People & Planet guest blog
As I was enjoying a cigarette break from by business essay last fall I was forwarded an email from the National Autistic Society. It was about their annual Autism Uncut film festival which had just opened for submissions. For some reason I immediately felt inspired so I sat down and scribbled a rough idea for a short film and went upstairs to go on with my assignment. Of course, it got difficult for me to focus on homework so I started digging into the autism topic on the Internet.
Now, I won’t dive into the details but you can see my two and a half minute film above. If you want to find more information about autism or if you want to help, then please click on the link in the video’s description which will take you to The National Autistic Society’s page. Even though the short film didn’t the attention I was hoping for the fact that I did it made me feel like I was helping. I recently took the opportunity to get involved in the 2018 Oxford Human Rights Festival which I think is a way of contributing to various issues on a larger scale
Being on the Oxford Human Rights Festival Committee was a great experience. The one night I would draw light on was the screening of Utopia. Utopia is a documentary on the extraordinary story about white Australia and its deeply dysfunctional relationship with the Indigenous Australian community. Following the viewing we held a panel discussion with three guests who from very interesting backgrounds all looking at this issue of land rights for aboriginals, tribal people and natives across the world: Peter Kilroy, Jonathan Mazower and Dr Regina Lim.
This powerful film by John Pilger looks at the awful truth behind white Australia's dysfunctional relationship with Indigenous Australians. With the 2007 "intervention" in the Northern Territory organised by the John Howard government. Where townships were compulsorily acquired and native title legislation ignored and yet no prosecution for child abuse resulted, and studies appeared to conclude that the situation was no better or worse than in white areas. The panel looked at this through the question around providing other examples of political interference within the field of land rights for tribal people across the world.
The panel then focused on the film itself looking at what challenges a film maker may have in trying to get involvement from Australian Aboriginals to be a part of something like the documentary Utopia.
It was a very educational and insightful evening that took us from work with Bushmen of Botswana with Survival International to Indigenous Australians having remained itinerant and stateless citizens in their own state, to the struggles of land rights for tribes within the Philippines.
These cineastes were unaware that morning that they would be spending the evening with one of the country’s most beloved filmmakers. Loach shared insights into his successful career in the British film industry, from his casting tips (drop your pencil to make a fool out of yourself and make the actors feel more comfortable), to his lasting relationship with his writers (your ideas matter more than your spelling!). It was a real once in a lifetime opportunity for the present filmmakers in the group to listen so closely to a filmmaker with more than six decades of experience and knowledge.
But Loach was most interested in speaking to the group about socio-political issues. He displayed his driving passion for the working class members of British society and the influence that this has had on all of his work. He asked the group about their political views in light of today’s political climate, noting how important it is for young people to remain engaged with current debates. The group discussed the Labour Party in particular and Loach’s political standpoint.
The director was particularly honoured to have his film screened at a human rights festival. He showed great interest in our festival and the work that the committee members had done to put together such a successful programme. He emphasised the importance of being politically aware for up and coming filmmakers, suggesting that the issues you tackle are always more powerful than the star names attached to a project.
Whatever the topic, whether it was Angelina Jolie or Jeremy Corbyn, Loach displayed great wit as well as wisdom and kindness. He encouraged the group of students to lead the conversation and asked the students as many questions as they asked him. Each and every student came away from the discussion warmed by his personable nature and with a new passion to create, and engage with the biggest issues we face in society today.
According to research by Shelter, 1 in 3 families in the UK are only one monthly pay- check away from losing their homes. A staggering 37% of working families wouldn’t manage to cover their monthly bills if one partner lost their job. The statistics for those who are single parents and those who live alone are worse.
With high housing costs, credit card debt and zero hour contracts is it any wonder that there are over 16.5 million working age adults in the UK with no savings at all. This isn’t just unique to the UK, most English-speaking Western economies, including the US, Australia and Canada are finding their citizens are struggling to survive from month to month. The “working poor” of these countries have no emergency savings for healthcare or essential expenditure such as car and house maintenance.
Any one of us could find ourselves in this position. Whether by losing a job, through ill health, sudden disability or bankruptcy we all hit bumps in the road now and again. As a “successful businesswoman” not many people would expect me to have any experience of these bumps. But not so long ago, after a financially crippling divorce, I had two unforeseen events in my business, in succession, which made me vulnerable to financial disaster. Without adequate reserves, I found myself in a spiraling downward cycle of debt, I literally couldn’t take a wage for months. I asked for a payment break from my mortgage, a much easier option than if I had been renting of course, and had sleepless nights about letting employees go. Employees that I knew were living month to month too – how would they pay their rent?
As it happens I made some difficult decisions, and worked my way back out of that black hole. Would I have ended up on the streets? No of course not, because my resilience and social capital is good, family and friends would have intervened. But what if our resilience is damaged, our social capital low, or we are isolated far from home, it is easy to see how a simple chain of events can leave any of us hurtling towards homelessness.
We are all only one paycheck away…. it’s a funny old saying that…
Throughout the semester members of the student committee will take turns to write a blog. It might be about organising the Festival, it might be about something else they are doing in or away from Brookes, it might be thoughts on our theme of home. Check in regularly to find out!