I wanted to share the first piece I wrote as we opened the COOCs online space for discussion and collaboration around what was then a proposed conference. It is starting to feel more real now, we have agreed venues, people, welcomed the agreement to attend from the inspirational and empowering Kit de Waal. Things have happened, so repeating these paragraphs from November are something of a ‘in the beginning’ idea of the ethos of the conference.
The real inspiration of what seemed necessary was Rachael Gibbons (this brilliant podcast) lit so many fires in me, and others I shared it with – it has prompted a student dissertation and occurred in numerous presentations and discussions last semester). Hearing this made me think of what lies beneath the thinkers we use, that we first have to accepts terms like sub-alterns, begin with an acceptance that we can objectively view working class from some academic elevation. While seeking empowerment, theory and ideas of change, we must do so in a world dominated by pretend distance, worlds where being part of the groups discussed and analysed is not part of the grand plan. But we are here now, and we won’t shut up either.
Anyway, returning to the first thing I wrote will open my account on the blog and I look forward to reading yours.
A working class conference, because we do not want to be like the folks on the hill.
The goal of our coming together is simple enough. We want to create a conference, a get-together, a celebration of working class people doing excellent things. Too often, it seems the only route open is one of assimilation into middle class society. Even when the focus of our work is working class in origin, reflection, focus and purpose it is recognised only when accepted by another strand of our messy but vibrant society.
Academics, artists, film-makers, poets, writers, educators of all kinds are vibrant, creative, brilliant – and often we only get to see each other when we are selected for celebration by others, others from a class apart, apparent owners of the right to accept or reject.
Not here, this conference is going to be ran by, for, with working class people. This is a call to show that difference is necessary, not only for social justice, equality and fairness. It is also a necessary newness that escapes the creaming off of a select few, leaving abandonment as the only political, economic rhetoric that describes the majority of us. Accented, authentic, diverse and unapologetic, this is an opportunity for assertive claiming of the recognition of our brilliance that is not first mediated by a different class.
This does not mean a free for all, it means we will establish just how working-class cultures, ideas, experiences, places, peoples, thinkings, art, writings, ethos’s, energies are the absolute equal of anything that exists in then well-funded, government recognised and powerful middle class spaces.
What we hope for is a coming together of working class beauty in July 2020. This is an assertion, not an apology, It is a celebration, not a request for recognition by others.
Initial thoughts have included multiple venues, across Blackburn as the first host of this necessary idea. This is a request for interest, a call for papers/ films/ presentations/ performances will come in January. Right now, we want expressions of interest, curators of various aspects of the conference. This will be one to everyone, and the call must be open to multiple expressions, howls, calls for inclusion.
You might explore Working Class film that recognises it is more than ‘lighting a flame’ (Danny Leigh) and is much more complex in a world structured around privilege. WE still make film though and we hope to create a film festival element to the conference – what this looks like will depend on who submits and who takes on a role of curation. A poetry night, a performance space, an art exhibition, psycho-geographic exploration, music, writing, academic research, all welcome.
This COOC is just a safe, free, working class space for collaboration, discussion and a coming together of ideas. Please come, no criteria of entry and involvement beyond the desire to recognise the beauty of a working class that is diverse and needs to be able to speak itself, without mediation.