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Shake! intensive at the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust 22/02/2013

Some 9 months since joining Platform, I wanted to offer some reflections on working on Shake!, which is  the project I co-ordinate and what I largely work on. This piece is extracted from my concluding remarks at our last Shake! Showcase , slightly paraphrased for the blog reader. Shake! is a project that brings together young people, artists & campaigners to develop creative responses to social injustice. Our next Shake! intensive course is running during 5-9 of August.

Whenever anyone asks me about Shake! and what is that we do, I always struggle and the more I get involved with Shake!, it becomes increasingly  harder. You’ll often find me deferring the responsibility and cheekily inviting the rest of the Shake! team or Shake! participants to answer, probing: “What is Shake! to you?” though this is often because being Voices That Shake!, we are conscientious  about ensuring people’s voices come through and each person has an opportunity to speak for themselves (especially seeing as everyone contributes and takes from Shake! uniquely and differently). It is also because I’m avoiding the responsibility of answering such an enveloping question, I find I can never express or do justice to the fullness of Shake!  However, now seems right to try.

I don’t know if you remember, a couple of years ago there was advert on T.V., I think it was some sort of banking advert, lets just suppose it was. It went along the lines of “Most banks offer you this service or this service, however we offer you this and this.”  Shake! in an entirely different sense evokes an and for me. Every time I describe what Shake! is, I find myself saying: “Shake! engages with: race and media and environment and power and social justice issues. It is a youth project but not just for young people, it informs activists and artists  and educators and older generations through its youth-led policy seminars and youth-led continuing professional development workshops( CPD). Shake! aims to diversify and inform art and activism and education and academia and social policy …” More than anything else I am saying and.  That being the case, I have come to realize that Shake! does in three definitive and profound ways embody an and for me.

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The poetry group working on a group poem “Neat Suitcases…the Sword” 19/02/2013

In the first way, Shake! becomes an and for me is in the types of people that Shake! attracts.  Both the participants and facilitators are multidisciplinary. All of Shake’s facilitators, come from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Take “Professor” Ed for example, he is a teacher and part of the New Left Project and Demand the Impossible or Sai, who is a poet/writer and graphic designer. Likewise Zena is a spoken word poet, musician and community activist. Similarly, we found Shake! participants have been of equal caliber, they range from being students, activists, and community campaigners and while also simultaneously being different types of artists.  This is important to appreciate because we live in a world where we are frequently encouraged to be a specific way, to be this or that. Instead Shake! welcomes all the different parts of us and encourages to develop those parts, so we can move and exist across different fields.

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Some of the Shake! film group doing a Q & A for the their film “Perceptions” at the Shake! Showcase 27/06/2013

The second way Shake! is an and, is the way Shake! approaches and engages with topical issues. We are consistently presented with political and social justice issues as separate, disconnected and removed. Shake! like Platform, joins those dots together and examines how these issues are related, because they so often are.  We regularly see our discussions move effortlessly from talking about environmental justice to race, to misogyny and patriarchy to class to media and power etc.  Shake! appreciates the interconnectedness of these issues and our creative responses reflect this because Shake! engages with a range of art forms like poetry, film, music as well as traditional forms of campaigning to address and challenge these issues.

Finally, the third and perhaps most powerful and defiant Shake! way resembles the and is that, in a world we are told to wear our stereotypes and live our labels, Shake! comes as rejection of this compartmentalization.. Moreover, the and sits on the cusp of expectation, that there is more.  The and is almost greedy, it says, what we have right now is not sufficient and we don’t accept the status quo.  Instead, we should be expecting more, even beyond this, that we ourselves are capable of more.

In these ways Shake! aims to create spaces much like the shake! showcase and the intensive  course where people come together an have an opportunity be in conversations with themselves and people similar and different from them. Here we explore what it means to speak/have a voice, what is means to be heard and what means to make our voices carry on the ever-pressing issues that we are facing locally and globally. It is in the spirit of this movement that a lot of us already taking part which shake! embraces and open itself and you to.

I recently heard Edwin Markam’s poem ‘Outwitted” and immediately it captured so much of the type space that Shake! is trying to cultivate,  so it seems only right to share and conclude on his words:

He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Thanks for reading. If you are interested in more info or have any questions, please feel welcome to get in touch, [email protected]. Our next Shake! summer intensive is during 5-9 of August at the landmark Bernie Grant Arts Centre, come join us!