Young people to the front
Author: Alexa Ledecky
My name is Alexa. For those who may not see me, I’m a 25 year old white woman. I have short brown tufty hair. I’m wearing a black t-shirt (from the men’s section). I’m excited to be here with you all. I’m going to make 5 main points today, it might be a little bit intense, but that’s what I’m here for.
1. IT’S ALL CONNECTED
Our planet’s health, our physical health, our mental health, our communities’ health. When I say “our”, I want to include everybody and particularly the voices of Black, Asian and POC, and disabled people whose voices we need to amplify. We need to weave it all together and act on all fronts and ignore the “there’s no capacity” and “there’s no time” rhetoric. There’s no racial justice, climate justice, disability justice or dismantling the patriarchy without social justice. We need to acknowledge this and connect these priorities into intersectional, unified plans of action for the arts. Do it step by step, but keep it all on the agenda, all the time.
2. YOUNG PEOPLE TO THE FRONT, PLEASE
When I say this, I don’t mean it in an ageist way. People who were born before me have taught me so much and blown my mind with their resilience and wisdom throughout my life, both on a professional and personal level. What I want to say is: we are here. We know how to lead. We know how to create. We respect you. Trust us and give up some power. Look into up-skilling us, consider flat (or flatter) rates across your team, recommend and share young professionals across your network. Name-drop young people’s names. Nina Simons wrote: ”Find the leader for this moment and the future you want to build. The leader for what you need, not the patterns you’re familiar with”.
3. DIGITAL ISN’T THE FULL ANSWER
Digital is exclusive. So many people don’t have access to it for so many different reasons, and these are the people we should be really reaching out to. We need to make things happen offline: find ways to meet IRL safely with people IRL for chats and tea, put on a small outdoors workshop or exhibition, send packages out to homes. We’re all screen-exhausted and need tangible things.
Choose to reach less people with your digital art, instead reach them better with something new and different. Serve communities by repurposing your venue or building. Be human and connect as individual beings.
4. THE GOOD IN THE BAD
We’re currently going through a shit storm. The internet has supported unifying movements, but has also become a bad-news feeds where people and groups captivate and activate others with their opinion. There’s little space for sharing and respectful exchange. What new, safe, productive spaces can we create for people to reflect together and bring their differences together? This will be the good in the bad. We have an opportunity to think carefully about how we use language to make sure it motivates people to act rather than cultivate feelings of helplessness. We have an opportunity to prioritise the use of technology to make culture accessible instead of using it only to impress the senses. We have an opportunity to create new striking aesthetics that will amplify important, unheard and silenced stories.
5. WE ARE THE TRAILBLAZERS
If we weren’t, we wouldn’t all be here right now. Arts and culture and the third sector – our values challenge capitalism and the harm it does. We have the power to inspire and connect people to go against the status quo and to tell new stories that make people re-think and act. There’s a women-run theatre company called Pigfoot who power their shows with two bicycles on stage and don’t use any venue lighting. Let’s commit to creating and programming radical new work like this, now. Art that expresses the future we seek. Not playing it safe, ever again because we should’ve stopped years ago already. Representation matters. Be representative of race, disability and gender. Be real. Elif Shafak said: “Just as we need sisterhood against patriarchy, we need otherhood against bigotry”.
Thank you for listening. There’s so much more to say. I’ll be releasing content following Culture Reset to share all the things I’ve learnt. I want to share it with you and as many people as possible. Connect with me on social media: @alexaledecky on Twitter and Facebook, @alexathedicewho on Instagram. And follow Diverse City @diverse_city1