How change happens: One person. One moment at a time: Surprises from doing some Labour Canvassing.

It’s been months since I last wrote a post. Mostly because I’ve been sick, and mostly because PhD work, man. It’s never ending.

But the uncertainties that lie ahead for me, are bigger than ever for us as a country with the snap General Election in motion.

In 2015, you might remember me being super pro-Labour, super-dooper pro Ed Miliband for Labour Leader. I posted loads online, but I was deep in my radiotherapy & oncology studies. I was working every hour sent on clinical placement, and then on academic work & freelance stuff just to try and make ends meet because the NHS Bursary wasn’t ever enough to live-off anyways.

I didn’t go out and canvas or post leaflets, I didn’t have the time. But I didn’t even think we needed to do it anyways. So I just retweeted support. I had a proper echo chamber around me (though I learnt I had many Tory & UKIP voting friends… ), that I felt like the winds changed in our favour towards the end of the election campaign. I went to my polling station to vote – and saw people there voting for the first time in years.  I assumed they’d all be for Labour – because, why not? It was an obvious choice. I felt like Ed could actually win this thing.

Then the results started to come in that night.  I laid in bed, watching some sort of tragic accident,  Snap-chatting friends – our sad faces, willing that it will change, it’s only 1am anyways? I went to sleep as I had an event to draw the next day wicked early.

I woke up at 6:30am to “sorry smizz” texts from friends who knew I was really passionate about it all, & saw on the TV the Tory Majority result. I just starred it out. My mom came upstairs and tried to take the mess out of me (we’re always winding each other up) by saying, “HA! Labour lost…”

And something came over me. I’ve never had this reaction to anything like this before. But I got chocked up. I stuttered that, “You don’t know what’s going to happen… PEOPLE ARE GOING TO DIE.”

We stared each other out, shocked at my uncharacteristic emotional outburst to – an election of all things. My mom immediately knew this was not something to laugh about. She tried to comfort me by saying it “probably won’t affect us…” But I knew it would, and that wasn’t the point. What about the people it would REALLY affect, badly?

But I was right. People have been, and ARE DYING because of this Tory government.

Our Death rates in 2015 reached their highest level for five years. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/17/health-cuts-most-likely-cause-major-rise-mortality-study-claims?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other 

Millions of more children are now living in poverty (despite David Cameron changing the definition of Poverty to hide the even more 1000’s of kids in poverty from statistics)  https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/ifs-poverty-forecasts-budget-needs-support-families

Social Inequality is one of the biggest causes of disease and under-productivity. It poisons our communities and changes peoples lives, forever, mostly for the worst.  Over the past 6 years, I’ve seen young peoples futures get smaller & smaller, a united kingdom now fighting within itself into a more divided nation. A rhetoric that is neither good for EU leavers or remain believers. I’ve felt the difference 6 years of Tory ideology has made on the NHS, from both a staff member and a patient, and I know that it’ll get worse if the Tories stay in power.

I’ve been burnt by too many election outcomes over the past few years: 2015 GE, EU Referendum & USA’s presidential election… but i decided that maybe it hurt so much, because I hadn’t done *anything* to help change these outcomes?

I realized that I couldn’t just sit and share and write think-pieces about these policies and about why voting Labour is important, again. So when Ed Miliband emailed all the Labour Party members in the area, I knew I wanted to help and I emailed back.

I originally just thought I’d hand out some leaflets. I could do it when it suited me,  work it around work, and I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.  Because if anyone who knows me, knows, I get proper socially inept asking strangers stuff & especially calling people up on the phone.

But Ed called up, and we chatted & he sort of encouraged me to come along to a canvassing event. And to be honest, I thought it was going to be wicked hard but the team was amazing and kind. They let me shadow them until I felt like I could do it alone.

The groups of people that come together to canvas cover all kinds of backgrounds and ages of people – from young to old! All super interesting, smart, funny and kind, with incredible stories of their own. I’ve met some great people on the trail, even catching a drink and becoming Facebook friends with them.

I’m still nervous every time I go out and do it, but it’s kind of exhilarating! And feels fun. Even when you do it in the rain.  I’ve learnt about how we do canvasing, using data, and how we develop it forward. It’s fascinating stuff to see it play out on a local level, as well as national level. I feel like I’ve also gained and developed some skills, which I know I can take to different parts of the multiple jobs and roles I do in real life.

But the most rewarding part – is getting to know your own community. I’ve lived in Woodlands pretty much all of my life, and when I was handing out leaflets — I had to google map where some roads where!

It reminds me a bit of my clinical work, where you’d do a first day chat with a patient about their treatment.  It’s these opportunities that allow my patients get to offload their concerns and worries, or ask questions. And it’s often the first time they feel like they can ask a HCP these things before, or that they’ll be listened too. And it helps enable them to have a better care experience.

Canvassing is a bit like this, sometimes you get someone who has just been waiting to tell someone who will listen their issues. And in listening, and being kind, some of the work is already done for you. Its therapeutic for them (after all, most people just want to be heard), and you can help to signpost them in the right way. That just feels really rewarding, but it’s also hard – just like clinical work – hearing people’s stories of suffering and wanting to do the very best for them – but they’ve got to be part of that equation/solution too.

It’s also how Obama was able to win vital seats in 2008, because of people knocking on other peoples doors. I don’t think we can underestimate the power of listening and hearing in real life.

I’ve now mailed, 100’s and 100’s of leaflets and letters. And whilst I do it, people washing their cars and walking dogs, and kids on bikes will ask questions, and everyone is really friendly.  It feels good to be part of this community in a way I’ve never seen before.

Additionally, I’ve proper increased my steps – which is a pro for a job where I’m sat down reading, drawing, writing and interviewing mostly. So going canvassing is good for general health & fitness too! What a winner? 😉

Over all, nationally, it’s hard to work against our rabid right-wing mainstream media. Journalists are meant to function like fire alarms, as in, it’s better to go off even if it’s just a candle. Whereas a lot of our publications make millions every year, & often not pay tax, to tell people the smoke they’re smelling isn’t smoke.

If that transparency and accountability is lacking, it’s our role to help people get the right information. And I feel like, regardless of the outcome, we’ve been part of something special and urgent.

There’s still a few weeks left of the campaign trail – I would urge anyone who is thinking about it – to get in touch with their local Labour Party (or whatever party) & get involved. Even if it’s just 1 afternoon (I’ve only done 6 canvassing events & a bunch of leaflet dropping) but it feels good to be part of something bigger than myself.

As Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist, said:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  

And i think that sums it all up nicely.

Whatever happens after the GE, I feel even more encouraged to help more at local levels too. What an experience to have.

*Hope you guys will Vote Labour to save our NHS, schools, workers rights, the internet, democracy and even more that’s at stake in this election.*

Shout out to Ed Miliband and his team, and Doncaster councillors and other canvassers who are awesome.

18221922_1517658601586429_4659177885555474145_nC-mZIG4WAAEK5GD

 

Love Is Love Is Love: Working To Make Things Better

Around 5 years ago, my life changed in a fatal kind of way. When I was in America, I was given a diagnosis that made feel like I was looking down a barrel of a gun and made me question everything in my life. This crazy plot twist, that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Tramedy, set off a bunch of things in my life. The past 4-ish years have been personally-health-awful, but yet through this difficult time this happened:

Last night I picked up my crazy amazing big prestigious award from the Houses of Commons, like some kind of rock-star. It was surreal, and I’ll probably never get another opportunity to experience something like it. But it was such an incredible evening and I met so many amazing, talented, smart, giving and generous people who work within healthcare,  specifically within radiography and oncology care. We should be so proud to have these people – and people not acknowledged working day in and out within the NHS just like them – and in our country.

It’s more than anyone could ask for and it’s an absolute rare privilege; To be recognized for trying your best to help others. I’ve never really been acknowledged before,  but I can’t help but feel heavy with gratitude to everyone who got me here, as thanked previously in many, many blog posts previously. Because this award is just representative of everyone who got me here.  There is no greater gift than being able to be part of something bigger than yourself, trying to make things better for others. And so the honour of being part of narrative alone is incredible.

Then I got home, back to the north, anxious about the U.S.A. Elections, fell asleep and awoke to Trump president-elect.

When I fell sick, I had so much angst because I felt like there was so much left to do and so much more love to give in life. I’d cry because I felt sorry for myself. And I felt ashamed even more for behaving that way, for being weak. But then on reflection I realized that the tears  flowed because they needed to. Because things were building up instead of me like a pressure cooker, and I wanted to keep moving forward.

I was crying because I wanted to live, because I was afraid of not being here.  And I was afraid of being forgotten.

So having gone through that, and 2015 UK General Election and Brexist Ref vote – I figured we need a hope-of sorts – a plan of sorts. Here’s what I’ve learnt from my few years living invisibly and wanting so bad to enjoy life again. And how Brexit, and Trump and a million refugees stuck around the world make you feel powerless and everything is lost. But

Trust me when I say this time is short & this life is both terrible & beautiful.

Resentment & anger are inevitable & sometimes are important, temporarily,  but it’s important to not take up residence in that place. I PROMISE you deserve better. Even if you voted Trump. You do deserve better.

I promise you there are people who will leave you in life, but that others will embrace you unconditionally in your brokenness.

So you go out & run fearlessly in the direction of love. You are never alone. Your tribe is out there. GO GET IT. And please keep laughing. Joy is salvation. In the darkest, lowest moments, being able to find something, anything to laugh about can save you.

We never stop. We never give up. We fight for each other and protect each other.

Living and giving kindness is the best revenge. 

The most creative challenge of our lives is learning how to approach our own inner darkness with curiosity, empathy, and friendliness.

And that’s where it’s all going to come together.

Sometimes in life, if you are very lucky, you find the grace in having it all blow up in your face.

Our jobs for the day (life): Tell the truth; Be kind & curious; Love all people with all your heart; Don’t put up with any bullshit. 

Love Is Love Is Love, we’ve had a bunch of set-back but that just means we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us but lets keep working to make things better – for ourselves and for those who are voiceless, victimised, invisible or who can’t say it for themselves. There is so much more that what unites us than what divides us.

Our work isn’t done, and we need each other and others less fortunate than us, who are REALLY struggling need us. So don’t wait to be called, because you’re already being beckoned.

unnamed.jpg

A Story of forgiveness, learning to trust again & my 10 years with Ed Miliband as my MP.

Now, I don’t want to preach, or tell you who to vote for in this upcoming election. Some of you have probably already voted by mail too. But I want to share with you a story of such, and hope that if you were feeling disillusioned, that you will use your vote for the better – and really vote!

I believe that everyone has the right to vote how they believe is right for them, and for their country.  Of course we all see and experience the world in many different and unique ways that our voting system often doesn’t come close to reflecting this – and can it truly do so? ever? Probably not. But it can try. Additionally, what is important to me (education, NHS, equality, social justice) may not be as high for on your own personal agenda.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time we’re mislead by a massive media elite that, as Marxists would put it, keep the working-person down for their own personal gain.  We see this with Rupert Murdoch acting as the Dark Lord sending tweeted threats to a Tory government failing to get a majority – because they work in favour of him and his $$$ million empire.

They (the elite) don’t want us to be equal, really. They plot us against ourselves, tricking us, lying to us, twisting the truth. Mashing up the narrative so much that we don’t even know what’s really going on, and what we believe any more. Who can be trusted? Our enemies become ourselves, our neighbours; immigrants (the majority of us are immigrants somewhere down the line); people who are on benefits; students; old people; people who work on minimum wage; mothers/fathers/single people; women; workers of all kinds; teachers, doctors, HCP, politicians, bus-drivers- whatever- you name it – they disguise the real issues,  hoping that we will never see past this vail of insecurity and fear that they continue to instil into us. Twisted pieces of the truth, so far from the truth it is a fabricated lie. Sold to you, as if it’s in your best interest. Now, not all media is evil – but a good huge chunk of it can be if it believes that it’s own interests are at risk. Media is probably the best-est social control agent that we have in society.

It is at the juncture that I have to admit that I too am majorly skeptical of politics, politicians and their hunger for power and unkept promises. However, we do need to trust people we’re not sure we can trust all the time – taxi-drivers, hairdressers, dentists and doctors, people on twitter, ect. It’s the bare-fabric of humanity being able to trust, and working in the greater good for all. And if someone breaks your trust – then shame on them, but we must be able to trust a vision we believe in, and we can rebuild trust. Forgiveness can be one of our most important tools in living.

That’s why I’ll be voting Labour in 9 days. Even though I voted Labour in 2010 (my first ever election – which was very exciting) it didn’t feel as right as I had hoped. The last Labour government, Blair et al, had strayed way far too neo-liberal capitalism-middle-of-the-road for my liking. If I wanted that, I would have voted Liberal Democrats. But still, I knew – despite many wrong doings over the 13 years Labour were in power – that in the heart of it somewhere, the real every-day struggling person was there in the value-system. Not just big media and corporation businesses and banks. I benefited hugely from many policies as a poor working class kid from Doncaster.

When Ed Miliband won leader of the Labour party I was very excited for a number of reasons. And so my story begins:

My background is – I was born and raised in Doncaster, a small ex-mining community. My mom fell pregnant with me whilst still in her mid-late teens, and she decided to do it all on her own. School was never her thing, a rebel in her own right, she left school with little qualifications. She fell in love with a bad-boy: my father – who turned out to be pretty violent and lazy (he was prison a bunch of times). Needless to say, I was brought up on council estates, hand to mouth poor, debt collectors and everything you can imagine. And it was miserable. My mom couldn’t escape this domestic violent relationship for the fear of not being able to afford to raise my bro & I on her own ( also lets not ignore the emotional and psychological tricks that get played into making the person believe it will be different next time, even though it’s not). They were never married. So little rights between my mom and father existed. We we’re made homeless when we did escape a dangerous situation, because – like – housing crisis. Duh. More shitty stuff happened, but I go on. I tell you this because it represents my struggle, past, present and future. It represents what is important in acknowledge what every-day-real-life living is like for the majoirty of people in the UK.

I’ve been following Ed Miliband’s political career for some time now. He’s been my MP for about 10 years? He won’t remember this but my friend and I went to visit Ed at one of his surgeries in his first year, maybe few months of being our new MP. My friend and I were 16/17. And had just applied to go to university (the very first in our families)- but UCAS had received our schools (NDTC, now Adwick-Outwood ) applications, cashed the cheque but not processed the applications – for months – making our applications super late, after the deadline.
We were so worried that it was going to affect our chances, already underdogs in the process. I’m not sure why we decided to go and see Ed, seemed like a good idea at the time – and I can’t remember  what he said. But everything turned out just fine – but I remember feeling like he really listened to us – and took our issue seriously. This had a profound effect, and one of the reasons why I know we can trust him as our leader. He asked us if we could help him come to our school because  he was new to the area. I think it’s really special & incredibly important how he acknowledged the younger voters and tried to get them interested in politics, genuinely – this wasn’t near any election at the time.
I went on to study Contemporary Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam. It was a dream come true & many of the best-est years of my life so far. I was able to do so much more than I ever thought was possible as a super poor, working-class kid from Doncaster. I got to work in a world class art gallery in Chelsea, NYC – so rare since the artworld is much like politics – you often have to either know someone, have a silver-spoon or grassroots your way up. I  worked in Chicago, scouting out social-engaged art practices, and political gatherings. I also worked for many summers for the YMCA of greater Boston, USA (This makes me a huge Boston Red Soxs fan too 😉 )
I tell you all of this because I think it’s so important that kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, like I was, to have a stable and good opportunity for a great education & then if they so wish – can afford to have the opportunity to go to university (£9,000 a year + living is just an insane amount of money). That all subjects – whether art or science, media or engineering – are worthy of the same merits. Things like EMA when I was at school made such a huge genuine difference, I was able to pay for my school dinners, and buy things for my classes since my school couldn’t afford them. AimHigher was also an important element in helping me have the right tools to know how to apply to university. Today, education is disjointed. Free-schools and academies run however they like – some amazingly, some absolutely poorly doing a disservice to students.
I believe and hope that Ed will help to restore the education system so it can help students believe in and reach their potential, or at least have the funding to do so. To re-invest in SureStart – which makes HUGE differences to struggling communities. And I believe he’ll  help to invest in the cultural, creative and technology industries in our country – because I believe that these are some of our most strongest areas as a nation, and not supporting or investing in them is hurting our economy as well as our nation. Take the British Film Council funding that the Tories cut for example. Film is a HUGE part of our industry, and a Tory government thinks it’s not worth it.
I  met Ed again when I attended his wedding reception party event in Bentley that he hosted for the area. Which I thought was an awesome idea, he is always putting on events (and has always way before he was leader of the Labour party – again prooving he really listens, wants to engage and wants to help local people).
In 2011 I was 22 working in Boston, USA when I  fell pretty poorly and got told some pretty messed up things about my health —- and my medical insurance at the time wouldn’t cover it. I was alone, 1000’s miles away from my family. I had a bit of an existential crisis.  My USA work-friends at the time covered my medical costs. So I  (eventually – I was in denial a bit) came home to receive some of the most compassionate and excellent  medical care I have ever seen and witnessed. My GP – still – gives me so much of his time, and i have great continuity of care. The experience of being in the privatized medical world of USA compared to the NHS of the UK made me appreciate what we have and proved just exactly why we can not allow the NHS to be privatized. Not only does the NHS save many lives – but also improves people’s quality of life – I would have been bankrupt if I was in a system where you had to pay for each appointment/treatment.
From this experience, I am now back at SHU retraining in Radiotherapy & Oncology. (I’m still working as a freelance artist!) I feel this undenying need to give back to a system that gives so much. I want to continue to give the best compassionate care, that I’m given, to everyone. I want to develop new research and tools that can help save lives, and my creative background has really helped me to do this. As a student working clinically at in Leeds – I see just how amazing the NHS is, what profound differences it makes to people & I can also feel and see the repercussions of this Tory government on the NHS. This is one of the main reasons why I want Labour to succeed in gaining leadership. Because the NHS means so much to everyone and Labour seem to be the only one willing to stand up and save it.  I know there’s the NHS Party, and the Greens have a pretty great NHS budget – but realistically – in terms of majority win – Labour is our only hope.
Additionally I met Ed again in 2013, outside Morrisons. I was helping out with Food Bank collection and he came to help and show his support. I thought it was necessary because he was acknowledging that local people are struggling so much to just put food on the table, whilst the Tories will pretend it’s not even a problem. Even stopping the official statistics of use of Food Banks because they don’t want the blood on their hands.
So, guys. After 10 years of Ed Miliband being my MP – having gotten to know him before it was super cool – I’ve grown up with him – he’s a bit like your family doctor. See him when you have problem; he always tries to fix it – and you both slowly get to know each other. I believe he really – genuinely cares about the gaps of inequalities we are all straddling and how we’re constantly tricked and decieved by corporations and the media. And we ALL deserve better. Especially better than what we’ve currently got. And he knows this. I think we can really call on him to be there for us.
 I just wanted to say thank you to Ed for his awesome 10 years of being our MP – and thank himfor running to be our future Prime Minister, because it was time to leave New-Labour behind. Sometimes it’s the most subtle differences, experiences, meetings that make the biggest of differences. The people of the UK need someone to believe in – need someone who understands what these services need and how necessary they are – and how people are struggling – and i think it’s Ed that we need. especially out of all the main running candidates.
And what’s even more impressive? Is that I wrote a similiar E-Mail to Ed a few weeks ago now. I didn’t actually think he’d read it – especially so close to the general election. But lots of the Labour Party Campaign people read it, the Doncaster Mayor read it, and they all made Ed read it. And he wanted to meet me again at his local campaign launch. It was awesome. There’s a charisma that sometimes doesn’t translate on screen thats genuinely caring and warm when you meet him in person. Everytime I meet him, he remembers that I’m an artist – now that’s pretty awesome you have to admit? 10 years running.
So guys, I’m hoping we can have Ed as our leader on 7th May. I hope you do too and will help me to try and get these votes. I know people are concerned mostly with the economy and are worried that Labour is not the party for this — but it’s a complete lie (again) that the Tories are competent at doing it. Our debt has massively increased, whilst our economy is barely moving and the most vulnerable and struggling are paying for a crisis caused my insane bank-lords, world-wide that exasperated the deficit of the UK. Not Labour. I will state again that the previous Labour Government did some shitty things and made some big mistakes-  but they’ve admitted their mistakes (which is good practice!) and we all benefitted to some degree with some  of their better policies. I can’t even name 1 policy under this Tory Government that actually benefits US?
And yeah, let’s save the NHS!
To learning how to trust again. Forgiveness and investing in the values that we really believe in: equality and compassion
Ed Milibae
11133813_10153120435171508_3119224120383421147_n-1 11034216_10153058182226508_863919056973339783_n 481069_10151528092301508_458656601_n 62093_10151528092161508_173315570_n