The Journey Begins

Today is the start of the tour and the launch of Brit Rocks! For the next three weeks I’ll be traveling around Britain on a mini bus documenting the grassroots political activity that is sweeping the country. The concept is simple: local filmmakers capture political activity happening in their community. This can be anything from a new initiative to combat loneliness, to an individual’s journey to becoming a Councillor. The number of people who have registered to vote since the election was called now stands at over a million. Almost half of these are under twenty-five. Gone are the days when politics was someone else’s business. Now it’s becoming a lifestyle choice.

Our partner in this venture is Stand Up For Labour, a variety show in the old working class tradition that rallies support for the Labour Party by mixing politics with entertainment. Comics share the bill with bands, poets, political speakers, and now a ten minute video slot screening grassroots films under the banner, Brit Rocks! In each of the places the tour will be landing, a call-out for films will precede it. From Cornwall to Carlisle, local filmmakers will be invited to contribute films for the show. Audience members will be approached as they come in and asked about their political journey. We hope that by the time they leave, many will feel confident to make their own films and share them. Politics is kicking off! And our democratic system is enabling it to happen.

Brit Rocks began in 2014 as a rock concert to persuade the Scots that Britain was worth sticking with. Held on the border, we invited musicians and speakers from both sides to celebrate all that was good about the union. Poets spoke movingly about the link of blood and family that binds the English and the Scots. I feel this very strongly myself coming on my father’s side, from Cumbria. Slicing up the land that binds one country to the other cuts as if inside me. Many suffer from a similar pain as Britain breaks its bonds with Europe. Now is the time for healing. Together we can channel our emotion into action, changing the existing system, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t, and imagining our destiny from here into the future. My political baptism came on the streets of London demonstrating against war and losing. Now finally, we have everything to play for again. In the rules of this game we all have a voice. More people speak up now – some are already being heard. This can unify us like nothing else can. Brit Rocks exists to reflect this.

Tonight is our first show is in Twickenham. Brit Rocks films include a profile of Jan Sweeney, engaged in politics through the Housing Act and because of Jeremy Corbyn. Jan is in her late fifties, born in Acton and was recently made Chair of her local Labour Party. We hear about Jan’s journey and her views. Jason Pritchard has recently been elected Councillor after joining the Labour Party, again because of Corbyn. We follow his new initiative ‘Happy To Chat’, that twins isolated residents from estates in the City Of London with language students keen to practice their English. A young singer-songwriter, Lily Bud, performs her song ‘Not In My Name’ to a floating crowd on a grand piano at King Cross station. Filmed by an activist, this will also form part of Brit Rocks’ ten minute slot.

My next blog will be about this show and include voices from the audience, some background to the constituency, and a sense of the political activity that taking place there now. I am conscious that the majority of people featured in Brit Rocks at this stage will be Labour Party voters, many supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. But Brit Rocks has a life after this election, and I intend to move the spotlight onto political activity of all persuasions as we work to come together and engage with one another as the family that we are.