding of creative practices by disenfranchised communities
  • How creativity intersects with ideologies and histories of colonialisms and racialisms
  • Class/Race and radical creativity
  • Heritage, autonomy, and cultural memory
  • Collaborative and participatory practices of lived experience
  • Media forms, cultural forms, and spaces (film, audio, theatre, literature or vernacular creativity) used to challenge disenfranchisement
  • Issues of inclusion/exclusion and creative expression
  • Digital, Artificial and Virtual environments for social change
  • The instrumentalisation and neo-liberalisation of the cultural and creative industries

Organisers & Partners