Sometimes a people can restore our faith in the world with their inspiring projects – especially in the first three months of the year, which are always super grim for me. They’re a time where I struggle with my mental health, the weather sucks, plus we’ve got Brexit and the Coronavirus to bring us down. So here are some positive projects/initiatives to cheer us up, started by some awesome people in my network.
Charity Projects: Mer walks the LOOP
My amazing friend Travel With Mer is raising money for the Refuge charity and has smashed her goal, but you can still help her raise more. Of course there are hundreds of causes you could lend your time to, but due to personal experience domestic violence hits close to home. Knowing that someone in my network is pulling off quite the feat for a good cause warms my heart.
For Refuge, Mercedes (Mer) is walking the London LOOP. At 150 miles/240kmÂ long, theÂ LondonÂ Outer Orbital Path â€“ orÂ LOOPÂ â€“ is the walking equivalent of the M25: it circles the GreaterÂ LondonÂ area and takes you on a tour of the edges of the capital city.
Mer’s choice of the LOOP is very symbolic. On her fundraising page, she says it is an effort to bring more women out in the open, and encouraging us to walk the long road to resilience and survival. “I aim to raise my voice for those who can’t anymore,” she says. She adds:
“I decided to use the London LOOP as a fundraising opportunity because I desperately needed to reclaim London, the city that has adopted me for nearly 13 years, from an emotionally abusive partner. Each step I take is a small weight lifted from my shoulders. Each tired km is a reminder of the pain I left behind in my past and proof that I belong here. Iâ€™m a Londoner. Iâ€™m alive. And I wonâ€™t be victimised by anyone; not even my past.”@travelwith.mer
Why Refuge? It is estimated that 1 in 3 women between 15-59 in England and Wales will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by current or former partners. For Mer: “With these numbers, it is vital that we use our voices for those who canâ€™t and help empower survivors to exit the abuse cycleâ€.
Fundraising can be daunting at first – and Mer says it’s always been alien to her. She was worried people would think she was just feeding her ego. But then she went for it – and if you’re worried about fundraising, I hope her words inspire you to do it:
“I realised why it was worth making myself vulnerable and asking for money: it was so I could give more. So the women and children benefiting from Refuge, my chosen charity, perhaps donâ€™t have to ask their friends and family for money and find more sustainable and empowering avenues of escaping violence.
“I stand by it. Victimhood is a vicious state for any human to be in. Not only is it disempowering but alsoÂ alienating, violent and with long lasting consequences. Without support systems and networks, one may never ‘become a survivor’ and remain stuck in the cycle – propagating the trauma to the following generations.”@travelwith.mer
Art Projects: “Vaguely Inappropriate”, By Giulia Brancati for the Royal College of Art’s Digital Direction MA Graduate Show
You may have seen my Instagram post about the Royal College of Art’s graduate show featuring some quotes from my and EveryBODYVisible‘s work. I thought it was only fair to showcase the sense of initiative, craft and art that inspired this installation – and of course, its author: MA Digital Direction student Giulia Brancati.
During her course Giulia has been investigating how narratives mediate and are mediated by (post-) digital technologies. As we all know – sigh – Instagramâ€™s censorship policies are vague and murky, but they result in discrimination against specific groups of people. After having their profiles shadow-banned or blocked, many people have reported the loss of resources and connection with their communities.Â
Giulia says her project aims to exist online in the form of Text GIFS and stickers. This way, people can use them on their social profiles as a form of commentary or protest. She told me:
“I have also created an installation, in order to translate issues of the digital to a physical interactive experience. By pressing coloured arcade buttons you can navigate 30+ text based animations and pause/play when it’s difficult to read them.”Giulia Brancati
Her installation follows a non-linear narrative, offering a re-interpretation of online and offline findings on the implications of censorship on women, LGBTQIA+ communities, people of colour, disability activists, sexual health educators, body positivity advocates and many others. She says: “I was inspired by the popular GIFs wordart aesthetic, widely used by people everyday for instagram stories.”
I spent an afternoon with Giulia – who also came to my pole class afterwards – talking about censorship and was blown away by her installation. Not only did she make these incredibly lively, upbeat images for her project – she included social commentary in them. By using a 90s screensaver aesthetic, she creatively shone a light on how the democratising promise of the Internet we all believed in during the 90s and early 00s has not really been delivered by technology.
“My intent is to bring more attention to the issue, add my voice and support the people who are concerned about issues of discrimination and censorship online. Having the installation in a physical space allowed me to speak to curious members of the public who were completely unaware about things like the shadowban and algorithmic bias. That was absolutely one of the most interesting and successful aspects of my project.”Giulia Brancati
Giulia recently came to our protest outside Instagram’s HQ and took the time to speak to a variety of censored users. In short, did what many journalists, celebrities and powerful people are still failing to do. She says: “Now I wonder… what would happen if I bring the installation to different audiences (outside the walls of a postgraduate Art and Design university?)”
Not sure about you, but I think she’ll go far!
Event: Brazilian Wax XXL
It’s always great to hear that queer people in London now have a variety of safe spaces available to have a dance and get filthy. Brazilian Wax XXL – happening this Saturday at the Vaults of Waterloo – is one of these spaces, a cracking event launched by the team behind the play Fuck You, Pay Me.
Brazilian Wax XXL calls itself a “filthy, riotous, queer, Latin dance party” and the team say they are ready “to bring you our queerest, most supernatural, sexiest and BIGGEST party yet.”
Get ready for a multi-room coven gathering to get sweaty, grind on your best friend, have your mind melted by reality-bending pole acts, and be amongst your chosen family for one evening of glorious revelry and resistance. Here are rules and info:
BRAZILIAN WAX is a SAFE SPACE for Witches & Wizards, women, trans* peeps, queer folk & over-zealous-with-the-dancing Latin Tias. Everyone is welcome but any douchebaggery will NOT be tolerated and will result in your being both ejected and cursed. The venue has level access venue, some flashing lights and gender-neutral bathrooms.FYPM Team
One of my favourite ever pole dancers and friends, Luca, will be performing so bring your towels because you’re gonna get sweaty.
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Trick or treat? Both! ðŸ @exoticgoddessroma @botefucka . ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ðŸ–¤ . . . . #exoticpole #exoticpoledance #exoticpoledancecompetition #exoticmalepoledancer #pleasershoes #pleaserbeyond #competition #freestyle #gayuk #gay #madonna #candyperfumegirl
The event has its very own pole dancing neuroscientist too, so clearly you can’t miss it.
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Following his last year's performance at the Brazilian Wax XXL @drdlo.uk is back by popular demand! â € D Lo returns to the stage, representing the deep South of Brazil, where he was born and raised. â € D Lo is a scientist by day, but once the working day is done he's desperate to rip off his clothes, put on some hot pants and heels and spread his legs upsidedown on the pole. â € ðŸ’‹ You're welcome! ðŸ’‹ â € â € #queernightlife #lgbtqia #lgbtq #queerspaces #party #queer #queerlondon #londonnightlife #yesastripper #strxpclub #vaultfestival #queerdancers
The FYPM team say: “WARNING: This is a cult event. By attending you acknowledge that by doing so you may change foreverâ€¦
Know other heart-warming projects? Hit me up! Always happy to write these round-ups.