Friday, 16 January 2015

Exploring the State of Violence - by Zena Edwards

The new Shake! Course is nearly here! Monday 16th February, we begin unpacking one of the most contentious subjects our species confronts: Violence. We will be exploring what makes violence, physical and ideological, a seemingly imherent part of modern day life.

As a poet I think about the word violence as  anything that is excessively detrimental  and its with this thought that the Shake! team will create a safe space where participants can interrogate the States of Violence that seem to plague the planet. We will question if physical violence is our natural disposition or if it is a nurtured trait. Many are calling for alternatives to fatally destructive and violent deconstruction of current imperialist governments, minimising bloodshed. We will ask is that possible.

We will question the role of violence and the State. What ways are the government and its machinery violent towards its citizens    the implementation of  long working hours with minimal pay, rampant gentrification of culturally diverse and poorer areas with unaffordable housing  breaking up communities, the privatisation of the British National Health Service, cuts to education and benefits with biased and convoluted conditions placed upon them, further leaving the less well off in even more dire predicaments.

We live in a time where the global economy forces a climate of uncertainty and fear upon the majority of the earths population, mainstream media thrusts distorted journalism upon poly-cultural societies, encouraging and perpetuate attitudes of xenophobia and sexism, discrimination and judgement. The female body is hyper-sexualised, the male body is hyper-masculinized, black and brown bodies are stereotyped, demonized and attacked, while religion is a manipulated tool to promote homophobia and child objectification. Nobody and nothing feels sacred leaving us all feeling vulnerable to seemingly unexplainable and inexcusable acts  abuse and violence. We are forced at unexpected moments to question which parts of our human psyche are activated, provoked to violate the bodies of those who are considered "other",  different to "the norm", and framed to be viewed as inferior and are stigmatized. This brings about a mainstream thinking that this  "other" is a threat and must be suppressed

In the last 20 years, in activist circles, there have been many urgent discussions about institutionalized racism and a sinister growth of the prison industrial complex and millions watched and condemned the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Mike Brown, unarmed black males, who are among the one killed every 28 hours by the hand of US police. Theirs and many other tragic stories of unarmed black deaths sparked the global #BlackLivesMatter campaign echoing the oppression in many western ex-colonial countries with history of migrants, immigrants and home-grown "others". The conversation exploded on social media and there were many who deemed US police action as blatantly excessive, while by others thought it justifiable, because of a pervading fear within the police force of violence being done unto those in service to preserve and protect. We just want to get home to our families. 'The law' upheld these justified deaths throwing in to deep question the integrity of a justice system seen to be the central principles of a brand democracy which provokes conflict in other richly mineral resourced countries across the planet.
This is a recurring story across the face of Western civilisation and each country's power state has devices to ensure that its status quo is preserved with a multitude of means of attack on ordinary people coming from many directions, creating an atmosphere of '#ICantBreathe. But what about those who are perpetuating state violence? They are just people after all.

"C├ęsaire demonstrates how colonialism works to “decivilize” the colonizer: torture, violence, race hatred, and immorality constitute a dead weight on the so-called civilized, pulling the master class deeper and deeper into the abyss of barbarism. The instruments of colonial power rely on barbaric, brutal violence and intimidation, and the end result is the degradation of Europe itself.” - Robin D.G Kelly, from the article, "The Poetics of Anticolonialism."

This is an idea of some of the subjects we will cover in Shake!s States of Violence intensive course in February.
But what do us, as individuals feel we can do about the world we live in where violence seems to be everywhere - on our TV screens, in the news, online.  Participants will also unpack notions of change through non-violence  when the systems we live under are founded on ruthless colonial and capitalist violence in the name of progress. So does this mean that  progress and change can only happen with  forms of archaic and technologically enhanced violence? Is the process of deconstructing society to reconstruct and alternative one only a violent  process? How do we break cycles of violence and how do we navigate through a seemingly terrifying world while maintaining a sense of self and well being?

We will ask all these questions and more, and in their own language, through discussion, film and spoken word poetry, participants will respond to these question to explore and reflect on the current human inclination for violence, while seeking  to create new paths to living more peacefully and compassionately. Beyond violence.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Reflections on Shake! by Orla Price

2014 was a great year for Shake!. We had two of the largest intensive course groups so far, and got to meet some pretty amazing people, including the talented artist, writer, and editor Orla Price.

Orla was no stranger to the idea of art as a powerful tool for social change, and in fact when we met her she was half way through her master’s course in art and politics. She decided to include Shake! as a case study for her dissertation, and has shared with us some of her insights about Shake!, art practice, and radical pedagogy.

“In observing group participation at the August 2014 SHAKE!, one girl trying to express the relationship between mental health and systemic power and […] her own reasons for being there quoted Bell Hooks saying, “I came to theory because I was hurting”. In examining Bell Hooks’ views on critical pedagogy she goes onto to state “Theory is not inherently, healing, liberatory or revolutionary, it fulfils this function, only when we ask that it do so and direct our theorising towards this end”. In many ways Hooks makes a criticism of the University as a place where the digestion of theory is encouraged but the influence of personal experience and motive not so. Taking into consideration this mix of telling personal stories, motive and theorising, we can see how [this kind of] space is essential, and especially when it comes to the matter of personal stories, art can then become the medium to represent the mix.”


“The personal experiences of the facilitators were treated on an equal level to those of the participants. Commenting on her role Paula said ‘We focus on exploring everyone's opinions on certain topics instead of feeding them with facts and content’. In observing the facilitation of ‘SHAKE’ the participants would first discuss the themes of injustice before they creatively responded to them. Talking about this process and its facilitation Grainne said “They made the space feel like somewhere you could feel safe to express yourself and your ideas without judgement.” Comparing this to her experience in University she said there it was like “There was this hierarchy that was very present and you also felt like you where being judged on everything you said, and you had to try and impress.””


“[I]t is integral that for a critical pedagogy to function, its participants must feel whatever their background that their experience can be voiced. If we take SHAKE! as an example of critical pedagogies on this relational level, we can see how well the project incorporated these ideas.”

Thanks so much to Orla for sharing her reflections with us!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

#Shake2015: #StatesOfViolence - Applications open MONDAY 9th JANUARY

Our next shake! up >> 16th-20th February << at the Stephen Lawrence Centre.
Applications now open for our FREE! 5 day course on Art/ Race/ Media/ Power for 16-25's.
See below for more info & how to apply


Angry about the injustice you see around you?
Come shake tings up with performance poets, film-makers, musicians & activists on a free 5 day course to creatively express frustrations & concerns about the world you live in.


** LIMITED PLACES AVAILABLE (for 16-25 year olds) **

Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

To receive a short application & for more info, email:

Art can be a powerful non-violent force for change.

Each day Shake! creative workshops will provide space to imagine what justice looks like, experiment with new ideas, learn new tools and fire up your imagination.

States of Violence is exploring:
-State violence and police brutality
-The construction of violence and its impact on our states (physical, mental, spiritual/values)
-Gender based violence, patriarchy & transphobia
-Gentrification as violence
-Resistance: violent & non-violent strategies
-Militarization of everyday life
-Prisons & detention centres
·-Violence through the construction of the Other and violence through continued Other-ing

Join us, where else you gonna be?


Over the five days, the course will include:

>> interactive workshops, stimulating dialogue & skill-shares to creatively campaign for change with practising artists/activists/educators:

(+ more to be announced!)

>> practical hands-on techniques in spoken word, online media, film/video and music technology to develop your ideas around injustice and power.

>> access to a/v equipment, workshop spaces, rehearsal room, and refreshments at the landmark Stephen Lawrence Centre.

>> opportunity to showcase your work and continued involvement in the Shake! network.