We had to stop everything at the beginning of lockdown, including our fundraising. We applied for emergency funding but didn’t get it. We’re holding fire on our touring show Mobile Incitement. But, with so many people isolated by coronavirus and its knock-on effects, this is absolutely the right time for our storytelling project, East.
The whole East project is about bringing people together, creating links between different communities, and sharing stories and songs. It’s about friendship, sharing and multiculturalism, and the way songs and stories can help us deal with what the world throws at us. It’s not on a huge scale and may not sound grand – it certainly doesn’t seem to appeal much to major funders – but we believe it’s very valuable work. East London is home to an extraordinarily diverse range of people, but many folks don’t really know others outside their own communities, at least not socially. It’s also a place where wealth and poverty, privilege and marginalisation, and indeed tolerance and bigotry, sit side by side. And it’s a place facing many threats and challenges that would benefit from greater solidarity and co-operation. The need to build bridges, share experiences and learn from others is clear. We think that the exchange of stories and songs, and, more importantly, the learning and re-telling of each other’s stories and songs, is a richly rewarding way to address this need.
But, although lockdown is easing, our normal format – bringing people together around a table with food and singing and stories – is still a long way from being viable. So we’ve come up with a plan to move the project online. Some of it is straightforward, such as adding to our online archive so as to make more material available in the absence of live events, but some is more exploratory. We’re not exactly sure how best to reconfigure our gatherings but we have lots of ideas to try, and by the end of this project we’ll be able to take our work forward in new ways that will be valuable even when live events are possible again. “Resilience” is a word that is perhaps overused at the moment, but that’s exactly what this particular stage in the life of East is about.
We’ve launched a crowdfunding appeal to make all this happen. It only seems right for a project so embedded in our communities to be supported by our communities. Please take a look at our video and then click through to our crowdfunding page.
If you can give, please do. But whether or not you donate, do please spread the word. It may sound like a cliche, but it really does make a difference!