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.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Shake! Artist/Activist Training Day #2

2014 is coming to an end, and we've got one final exciting Shake! event for you all before we welcome the new year: our youth-led training day!

Our second Youth-Led Continued Professional Development (CPD) training day, taking place on December 14th, will be an opportunity for the young participants from Shake! to offer training workshops to activists, artists and change-makers on issues they have identified as relevant and worth discussing based on their own expertise and experience. At Shake! we see this as an integral part of challenging power and privilege dynamics in the cultural, environmental and NGO sphere as well as an opportunity to promote real intergenerational dialogue. During this particular training, Shake! participants will offer the following workshops:

1.  Police Brutality and State Violence

2.  Re-evaluating Your 'Self'

3.  Youth, Technology and Social Media

Facilitators for the day include: Annie Rockson, Christianah Babajide and Maaike Boumans.

Workshops will be followed by an afternoon session in which we will discuss how to implement new ideas discussed in previous workshops into our work and daily practices in a strategic and mindful way.

Venue: Platform, 7 Horselydown Lane. Tower Bridge, London SE1 2LN
Time: 10:30 am- 4:00 pm.
We will be sharing breakfast from 10:30 onwards, and have a prompt 11:00am start.
Entrance is free and lunch will be provided.
Since our office is small in capacity please RSVP your space by writing to us at

We really hope that you can join us and contribute to what is looking to be a day full of engaging workshops and conversations!

Facebook event here.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Climate change: who should we trust?

By Orla Price

On 30 September this year the Free Word Centre held a discussion on the topic ‘Trust and the environment’. The discussion centred on what sources of information we could trust in the face of climate change, and how education, the media, politics and the public perceived threats to the environment. What I found most innovative and indeed engaging about the nature of the discussions was the choice of speakers and the input from the audience. Chairing the discussion was comedian Tiernan Doueib, and the panel included seventeen year old student and activist Claudia Delpero as well as Tony Birch, an Australian novelist. Also, they happened to have me doing a poem.

Often when trying to access debates and discussions on political subjects we are confronted with ‘experts’, academics and politicians who distance us from subjects that affect us constantly. Speaking in languages of their own, these arenas become intimidating, we are made to feel opinions on these matters are ‘left to the experts’ fostering a culture of helplessness at best and complete detachment at worst. By the end of the discussion an audience member pointed out that if the opinions of front line communities that are experiencing the worst of climate change were taken more into account in the media, as well as having their opinions heard by politicians, the public would find it easier to trust the information about climate change and our future, and would then become more engaged with these issues.

Tommy Clark, "Harnessing Nature"
Taking part in this event and also participating in SHAKE! has shown me there are alternative ways to communicate, and that experiential knowledge and telling our stories can have as much –indeed, probably more- impact than passively listening to expert opinions purposely convoluted to distance us from engaging properly with important issues, just in case we pose a threat. 

We're told Change and flux are a part of nature

So nothing or no one can be sure

No magic calculator

Calculating the sums of the future

No equations to justify pure

So we go round in circles with no end

Inaction, the only theory to defend

Can't see the destination, this road has too many bends

People are showing us the answers

Others tell us to step back

Say we can't understand

Palms up, overturned hands

Cash is passed on

They're passing the blame on

Thinking how long this will go on

And I'm doing my bit

But truth is, I'm getting scared of the news

And truth is, I don't know what more I can do

Cause I'm following the advice

But the TV's shouting crisis

Worrying how much time there is

In a society with no off switch

So I'm doing my recycling

But they're making more packaging

Taking the bus to work

Elsewhere they're selling mercs

Checking the labels on my food, trying not to import

Climate refugees moving country, trying not to get hurt

Somewhere in the back of my mind,

I'm thinking it wasn't us that overstepped the line

We're coming to a point where doing our bits not enough,

There's got to be someone out there we can trust

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Why Do They Judge Me? New Rebels Ditch Bingeing for Bingo

We know we are lucky to be working with Dershe and Patrice from NuWave Pictures, not only are they great film-makers and facilitators, they always prepared to tell and show new stories and non-mainstream narratives through their work. We are proud to see their latest short film for Channel 4 do exactly that by challenging stereotypical perceptions of young people.

More info below from the Channel 4 Website and watch the film here

"Youth used to go hand in hand with rebellion. But Channel 4 News speaks to the Londoners playing it straight and challenging perceptions of what it means to be a millennial rebel in 2014.
Eat, sleep, rave, repeat, eat, sleep, rave repeat: just your average day in the life of an early twentysomething - if the myths (and Fatboy Slim) are to believed.

Despite plenty of studies showing that young people are skint, stressed out about the future and worried they will never get a decent job, they are still subject to perceptions that they are either lazy, or out to cause trouble. The recent 2011 riots, still fresh in people's memory, haven't helped the cause.
Generation swap - tune in to Channel 4 News at 7pm for more on the new millennials
Down at Bingo Palace, in the inner depths of Elephant and Castle shopping centre in London, Gary Dighton is there with his mum and for him, it's all about the win: "I'd prefer make money, than just go out and drink." The most he has won is £80, but this is a big club with national games - players regularly win up to £1,000.

He's close to his mum, and takes her twice a week for a night out. But just by virtue of being a hoodie-wearing 20-year-old, he says he rubs people up the wrong way. "People around where I live aren't very polite to me. It's their influences, they just think I'll be involved in crime or something," he said.

He's not the only one more likely to be down the bingo hall, than down the pub - and it's not just the hipster joints putting on bingo nights as an ironic nod to a bygone era. The Bingo Palace manager Patrick Kelly, who's also vice-chair of the Bingo Association, says the average age of players is getting younger.

"Young people are always attracted to clubs that are bigger, busier, and offer good money. It's like everything - it's about the atmosphere that goes with it," he said. "They come in the evening. People often meet up, and you'll see them moving from table to table. It's a very safe environment, especially for women.""

Headspace - Shake #5 Poem - "Dear Beauty in the Rubble"

Headspace: when we think about how the amazing capabilities of the mind to imagine and  agility of the brain to calculate, reason and deduce, we always imagine it to be an electrifying place to be. It should and always be.
Shake's Headspace 2014  is about how we connect with these abilities, how we learn and how the brain and mind should be maintained as healthy places. Shake thought about the brain and mind in relation to the human spirit and the well being of the body.
Environment and relationships will influence how the headspace interprets and creates the world we live in. So all that said what did Shake Headspace discover or reveal? 

For one week we explored how the education system and the environment young people learn. Often learning is exciting. Often they feel stressed and pressurised. We spoke about how when a regimented, conformist, often discriminatory  hyper-consumerist and oversexualised society becomes too much, confidence and esteem are so affected, the body will react. The human spirit might be distracted but the mind is an amazing thing and will create all kinds of coping mechanisms to keep the body alive and "safe". Here is where assessing and taking care of our mental well being comes into play. 
We heard stories of first hand experiences with medication for depression and many shared other less mentally aggressive means to get through another day. Sharing our day to day sanity self maintenance was one of the weeks highlights, along with the brilliant games to provoke discussions and debate which inspired some very cool creative work.

Through images, poetry and film, we unpacked one of the most crowded places on the planet - inside our heads. Orla Prices image, which we have used for all Shake August 2014 promotion, is a perfect illustration for our headspace inquiry.
Here is the video of Shake! poets group piece that the Shake! filmmakers produced with our brilliant film duo, Dershe and Patrice from NuWave Productions. 

"Dear Beauty" puts the system we live under in the spot light and praises the subtle energy of  the human spirit resisting modern day pressures.
Powerful stuff as usual...  

Dear Beauty Amongst the Rubble

Eternally conflicted
I pray for the day
They tell you that your beauty can only take you so far

I am breaking through
Burning up inside

The base of a tool you proclaim necessary
The weight of thousands on me
Lost on earth my forefathers reigned the land

My existence displaces that which came before me
abused so freely  with confidentiality 
you created me
A fever constantly rising 
you created me

Your power can beat me?

I might be forgotten, faded now
but the Earth used to be mine

yes I look happy, I feel yellow
But they don;t tell you without their version of beauty
you're given permanent scar

How does my thinness grow green out of this dense grey?

The wind blows the tune
The gentle flower dances happily