Saturday, 4 August 2007

Performing community

Hellooooo and sorry for the long blogging absence. I missed it and i'm back.

So let's plunge right in to Today in London. This morning my gf Jane and I got on our bikes and trundled down to Regents Park in Camden to the Innocent Village Fete. Most other queer folk went to Brighton Pride but we decided to 'shop local'.


Innocent makes bottled fruit drinks that rich Londoners buy in their lunch breaks. They're delicious, expensive and unnecessary, like so much that has taken off in London and is not seen much in, say, Ulverston. Don't get me wrong, I like these drinks. But I am not quite as convinced as the self-congratulatory manufacturer that they are doing good on this earth.

Anyway, Innocent didn't just sponsor this festival. It seemed very much like they organised it. As a past director of the York Lesbian Arts Festival, this makes me nervous. Shouldn't a festival organiser work from the content outwards, rather than from the branding outwards? Or maybe not.


First of all they gave us each a wee printed programme on what used to be called a ribbon but is now called a lanyard, to hang around our necks. We were delighted. Now our programmes were easily accessible and we looked a bit like we had those 'ACCESS ALL AREAS' passes round our necks. It didn't escape our notice, however, that we had been branded.

Ohhh, as you can imagine, I didn't leave it there. Jane reckons i just can't have a good time. It's not true. The way I have a good time is not by joining in fun activities. It's by looking at all the people and analysing what they, or the people herding them, are doing wrong. Also by working out how I will cope better if I am ever in this exact situation again.

For instance, I would not wear above-knee shorts on a hot summer day again (although I can be excused for this error because it was the first hot summer day of the year to have come to my notice, or to the notice of my knees and calves, and i had plain forgot what it would feel like).


I could go on and on but let's get to the core message before we all lose interest. The core message as devised for your delectation and comment today by Helen and Jane is this: we now need corporate event organisers to create community for us. We then take part in this with delight. For instance, in this picture two young people in the Rowan knitting tent have asked Jane to teach them to knit. They have been inspired by an annual Innocent promotion in which people:

1. Buy a Rowan Innocent woolly hat knitting kit for £3
2. Knit a woolly hat for an Innocent drinks bottle (you can just see one at the right of this picture)
3. See their hat put on a drink which is put on sale
4. Revel in the fact that part of the purchase price of their knitting kit AND of the behatted drink will go to a charity for the elderly.

What the f*ck?? I'm sorry but i can't see the point of that. At all. Why don't they knit hats for old folk who don't have hats?

Anyway, the good side of what we saw today included:
young people knitting - indeed all generations knitting in the tent, mostly women and children;
strangers doing a hoedown together;
kiddies dancing round a Maypole (or was that a bad thing?);
and yes, a sense of community.

Jane said that companies like Innocent have seen that people are yearning for a sense of community so they have created it.

I said that it was a false sense of community because we didn't live alongside these people and would never see them again, not even the ones she taught to knit.

Jane said we were all PERFORMING COMMUNITY. Oh yes. It is true. It is postmodern. And we may well write a book about it.

Since then we have riffed on this theme. The village fete relied on a sense of irony as well as a nostalgia for the English village that is in danger of negating all that is great about living in London. And so on.

It's good that I'm blogging again. Instead of only thinking about what could be done better, I can post about it and set the world to rights.

H x


Frances said...

Hello Helen, I'm glad you've resumed blogging! Jane seems to be v. good at impromptu teaching thingies, e.g. the tango and now knitting!


Kim said...

I'm glad you are back to blogging, too! And Janet likes Jane's hat. But why is it bad to wear above knee shorts on a hot summer's day???

Helen Sandler said...

Ah you are perceptive readers and critics. Well yes, it's all true. As for the shorts, i made a leap of logic there. What i failed to explain was that it was too hot for exposed flesh. When I stood still, I could feel the sun burning my knees. That's why it was bad to wear short shorts. I would have been better off in a long thin cape. As long as it didn't look religious. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

H x

Kate said...

Hey, it's your cousin here. You didn't by any chance bring home the knitting pattern, did you? I think the hat would look better on my cats than a smoothie bottle (though I haven't tried putting a smoothie bottle on them - you know what I mean). Kx

Helen Sandler said...

Cousin Kate! No, alas we didn't even buy the pattern. It was £3. And then there's the fact that i was politically opposed to it. The people in the picture are just knitting rows. It will be years before they can knit a hat for a cat. But I expect Jane could do you one.
H x
PS why is blogger asking me for word verification? Doesn't it know it's MY blog??

Alison Bechdel said...

Please update your blog. I want to know every little thing you're doing.