3 Things Missing in York’s Left-Scene

Friday, 22nd April 2016 at 18:24 UTC Leave a comment

I’ve been taking a little time to think through what might be absent from the broader left in York. These suggestions are meant to compliment the other work that is going on. I’m sure that they are not, to any great extent, unique ideas. I’m open to seeing them refined, added to, or hearing from volunteers to help make them happen.

New Left Ideas Forum

York does have its discussion groups for Left Wing ideas, but they’re mostly confined to the agendas of particular parties and not particularly forwards or outwards looking. It would be good to broaden the influences on our other work, looking beyond the obvious sources where possible.

Even on a small level, with a few people in a pub once a week or fortnight, it would be good to see people discussing topics such as Basic Income Initiatives, Tax Dodging and Global Finance, How we approach Putin’s Russia, ‘Space’ as a political issue, etc. The more we discuss, hopefully the more topics we’ll add to the list.

I think the general rule should be that discussions have direct relevance to social movements of the 21st Century. There should be a good balance between more theoretical discussions and more concrete ones. A conscious effort should be made to create a space where people are happy to disagree – not to say that there are no wrong answers, but to acknowledge pluralism in our discussions. Amongst measures of success we might use would be reasonable gender balance in participation and the ability to draw people from a range of political alignments, such as Greens, Momentum, Left Unity, Anarchists, etc.

I’d like to avoid giving people huge pieces of reading to do before sessions, though short web articles might be a welcome starting point. We could look at visiting speakers if we reckon they would be sufficiently popular.

CounterActs Take 2

Some will remember CounterActs as a group that briefly existed last summer. It opened a space in Gillygate through the Blank Canvass scheme and connected various younger, more artistic folks into political activism. Although many of the key people have now left York, a few certainly haven’t. To an extent, CounterActs made events like York Free Art Gallery a possibility – filling Exhibition Square with

CounterActs, even as just a name, had big potential that hasn’t gone away. I’d love to see a repurposed CounterActs group doing audacious, creative activism in the city on current social issues. What I worry about is creating a way to channel creative people into dull action that would have happened without them anyway. It might be a bit adhoc, and it might need some serious effort to get it going again, but I reckon it could be worth it.

A Space To Be

In the aftermath of Stonebow House Arts Space’ demise, its time we re-started the very practical discussion of opening a better space to resource the activism in York. The Arts Space was dogged by accessibility issues and could only ever host a fraction of work we wanted it to.

Although probably not available, one suggested space has been the TSSA office on Nunnery Lane, or at least the downstairs area. Whilst the Arts Space provided possibilities for York People’s Assembly and York Unite Community branch, a bit of work to upgrade the kitchen would allow Food Not Bombs to use the space. Some revenue might be generated by holding smaller events such as a film club and coffee drop-ins. The scope for community engagement exists, with a council estate right behind the building.

There are alternatives for some of the work we might be doing. The Crescent Community Venue is still a largely untapped resource, though getting dramatically busier. Experience with the Fleeting Arms showed that in a popular venue, its easy for us to squeezed out. Trying to establish a monthly socially-minded night is proving tricky enough.

As I said at the top, if anyone is particularly enthusiastic about any of those activities, do let me know, and hopefully we can get together some people to do something with them.


Entry filed under: Activism, Space, York.

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