A-Z of ME

A- Age: 27
B- Biggest Fear: that I won’t get what I want because I don’t know what I want
C- Current Time: 22.46
D- Drink you last had: rum
E- Easiest Person To Talk to: Andy? Melissa?
F- Favourite Song: currently? Bitch, please.
G- Ghosts, are they real: potensh
H- Hometown: Wimborne
I- In love with: Maffew
J- Jealous: often
K- Killed Someone? blogging about murder is counterproductive
L- Last time you cried?: a couple of weeks ago, for about two weeks
M- Middle Name: Kathleen (after my lovely Gran)
N- Number of Siblings: 2
O- One Wish: to do and be, equally
P- Person who you last called: Maffew!
Q- Question you’re always asked: ‘what do you do’
R- Reason to smile: there’s always surprises, no matter how miserable you get
S- Song last sang: Sweet Freedom
T- Time you woke up: 2.11am
U- Underwear Color: white and red
V- Vacation Destination: now people are paying me, Cyprus, apparently
W- Worst Habit: worth envy
X- X-Rays you’ve had: on my foot when my toe snapped in half for no reason
Y- Your favourite food: batter
Z- Zodiac Sign: Leo

Festival Survival 101 (for the Anxious)

join the resistance fall in love

From Submedia and Crimethinc’s short film about love. power and resistance.

I’ve never liked the idea of festivals. They require you to be literally always outside, continuously pummelled with sounds, surrounded by munted children, munted adults, and conservatives that think they’re socialists – and enjoy it to the tune of £250. Because they sound so awful, I’ve never actually been to one before now and thus my knowledge of festivals comes from those who constantly talk about going to festivals, and – a bit like people who constantly talk about their drug use (for which there is a huge Venn diagram to be drawn here) – perhaps don’t give the best impression of the overall world of drug- and festival-use. (There’s a smouldering, silent bloc of you that are alright.)

Hypocritically, then, I’ll join the rabble forcing their self-indulgent and narrow-minded experience of festival phenomena on you, and tell myself it’s only to balance the noise. But I do hope that for young overwhelms like myself who might one day be traumatised by a cheeky, non-committal fence-hop that accidentally lasts too long, or get peer-pressured into buying a ticket for a version of hell decorated by a Glastonbury shopkeeper, I will litter the following with all the instructions I can think of that allowed me to ‘enjoy’ mine and stop short of ‘spend £250 on anything else.’

me in a festival mirror

Proof that this definitely happened.

Last week I went to Green Gathering. I was running the cinema there for the first two days, on behalf of a friend who had double-booked himself with Boomtown and had wisely recognised that it would be unwise for me, at this point in my life, to be Boomtowning. It is important to do your research, and choose a festival with which you are largely compatible. Green Gathering hates The Man, hedonism, and things that most normal people think are fun and/or necessary, so we were about as well suited as a festival and I could be. Working was key to optimum mental functioning; running the cinema not only gave me some much needed structure – there were no acts on that I’d heard of, so I had no itinerary (which, for two days in a field, is ludicrous) – but also provided me with a huge tent to live in. This made the journey to and from the festival slightly less stressful, in that I had one less item to throttle me and smash into my shins.

Before I left, a festival-seasoned friend (who only talked about it at my request) advised me that there are slightly different rules to socialising etiquette at festivals, and that you’re almost certain to get a good response if you begin talking to a stranger with an enthusiasm up to and including that usually reserved for adult-toddler interactions. As I got off the train with a bunch of other people carrying camping gear, I asked a couple (in the style of a children’s TV presenter circa 1998) if I could share their taxi. Since it was a small town it was only a fiver, and they didn’t ask for money (the next day they came to visit me in the cinema and watched a film about the inevitability of full ecocide due to rapacious mining and pollution – I felt we’d bartered ironically, if not well.) Almost immediately I got out the taxi and began hobbling toward the crew office, a woman dressed as a fire-breathing mythical creature offered to carry my bags for me the rest of the way to the site.

END:CIV violence derrick jensen

From the brilliant END:CIV, Submedia’s film about radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen and his book about ecocide, Endgame.

First things first, I unpacked everything, reshuffled it, and packed everything valuable into a smaller bag to carry everywhere with me (lest the socialist-cum-conservatives wheedle their way into my temporary home – they’re individualistic at heart, but all about distribution of others’ wealth when it suits them.) It is advisable to over-prepare on anything that is light, and carry that with you too. You’ll be able to get by without that 2 litre bottle of mixer, but when you forget nail clippers that hang nail is going to fuck you.

bp or not bp

Protest theatre group BP or not BP. They were nice and angry.

I ran into people wearing matching fake beards, who turned out to be theatre protest group BP or Not BP, a Rasta who also ran a macrobiotic food festival, and a teenager called Carl who would have charmed me right up if I hadn’t been ten years older than him. He didn’t so much shake my hand as much as he held it tenderly and squeezed it a couple of times as though we’d been friends for years, or my hand was a piece of bread that he was crumbing for a nutroast. I didn’t know teenage boys were capable of such gentleness/astute manipulation.

By that first evening I had talked to an optimum amount of other festival-goers (i.e. not that many) who were all perfectly friendly and had thus retained a lot of my energy. I screened my last film for the day, had a drink, and ran into some drum and bass. These munters seemed alright after all. I was relaxing, mainly because of the rum/drum and bass symbiosis but also because I was by myself, bouncing without limitation from one place to another, one impromptu mid-crowd circus performance to another, one eyebrow-flash of contentment shared with a stranger to another…

At some point some square ceased that particular fun, and I, being cool, made my way over to the only stage still playing. The fun I hadn’t anticipated having was cut short – it was nearing 2am, and the final laptop had died. Perversely, the DJ started making requests for alternatives – naturally, I had packed my iPod into my tory-proof rucksack and proceeded to play all the weird and wonderful songs I never thought I’d hear on a speaker stack taller than I am. (It was around Favourite Moment #36 of my life so far, but they often happen just out of my comfort zone where there are no pens, so I can’t be sure.)

Finally someone came and grumpily shut it down – the laptop had in fact died at exactly the right time and my illicit iPod dabbling had drawn a couple of organisers out of Festival HQ to bollock us, which I unplugged and slipped away for. It got relatively quiet – which I wasn’t expecting – but I still needed ear plugs to get some sleep. (And for God’s sake take an eye mask; daytime occurs about 4am because you’re living outside.)

In the morning I felt as rough and regretful as I usually do after having a lovely time, my mind full of uncertainty and my body lacking true rest. I made my way over to The Healing Field which, alongside massages for a (suggested) donation (of £35) and a tent in which you were invited to unlock the pain of your ancestors from your DNA (no, thanks) offered free yoga sessions. The session I went to happened to be all women, and led by a friendly, generous and normal-seeming woman who was all about my womb. This was nice, because I was on my period and someone was paying attention to my need to rub my stomach a bit and stretch in un-thought-of ways and grizzle a bit, and then she said kind things about my soul. She definitely wasn’t getting munted. I wondered how she was dealing with the whole thing, seemingly super happy living amongst the rain and the badgers and the soggy leaves, chanting and smiling at people while appearing to have all her marbles. She may have been an anomaly, but she was shattering my neatly-whittled stereotypes.

It was raining again and not many people were up yet, so I ended up cancelling the first screening of the day. My structure interrupted, I was immediately bored and antsy. I walked around the perimeter of the site listening to Boards of Canada (whom I no longer think are pointless but actually quite relaxing). I finally took shelter in the main tent, where all of the youngest children at the festival appeared to have formed an adorable gang and sat in a tiny row in front of me. Trying to ‘be’ and shit, I just sat. I sat and wondered whether as a toddler I would have relished the brightly coloured music farm, or whether all of the people and the rain and the blaring would have agitated me into a series of overtired panics. I wondered how much of my anxiety was inherent and how much was learned, how much of it will stay with me throughout my life, how much of it I deserved, how much of it was my fault, how I was supposed to be relaxing and being kind to myself and not overthinking things or asking questions with no answers.

tiny gang

I surreptitiously took a photo of these small children and put it on the internet.

The musicians started and I stared at them as they ran through a lengthy sound check. I enjoyed a change of scenery for my staring, away from screens. I enjoyed hearing literally no traffic. I enjoyed sitting in a public space with my eyes closed, smiling and swaying gently and still not being the weirdest person in the room. A woman sat down next to me and said hello, and after a short chat she insisted on buying me a chai and a piece of cake. I was so touched that I didn’t tell her I’d just eaten or that my nervous system has an intolerance for vast clumps of sugar, so though I drank all of the chai I chucked the cake over my shoulder while she wasn’t looking (like that bit in Good Will Hunting in the joke shop, but I was genuinely trying to outsmart her and I’m slightly more hench than Matt Damon.)

I was already flagging and I’d only been there 24 hours. That felt like several too many, and I had the same amount to go. I had no choice but to pay attention to the musicians, the couples around me enjoying a break from their routines, the children embodying abandon and how desperate I was to join them. (I haven’t yet figured out abandon, if anyone has, please tweet me.) I became ok just sitting, listening, flitting from place to place for as long as each one held my attention. I gave myself a grace period each time, so I didn’t flit too much or too little, then moved around some more. It was a designated break from what was usual, and I didn’t realise how much I needed that until I was sitting on a child-size wicker stool staring at a tapestry of elves.

It was still raining like fuck and only getting windier. I went back to my screening schedule, ate, ran back into Carl the teenager and then a man named ‘Compost John’ who told me he was polyamorous and was going to nickname me something ‘memorable, like Hot and Hardcore’. That made me uncomfortable so I said ‘well, that’s what my Mum calls me’ and he looked at me like he didn’t understand why I’d said something so literally true. I wondered whether his lack of sense of humour helped in his negotiating multiple sexual partners into his life. I showed my final film, about masculinity and violence in hip hop, followed by a short interview segment with Brother Ali. It was a good choice to end on. I liked creating my own schedule. I liked carving out a piece of the festival for myself. I now had freedom to roam and stumble upon an evening like last night’s.

brother ali russia today

Brother Ali news segment from RT.

My body was tired. I went back to the drum and bass bar; the music was great again, but I was unable to connect with people as I had 24 hours ago. I moved lazily, my eyelids rested half way down my pupils; I couldn’t lift my limbs as I had. I wasn’t smiling naturally. I defected to a calmer stage with a jazz band and after resorting to some sort of half contemporary dance, half amateur Tai Chi, I accepted that I needed a sit down.

At that moment the drummer whipped out a triangle, and started playing it like it was an actual instrument and not just a memory from my primary education. In his hands the thing sounded like a piano. I had no idea you could play the triangle well; I thought you just hit it or you didn’t. It struck me (pun intended) that there aren’t many places you can bump into someone excelling at the triangle. What else might I encounter, were I to do the unthinkable, and go to another? Had I had a good time? Had I just coped incredibly well? Had the goalposts of my life really moved to accommodate stewards dressed as magical frogs and shitting into wheelie bins?

The morning of my exit, the sun came out with force, as though Gaia had understood my need to leave and was providing me with the best atmosphere in which to do so, but also showing me how beautiful it was to be outside and amongst a community. The site looked achingly good in the morning light – I leisurely kicked my boots through the immaculately dewy meadow to get a cup of tea and breakfast, walked around the perimeter once more and found a giant throne carved out of a few tree trunks from which I surveyed the whole arena a final time. I suppose I could have stayed one more day; I was exhausted, but the sun began to feel like my own personal charger. My experience was now bathed in sunlight and hindsight, and the parameters of the experiment had been optimal.

I was also pumped full of excitement for my next trip, starting immediately: my brother was picking me up from the site to visit my family home and celebrate our birthdays. As I packed up my belongings, throttling and smashing my way out of the ‘best off-grid family renewable community sustainable festival’, I was happy. Happy I’d done it. Happy to be here. Happy to be leaving. And possibly happier than I’d ever been to get in a fossil-fuel powered machine that represents the undoing of our survival and the fragility of our understanding of future realities.

Fuck. Am I a conservative?

A Crushing Attack on Equality: The Musical!

STEP ONE: set this playing.


STEP TWO: read aloud.


DWP releases document on cuts to disabled work access scheme hours after election resultDWP releases document on cuts to disabled work access scheme hours after election result


Theresa May to revive her ‘snooper’s charter’ now Lib Dem brakes are off

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Interview with Tim Hjersted of Films For Action

(Cross posted from Dialectical Films, with thanks.)

As research for a panel on the subject of ‘audiences’ at the Radical Film Network‘s inaugural conference earlier this year, I spoke to a number of media organisers and radical filmmakers about their work and how they survive while doing it. This is the second of two interviews I’ve published (the other being last week’s with Franklin Lopezof subMedia.tv), with the intention of inspiring, comforting and galvanising those making political work and no money.

Tim Hjersted is the co-founder and head of operations (note the lower case, not an official title) of political video site Films For Action. He and his colleagues have been collating and curating political films, images and articles for the last eight years, and at last count they had 400,000 followers on Facebook.

Tim kindly took time to answer my questions, and gave us an insight into his beliefs about fair compensation for activists, the work that goes into running a digital venture like this, ending with a lovely quote from Derrick Jensen about integrity and social media. (What more can you ask for from a concluding sentence?)

(FUN FACT: All of us in the previous paragraph are somehow connected – last night, I attended the launch of the Bristol chapter of Films for Action, headed by Andrew who has worked for Films for Action for the last couple of years and who I will now be working with in Bristol as part of the film festival I co-run; Franklin’s work at subMedia.tv was the theme of the night, some of which is a documentary called END:CIV about the work of radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen. Thanks to the internet, it’s a small world.)



What spurred you to start Films For Action?

Learning about the various ways that the mass media harmed society and filtered out important information led us to thinking about how we could ‘become the media’ in our own town, to help correct the deficiencies of our local media. We had seen a few activist films by that point, and one of our co-founders worked at an independent theater, so one night we were hanging out in a friend’s kitchen and we talked about the idea of hosting a film screening. This first event was a success – 320 people came, so we kept doing more. This article goes into more detail on how we got started: http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/be_the_media_change_the_world_a_summary_of_films_for_actions_strategy_for_change/

Are you independently funded?

95% of our funding comes from advertising on the site. The other 5% comes from donations, which we really never promote, but the support we get from people is definitely appreciated. We’d consider this independent because Google Adsense doesn’t care in any way what kind of content we promote, as long as it doesn’t violate their common-sense restrictions. Soon, we’ll be doing PPV (pay-per-view).

Do you get any say in what Google advertises on your site or is it entirely random?

We have the ability to block certain ads or ad accounts, which we do fairly often to keep the ad experience as classy as possible. This is a constant battle though as there are always new ads coming in and we only personally see a small portion of them in daily use of the site.

Do you have another job/income source than Films For Action?

No – after 7 years working on this without pay, FFA has finally become financially able to support myself full-time, as well as 2 part time staff.

How many people work for/with Films For Action?

We have 3 paid staff, 2 of whom are co-founders. We also have 2 other co-founders who currently aren’t active but were for the first several years. We also get a lot of help from our site members, who make submissions to the site.

There’s Eli, who works part-time, maybe a third or fourth of the year, on back-end site coding and feature enhancements for the site. In September 2014, I hired a long-time contributing member of the site to do content curation (seeking out, reviewing, and publishing content on the site, then sharing it on Facebook). Andrew (Butler, who has just set up the Bristol chapter of FFA) lives in the UK and does 20 hours per month.

Then there’s me. I do everything else related to the project, mainly content curation like Andrew. I follow dozens and dozens of activist Facebook pages and websites to filter and scan for good content worth sharing, add the best stuff to the website and share it on social media. I also answer a ton of emails and occasionally speak with chapter leaders on the phone. I used to organize local film screenings but haven’t done that very much in the last couple years, although I occasionally offer advice to others who want to do it (see screening guide at the bottom of the page.)

We also have dozens of city chapters that operate independently from us, and each of those chapters has at least one chapter leader doing work locally. A lot of these chapters are at various levels of activity or inactivity.

Do you consider Films For Action to be politically and/or aesthetically radical?

Yes, politically, as in we try to seek out the root causes and the root solutions to society’s problems. Aesthetically we’ve designed the site to be appealing to a global, mass audience, without any obvious connotations (such as how many anarchist sites have a particular aesthetic which might turn off non-anarchists).

Do you consider your way of organising radical?

I’ve never thought of it is radical, but we’re certainly very different from conventional non-profits and media networks. Our organizing work might be considered anarchist in that we’ve pursued a DIY ethic from the beginning, not content that tries to persuade conventional media to change, or to get anyone else to try to solve these problems. We haven’t tried to appeal to any other non-profit groups, politicians or media to change. We recognized the problem and felt that the best approach would be to create a better media ourselves. The benefit of this is that it doesn’t require waiting on anyone or anything – hosting film screenings or creating a Facebook page or website is something anyone can do.

We’ve also tried to model the kind of organizational values that we believe should be a part of ‘the new media.’ In our case, the people working on FFA have operated in a tribal, non-hierarchical fashion. While I’ve been considered the leader or project director for many years now, decisions are made collectively by the people involved. I’ve frequently deferred to others preferences when there is a disagreement on some aspect of making changes to the site, or occasionally, with content choices.

I think the fact that our group started out among 4 close friends really helped us be productive and effective. We already shared a very similar political perspective, and we already got along really well. We each also had some expertise in a particular area. Because of this, we’ve avoided some of the pitfalls of groups which start out among a bunch of interested strangers who might show up to a public meeting to volunteer, and who may or may not have the relevant skills.

What is your (brief) definition of ‘radical’, if you have one?

To go to the root. To address root-causes.

Do you find any conflict between the work you do and earning money from it?

I used to share a commonly-held notion in our culture that any truly ‘good’ non-profit work should be done out of the goodness of your heart, but over the years I’ve come to see how this perspective is really problematic. Other activists fortunately helped me dispel this notion. Money in our society is an exchange of value, but presently our society holds entirely backwards notions of what is valuable in society. Sports players and movie stars may make millions of dollars, while teachers and social workers may barely make salaries above the poverty line. It doesn’t make sense to me that people doing some of the most important work in the world (including social change activists) should have to scrape by earning very little, while it is perfectly acceptable for people who work in the financial sector of our economy to produce nothing of any value for society but be making millions every year.

What is interesting is that very few question the ethics of making money from being a doctor or stock trading or serving food, but there is this perceived conflict for those doing social change work. I had this notion stuck in my head too, until I had a hour-long conversation with an activist who called me from Australia. He really helped me to see the value of my work and that there was nothing wrong with being paid to do something that is helping other people. It was his opinion that activists deserve to be compensated for their work, a lot more so than a lot of the jobs that are highly compensated.

This is something that I’ve also seen encountered frequently by documentary filmmakers. Because so many films are released for free, whenever a filmmaker isn’t financially able to do that and needs to charge people to see or buy the film, there are a lot of people that don’t really have any respect or understanding for the fact that filmmakers need to eat and make a living just like everyone else. Yes it’s certainly wonderful when a film can be released for free so that the film can reach a larger audience, but I think it’s unfair that filmmakers are expected to put so much work into their films but people balk when asked to pay to see it, because it’s in the social change category. Some filmmakers can afford to do it, some can’t. We should do our best to support the films that cost money, because for better or worse, money is one of those ways that we can show support for each other. It’s one of the ways that we give value to what people do.

What contact do you have with your audience/viewers?

We get lots of emails and Facebook messages. I also regularly read the comments we get on our Facebook posts. I try to respond to all our emails, and I reply a lot on our Facebook posts. It’s getting harder to respond though with the increasing volume of messages we get.

Which medium do you find to be most useful in terms of creating an audience or community around Films For Action?

Facebook. By far. It’s where 90% of our traffic comes from.

Was there one piece of work or event that led your audience to grow, or has it been mostly gradual/organic?

We’ve had several articles or videos go viral now, which gave us dramatic boosts in traffic a few times over the last 2 years. In between that it has been very gradual. We’ve been doing this for 8 years now and if you look at our growth curve the tail at the beginning is suppppperrr long. Things really only took off in the last 2 years.

Do you dedicate time specifically to building your audience, or have you let it happen organically?

Yeah, a little bit. Our main concern has been getting a high viewership for the content we share. This has meant optimizing the title and description of the videos to get a higher click-through and share rate. We’ve taken some lessons from Upworthy in this case, without going as far as they do. Sharing images has also been a good way to build our Facebook audience, more so than sharing links.

If our traffic goes up, that generally ties directly to increasing our Facebook community, so we’ve generally just focused on finding the most important and meaningful content, packaging it as best as we can and then getting it out there.

One interesting factoid is that 2/3 of our Facebook community is outside the US. This has made us focus on content that is relevant to people everywhere, not just the US.

Do you have any qualms using corporate social media, since you are running an anti-corporate media initiative? (No judgment, we all do it…)

No, not really. We’d certainly prefer if there were alternatives that were as widely adopted as Facebook is, but right now, it’s just the nature of the situation.

I’d rather see Facebook used for activist purposes and have some good come out of it then have it not used at all. If activists abandoned it, then it would just become even more entertainment and distraction-oriented and I don’t think that’d be any better.

Reminds me of a quote from Derrick Jensen: “The role of an activist is not to navigate systems of oppressive power with as much integrity as possible, but rather to confront and take down those systems.”


Look for an FFA chapter in your city at their website, and if there isn’t one, create your own. Tim has written a guide to hosting your own public film screenings:http://www.filmsforaction.org/takeaction/films_for_actions_guide_to_hosting_public_film_screenings/

Follow @FilmsForAction on Twitter, and on Facebook, and watch and read their social change films atfilmsforaction.org.

Elizabeth Mizon is a writer, filmmaker and organiser based in Bristol, UK, and recently finished her first feature documentary The Fourth Estate. Follow her @elizabethethird.

Media: Business or Public Service? – my first piece for The Bristol Cable

I recently finished my first feature documentary, and became a co-director of nascent media co-operative The Bristol Cable. This obviously calls for a welded celebration in the form of an article-shaped, self-aggrandizing plug.