Fighting For Crumbs…

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I’ve been involved in setting this project up for the best part of a year…

Over the past few years or so I have found a few people who were agreeing with my growing sentiment:

That the mood and spirit of this society (global too) was in a deep depression, and that this had to be addressed before there could ever be a popular movement that would well and truly galvanise the daily-downtrodden’s into believing in something so much that they were prepared to fight for it.

(Let’s be honest. I’m a daily-downtrodden myself. I’m no freedom fighter.)

Trying to hold a belief that another world is possible up to the light of a new day in UK2015 was like holding a flower up to a nuclear blast – it withered and recoiled before the toothpaste was on the toothbrush. Before you know it the old depressive-pleasure-seeking kicks in: cider after cider, angry self destructive acts, a spree of undecipherable text messages  – enough to write another day off until a new dawn fades.

Art has been my backbone in a world which seems bent on being cold and meaningless in equal measure. Without it I’m a mollusc looking for the nearest dark spot to dwell in For “there are brighter sides to life and I should know, because I’ve seen them, but not very often”. And I always recoil to my work as an antidote-maker.

I’m bored of expressing this. Deeply bored.

I…..

Another world….

…a better world

Isn’t there a plant in the desert that only flowers once a generation? Is that not a perfect analogy for English optimism?

The week that followed from May 8 2015 was actually a special week for me, for it felt like I was sharing something with others. What I felt I shared was a despair and fear now that the Tories and the media were taking their gloves off for some sadist pleasures. And I felt this sharing of despair beginning to jolt people into a sort of action most of us hadn’t engaged in before. But it didn’t last…

Rotten Soil….

…A couple of months later I discovered the Sleaford Mods. Their channeling of the rotten soil of nowhereland sank into hole where a soul, a love of life should’ve been. An Antidote. Later that year I was surprised to find that a film called Invisible Britain, that followed the band, was following them on a tour of the Ingored-lands. The Ignored-lands I meandered within and wrote about: mainly Barnsley and Wakefield.

I felt an idea coming along..

This idea was given one leg to stand on when I was asked by friends to put on an exhibition at the Wakefield Labour club (Aka The Redshed).

2016 marks the 50th birthday of The Redshed, also known as The Labour club. Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire city of Wakefield, the place is somewhat unique, and has defiantly resisted the capitalist forces that have penetrated nearly everything else around it. A year-long line-up of events are now marking this anniversary.

Sandra Hutchinson, a lifelong supporter of the club, spoke of how The Redshed began at the height of the social and political changes happening in the 1960’s. In-spite of the seismic troubles around the world, it was an age of political optimism, and there was a strong belief that things could be and would be changed.

I needed to put something on that spoke of the disbelief that has penetrated the years I’ve been an adult.

Artist Corinne Deakin coincidentally came up to me thinking of doing something very similar. Looking at the way the arts were being pushed out of the reach of many people due to 5 years of needless austerity, low wages and high living costs. I must’ve said the words ‘fighting for crumbs’, in one of my waffles that I never remember, and Corinne remembered it and said that we need to call our project this.

And then it just seem to fall into place. I’d worked with the artist John Wilkinson the year before, and knew his work and thoughts were ideal for our project. And during conversations with friends Rebekah Whitlam and poet Jonathan Butcher I realised how appropriate their work was to addressing the cultural mood of this secretly unhappy Island. Corinne knew a photographer from Barnsley called Connor Matheson, who was just that little bit younger than my own town centre social circles for me to have know him prior to the this project, but I think I’d already seen his photographs and thought they would work well alongside our works, especially John Wilkinson’s paintings. In a way that is sort of Inspired by Invisible Britain, I thought it would be great to make a talking head documentary for this project – the Fighting for Crumbs documentary will be on show at the Redshed event, and hopefully all way through the Gage Event. Anyway, here’s a link to all that. https://www.facebook.com/events/1766943633588740/

Here are a few lines from each artist. All I can say is that I hope whoever reads this can make it to at least one of the events that we are putting on:

John Wilkinson (B 1962 – Sheffield based)

 

The price of coal

The Price of Coal

Austerity, the ugly reality of post-war Britain and the backdrop to the founding of the welfare state has come back to haunt us once again. Trying to invoke that spirit that enabled us to survive and rebuild the last time, David Cameron famously said ‘We’re all in it together’ but the truth is that we’re not, and it isn’t the same. A North decimated by industrial decline and unemployment is not the same as the manufacturing centres that provided the growth and foreign trade that led us to economic revival in the 50’s. A class abandoned because the education bar has become too costly to climb over is no longer the motor of the economy, and so the economic benefits of whatever financial services revival they paid for never reach them. Instead of building the State that supported growth we are dismantling Health, Education, Housing and Welfare, and replacing all but the cheapest labour with technology that frees us from work and with it income. As an artist, my work is a response to the world I live in – a mirror that reflects reality, and what it might become. Through it I express my compassion for a people who built the foundations of our world, and will be left to rot in its basements until we can see what is happening, and ask for better. Then I’ll paint pretty landscapes.

Corinne Deakin (B 1988)

Corinne Deakin

During the past 5 years, or perhaps longer, we have seen old architecture and independent business give way to gentrification and cuts that effect the working class. Education is being stifled and the youth of Britain are entrenched in large debts they may never be able to pay off, with suggestions of unfair consequences. The idea of community is disintegrating, as we are encouraged to evolve into self absorbed, cutthroat individuals where its constant networking and making a career for yourself is based more and more on who you know, not what you know- and it never hurts if you’re born into wealth. Glorifying low paid internships and getting very little in return. This is the ideology that’s being sold to aspiring artists; the dark introduction of how to make it as a successful artist today.

Jonathan Butcher (poet, B 1978, Sheffield)

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Over the last 40 years the structures that should constitute a society have been eaten away by ideals which have been instigated by the few, with the intention to pollute the many. Ideals that strive to restrict us and attempt reduce human expression to the level of the banal and the superfluous; achievements considered wasteful,and without worth. We have been left empty, yet we are expected to remain grateful for the meager gains we have scraped together; gains which when pursued only through shear necessity, place money above time and psychical and mental strain above thought and basic fulfillment. Slivers of hope are offered, but are usually temporary, and for the large part conducted by those just as driven by this machinery as those they purport to despise. This now continual scenario enforced upon us attempts to define us. It claims to speak on our behalf, without offering a single answer to this problem or a solution to our fate.

John Ledger (B 1984, From Barnsley, works in Wakefield)

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There has arisen a deep disbelief in the abilities of the human race, without much shared understanding of how we came to feel this way. Maybe it comes from the fact that with what we now know (regarding climate change, the impacts of social inequality, living memories of 20th century horrors), there’s a sense that we SHOULD be in the process of building a far better world to live in. But NO: in 2016 we are within a state of affairs that is making us scrap amongst ourselves for pieces of barely anything. Are we surprised if nervous breakdowns and spells of aimless rage are commonplace amidst this deeply absurd situation?”

Rebekah Whitlam, Sheffield, 1984

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Vanitas Britannia.

Since the recession there has been a pseudo-nostalgia of post-war Britain. Kettling, rioting, and protests were swiftly detracted from by weddings, jubilees, and cake on the BBC. The “keep calm and carry on” craft trend has escalated; beer, baking, and bunting have become synonymous with community togetherness.

Whilst we crave authenticity in ourselves and our society, empty slogans are sold back to us. The commodities of craft offer us promises of a community, but leave us all the more alienated. As handmade, locally sourced businesses cash in on redeveloping the streets, financial and emotional security remains distant for their neighbours and the divide becomes increasingly widened.

As a textile artist I feel a pressure of balancing a vision of socially inclusive creativity without undercutting myself and other artists financially. The lapping of cushions, cards, and craft is at my feet, but how do I not become part of the problem?

Austerity strains us economically and is having a detrimental effect on personal integrity and creative freedom.

Connor Matheson (B 1992 Barnsley)

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The works I am showing in Fighting For Crumbs explore the everyday lives of normal people in the Post-Thatcher era, with particular focus on themes such as family relationships, the local economy and drinking culture. With a specific focus on the north of England, this project is an accurate representation of working class culture, depicting the everyday lives of people who are often vilified in the mainstream press as “scroungers” or “yobs”. The work shows the effects of government economic policy yet also shows the human element, relationships and humour in life and celebrates the diversity of people and the character of areas.


Gage Gallery, Ball Street, Sheffield, S3 8DB

Monday 8 August: Opening night. 6:30 – 9pm
Friday 12 August. Music and poetry night. 6:30 – 9 pm
11-4pm

The Redshed, 18 Vicarage St S, Wakefield WF1 1QX

Saturday 13 August. 1Pm onwards. Film-viewing, and talk by JD Taylor
Normal gallery opening times: 8 August – 13 August, 7-11pm (call 01924215626 to check room is not in use)

 

 

 

 

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About John Ledger

A visual Artist, eternal meanderer and obsessive self-reflector by nature, who can’t help but try to interpret everything from within the tide of society. His works predominantly take the form of large scale ballpoint pen landscape drawings and map-making as social/psychological note-making. They are slowly-accumulating responses to crises inflicted upon the self in the perplexing, fearful, empty, and often personality-erasing human world.

2 responses to “Fighting For Crumbs…”

  1. Mike Quille says :

    Hi John, I edit Culture Matters, http://www.culturematters.org.uk/culture, I’ve been trying to contact you to see if you want us to upload any material from the exhibition, mentioned in today’s MStar?
    I’m at editor@culturematters.org.uk, if you’re interested.
    Mike.

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