Shake! Showcase no.6 – #ResistanceIsFertile

*** 26th January 2016 ***

Our 6th Shake! showcase is gonna be a biggie!

Teaming up with the afro-funky family vibes of Numbi we’ll be presenting poetic, filmic & musical responses to injustice (themed around #StatesOfViolence + #FoodFight) from the participants on our 2015 Shake! courses.


Full line-up to be posted here asap.

TICKETS: £5* via Rich Mix box office: 020 7613 7498

*concessions email: farzana at

For more info:
email platformshake at 020 7403 3738

Moving from ‘no borders’ to broaderland for the borderless

Farzana Khan makes the case for a new way of being open.

(web exclusive via New Internationalist magazine)

Image © Erin Konsmo

Reflections: what does a commitment to no borders look like?

Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.
Gloria Anzaldua, La Frontera/Borderlands1

Most of us, in solidarity with refugees and migrants, are rightly calling for the removal of borders, arbitrary borders, largely inherited through colonialism. Yet as we call for ‘No Borders’, a part of me feels uneasy, a part that acknowledges the violent history, both in the UK and across the world, where refugees are often placed once again in destitute and vulnerable situations in these countries of ‘refuge’. Despite entry, many are still labelled ‘refugees’, ranked along a capricious spectrum of citizenship-between legal and illegal. Denied the opportunity to participate fully in society, their rights and liberties are curtailed, and in manifold ways their dignity and self-worth are further stripped away.

Exploitation on several levels, ranging from sexual to labour, can become a consistent feature of daily life for refugees, asylum-seekers and forced migrants. This is akin to opening our arms only to use our hands to hold people down. Without building adequate infrastructures of justice, community and accountability for and to each other, where lives can be led meaningfully, our call for ‘No Borders’ appears simply to be affording us a feel-good moment. Because in reality, the moment of ‘legal’ entry in to a country is not the point at which borders dissolve. There are other borders, borders that determine people’s lives, and, moreover, the quality of their lives. In the case of the UK, internal borders are designed to keep some people at the margins, down and forever ‘othered’. So what does it mean to be committed to solidarity with refugees as well as migrants?

Some obvious things:

It means a deeper commitment to dismantling the power structures that make people refugees in the first place. It means building in adequate provisions so that refugees, forced migrants and migrants are actually receiving refuge (and this does not arise out of self-inflated duties of assistance or charity but is actually a remedial one, towards reparations). It means rigorously challenging the subtle yet stifling borders of institutional and systemic oppression in our country. It means a deeper commitment to and centering of racial, gender and climate justice in our work. We know it is black brown and indigenous folk who are mostly made refugees and then experience further racial injustice through social and economic exclusion and violence in our countries. It is women’s bodies that carry babies in their bellies and so often on their backs. It is women who so often flee sexual and gender-based violence and whose bodies are then forced into sex work and subjected to similar forms of violence they left behind. It is environmental destruction created by Western corporations and governments that rupture people’s lands, communities and livelihoods while upholding dictatorships, all of which cause the routine internal and external displacements of people, to name few injustices.

Some less obvious things:

Power as border control

Of late, I find myself asking: ‘What are my borders?’ ‘Who do I/my community exile?’ ’How and where does my body act as a border?’ and ‘What kind of borders exist in my spaces?’

In the social-justice world, this can look like many things, from anti-blackness in Arab and Asian communities, or transmisogny and transphobia in feminist spaces, the marginalization and silencing of people of colour in the LGBTQI movement, or Islamophobia and the undermining and erasure of communities of faith in activist and campaigns spaces.

What’s the point of having decolonized, queer, de-capitalized, anti-oppression, intersectional institutions, if we are still exercising power and injustices on each other?

Moreover with the increasing NGO-ization of grassroots campaigns and struggles, we see the replication of certain power structures establish itself in our spaces. We see how we ourselves commit interpersonal and intimate harms on each other, despite being the ‘knowing-better-good-intentioned-do-gooders’.

It is clear these issues in our organizing spaces arise for many reasons, one of which is that ‘hurt people, hurt other people’. As people with vicarious-, generational- and oppression-based trauma, there is internal work needed: figuring out ‘how’ we do the work – the ‘why’, while building safety mechanisms to hold each other accountable in tender and kind ways. After all, what’s the point of having decolonized, queer, de-capitalized, anti-oppression, intersectional institutions (the list is not exhausted), if we are still exercising power and injustices on each other? And how do we do this without falling in the trap of a culture of calling out (instead of calling in) which feeds in to our/the culture of disposability with each other that capitalism has made so comfortable? The breadth of our task means we mess up and get it wrong. After all, ‘what we’re trying to do here is a radical unlearning of everything we have been configured to believe is normal’.2 In this, how do we ensure that the spaces we are building in our movements are resilient in our resistance? How do we make our organizing spaces into communities?

The emphasis on communities comes from the realization that we can’t continue letting our own spaces uphold power structures in the guise of solidarity, that we can’t shy away from hard dynamics, but instead be committed to each other. Real deep-rooted change requires ALL of us. So, in the absence of borders, if we are still committed to their removal, how do we hold ourselves together? Mia Mingus reminds us3:

Interdependency is both ‘you and I’ and ‘we’. It is solidarity, in the best sense of the word. It is inscribing community on our skin over and over and over again. It is truly moving together in an oppressive world towards liberation and refusing to let the personal be a scapegoat for the political. It is knowing that one organization, one student or community group is not a movement. It is working in coalition and collaboration. Because the truth is: we need each other. We need each other. And every time we turn away from each other, we turn away from ourselves. We know this. Let us not go around, but instead, courageously through.

As we organize in solidarity, our own borders need to be examined: how are they maintained, and do they work towards holding on to power and privilege?

In the making of movements, how we sustain our movements and ourselves is key. This means doing the internal work, the heart-work, the unearthing of our selves and our organizing spaces. I recognize that the space and capacity to reflect on praxis is tied to privilege, where often the most directly affected within structures of oppression are in the business of survival/resistance/responding without the luxury of thinking deeply about this very work. However, I maintain that this is worthwhile, because it calls us in on our selves. We have to do the work to be better humans for the better world we want to live in, and all the while continue to learn how to do this. Right now is exactly the time to do this, as we sit under the weight of failing state infrastructures, we also sit on the cusp of reimagining what is possible outside of the state. Now more than ever, is the time to be actualizing how we can be moving out of positions of relegated authority and power and transform our spaces into collectivized and democratized communities, building realities that are pluriversal and plentiful. Drawing on the wisdom of Mia Mingus again, we can learn to re-member our dismembered selves and our communities:

Commit to not letting go of each other, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard. Commit to finally learn that the ends do not justify the means. How many times do we have to learn that how we do the work is just as important as the work we do? Commit to thinking about after the meeting, after the protest, after the revolution. Commit to being a grounded force to end violence and oppression. Commit to being a grounded force for healing and community. Commit to learning about where each of you are different and how ‘our differences lie down inside of us’, as Audre Lorde talks about.

As we organize in solidarity, our own borders need to be examined: how are they maintained, and do they work towards holding on to power and privilege? This means re-establishing our values and then embodying our values in such a way that our own personal borders as human beings are softened, provoking us to cultivate our own humanity, instead of searching for it in our oppressors. In our efforts to bring down our oppressors, we can forget to raise ourselves up.

Self-care or self-privatization?

In social justice spaces there is an increasing call for self-care and recognition for the healing needed to recover from our routine oppressions. We are sometimes asked to establish boundaries, especially those of us engaged in community and care work. While this is legitimate and critical, we must be careful that we are not duped into establishing the boundaries of compartmentalization and individualization that neoliberalism and capitalism foster. Self-care rhetoric can become steeped in individualism and sometimes operate to absolve accountability to each other. The establishment of boundaries and borders in attempts to safeguard ourselves can actually pander to false notions of security.

A way in which this manifests is through bureaucracy – the love child of neoliberalism and capitalism! Bureaucracy tries to convince us that being effective and good at what you do must be tied to ideas of ‘professionalism’. As a result, we find ourselves knee deep in meetings, evaluations, data entry, more often than not adopting ideas of pseudo-professionalism. We don’t hug and hold young people as they expose deep vulnerability, we write up reports and data capture on survivors on sexual or gender-based violence. We forget that inputting data is not processing pain. We see the increasing corporatization of youth work, education and community work. Following suit, NGOs that develop youth or educational streams often imitate the same instrumentalization of youth and vulnerable communities without an actual investment in the young people themselves.

Alongside this, we should bear in mind that safety and security are two distinct things. These days, a greater emphasis on security, with the right to protect prioritized over the value of human lives, this is the same underlining logic that engineers gated communities which fragment society according to class and race or even legalizes the murdering of Trayvon Martin under the right to protect property.

Furthermore, self-care rhetoric can also become an exclusionary practice through breeding feelings of shame and guilt, fostering thoughts like, ‘I am responsible for my self-care and self-love; if I can’t get enough yoga in or eat well then I am at fault’, or ‘I’m not radical enough because I didn’t get my meditation in.’ It is important to remember that so many acts of self-care are tied to privilege, affordability, access and able-ism. Self-care rhetoric can also feed into capitalist ideas of productivity, the motivating factor being that to be the most productive and useful activist/social justice warrior, you must participate in all these acts of self-care in order to do more activism without ever burning out.

In Britain, a country both figuratively and physically cold, entangled in the idea of borders for protection and security, we must question whether our safety is really the issue at hand when establishing borders

Self-care and self-love are supposed to remind of us of our vulnerability, the vulnerability of our bodies, minds, spirits and movements. It reminds that we heal best with each other and that health and wellness is possible, that we can be full without being whole in ourselves. Recalling the statement of a sexual violence survivor: ‘Surviving is testimony to her strength. Healing is testimony to the community around her supporting her.’

I touch on vulnerability here as a necessary feature of resistance building, not only because it enforces the value of community and interdependence, but also because vulnerability can help show up power. It’s only when we interrogate how we are made vulnerable by our environments, we can then begin to trace how power operates in that space, the types of power that capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy tries to invisiblize are made visible. Judith Butler teaches us ‘that vulnerability, understood as a deliberate exposure to power, is part of the very meaning of political resistance as an embodied enactment’.4

In Britain, a country both figuratively and physically cold, entangled in the idea of borders for protection and security, we must question whether our safety is really the issue at hand when establishing borders. We must be intentional in our practice of building borders for wellbeing and question where they emerge from – living in society dominated by neoliberal logic, or a genuine need for safeguarding? – while taking note that often borders based on security keep us from each other, and further marginalize the most vulnerable in our societies.

Borderless to borderland

I work largely with young people of colour in London, and our conversations regularly turn to matters of home (or lack thereof), crossing borders, and rootlessness. They are exasperated by growing up in a time when the basics rootings of life are made ungraspable: unaffordable food, transport and housing. Resource insecurity as well as the ache of not belonging or being enough means many of us are situated as border-crossers. Without trivializing the weight of all this, we can be hopeful this state doesn’t have to be disheartening; it can in fact be powerful and transformative.

The ability to take root in our displacement and our borderland ways is something that can catalyse new ways of being and consciousness beyond the precarious infrastructures we are subject to right now, perhaps in some cases intergenerationally reviving old ones, too.

Gloria E Anzaldúa explores the transformative potential of embracing our borderland ways to overcome the oppressive structures that hold us prisoner. She states: ‘From this racial, ideological, cultural and biological cross-pollinization, an “alien” consciousness is presently in the making – a new mestiza consciousness, una conciencia demujer. It is a consciousness of the Borderlands.’

Utilizing our hybridity, we can start to re-imagine and reconfigure our world: create new ways of living; housing that are people- and earth-centered, economic systems that prioritize our values instead of profit, food systems that allow real distribution with real food and forms of community accountability outside of the state’s criminal justice system. Our hybridity offers us an opportunity to be the better people with the better infrastructures, working towards that better world instead of trying to fit within the existing oppressive structures. Also, a chance to shed the false categorizations of racialization and gendering that colonial process solidified us in to.

Idealistic as it sounds, these concepts of grounding ourselves radically in our own historical and present specificities, of being in some way or another, borderland, is not new. It’s a concept familiar and present across many non-Eurocentric cultures and spiritualties such as Islam, Toaism and indigenous communities and understood as a way of living. It is seen as process of earnestly looking back and reconciling with the traditions, ancestry and cultures we come from, while expansively looking forward with our current context and time.

Meeting with these ideas, is the concept of Raicism5, which flips the script on racism. ‘Raicism – or roots’ explored by Aurora Levins Morales put forward the idea that we can and should interrogate both our historical lineage and our present-day identity to reflect the complexity of who we really are, to politicize how this influences and impacts us and the choices we can/are allowed to make. Levins explained this radical approach to genealogy:

Raícism – from raíces or roots – is the practice of rooting ourselves in the real, concrete histories of our people: our families, our local communities, our ethnic communities. It is radical genealogy; history made personal. It is a keeping of accounts. Its intent is to pierce the immense, mind-deadening denial that permeates daily life, that drowns our deepest grief and horror about the founding and ongoing atrocities of racism, class, and patriarchy in endless chatter about trivialities. Oppression buries the actual lives of real and contradictory people in the crude generalizations of bigotry and punishes us for not matching the caricature, refusing all evidence of who we actually are in defiance of its tidy categories. It is a blunt instrument, used for bashing not only our dangerous complexities, but also the ancient and permanent fact of our involvement with each other.

Raícism, or rootedness, is the choice to bear witness to our specific, contradictory historical identities in relationship to one another. It is an accounting of the debts and assets we have inherited, and acknowledging the precise nature of that inheritance is an act of spiritual and political integrity.

What this opens up as we come together is a chance to better equip ourselves, with our privileges and marginalities. We see ourselves better for who we are in our positionalities. It allows us to own all the complex parts of ourselves. Furthermore, in remembering that our organizing spaces don’t need to get trapped in cycles of identity politics or ‘oppression Olympics’ – we are able to navigate when and in which spaces our identity (politics) is necessary.

Perhaps in our spaces where the systems of oppression are already collectively identified, we will look to unify through meaningful difference and cultivate this, raising the most impacted/affected in our spaces. The value of this is echoed in what Audre Lorde teaches us:

When there is no connection at all between people, then anger is a way of bringing them closer together, of making contact. But when there is a great deal of connectedness that is problematic or threatening or unacknowledged, then anger is a way of keeping people separate, of putting distance between us. That because we sometimes rise to each other’s defence against outsiders, we do not need to look at our devaluation and dismissal amongst ourselves. Support against outsiders is very different from cherishing each other. 6

In these violent times, calling for the absence of borders means we hold ourselves together by building community, cultivating care and love as resistance and for resilience

This is ever more important not only in terms of a response to the long-term effects of internalizing self-hatred that colonialism achieved or the way that capitalism has fragmented us in our bodies and communities. Now, with insidious state interventions like PREVENT that work from the age-old strategy of ‘divide and rule’, our organizing is subject to further fragility. Fostering trust or relationship is undermined through creating levels of anxiety and suspicion amongst each other, alongside the use of informants. Therefore it must be part of our counterstrategy to remain resilient and furthermore know how to support, show up and uplift each other.

As we move forward in to new territories and landscapes both physically and conceptually, our borderlessness is a sense of new perspective on ourselves and therein our capacity and vision to shift power from oppressors. It means we can step out of positions of not being enough or having enough, and into positions to getting comfortable with who we are and have been. Settling in, in our rejection of social constructs that don’t serve us, deepen roots in communities instead of nations. Allowing ourselves to encompass the vulnerability and humility that we are all learning how to do this. Of course, this is just the beginning…

I started writing these thoughts in London and finished them in South Africa. Here, the rampant borders of apartheid are gone, yet the inequality is enveloping. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, where economic violence on black and (to a lesser degree) brown South Africans is as real as ever, maintaining a form of apartheid. It is a stark reminder that the real removal of borders is a broader task. It encompasses redistribution of land, resources, wealth, and reshaping access routes to these. It means reparations beyond compensation, it means giving up power, and it means reconfiguring ideas of ownership and property. In these violent times, calling for the absence of borders means we hold ourselves together by building community, cultivating care and love as resistance and for resilience. If we are really are serious, when we say ‘No Borders’, what we could be doing is inviting ourselves to rise to broader borderlands.

I would like to thank and give gratitude to all the folks at Shake! (@voicesthatshake) & Platform London (@platformlondon) for continuously shaping, inspiring & informing my thoughts and this piece.

  1. Gloria Anzaldua, La Frontera/Borderlands.

  2. Ngọc Loan Trần, Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding Each Other Accountable, “Black Girl Dangerous.

  3. Mia Mingus, Leaving Evidence.

  4. Judith Butler, Rethinking Vulnerability and Resistance.

  5. Aurora Levin Morales, Medicine Stories.

  6. Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider.

An Eye-full of #COP21 Paris

We’ve just returned from solidarity actions and engagement with indigenous and frontline communities at the alternative COP21 summit in Paris.

Sending love & light to all our friends, allies from black & brown frontline communities & indigenous folk coming from all over the world, (still) holding it down right now in Paris.

‘In colonial history, it is not important how the powerful dominated but how the oppressed resisted’ -Ramon Grosfoguel,

‘We cannot decarbonise without decolonise(ing)’ – Randa Toko


“this is a war of narratives, and ours is decolonial”

“Je ne peux pas respirer’ (‪#‎ICantBreathe‬/ ‪#‎WeCantBreathe‬ ) channeling Fanon through the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ contingent also protesting at Paris COP21

Support shifting the narrative so the most affected by climate injustice are centred and heard.
#IndigenousRising ‪#‎ittakesroots‬ .

Follow and share Indigenous Environmental Network Grassroots Global Justice Alliance No Tar Sands UK Tar Sands Campaign Cooperation Jackson World March of Women – Africa/ Marche Mondiale des Femmes – Afrique La Via Campesina

Photo by Randa Toko
Re-edit from decarbonize to deco2lonize by liquorice fish

Shake! #FoodFight Reflections

By Jethro Jenkins

Shake! is a 5-day intensive course for 16-25 yr olds, consisting of creative workshops designed to equip them with the tools they need to fight oppression and build campaigns in their communities. Through various art forms – poetry, filmmaking, music and zine-making – and in an environment in which oppressive ideas are deconstructed and established methods of thinking are challenged, our group of young activists empower themselves to do great things. The art produced in the short period is always of immeasurable strength and quality, that could only be a product of a sharing space in which the content is highly educational and at times, highly personal. The topic we tackled this time was food – something unavoidably close to home. It was certainly going to be eye opening.

It is near impossible to get by without engaging in the food industry at some level, especially for young people living in inner-city areas like London. The illusion of ‘choice’ is deceptive – our diet is dictated to us by huge business corporations who mass-produce cheap food, which is ‘super-marketed’ to poor and impoverished communities. Meanwhile terms like ‘guilt-free’, ‘organic’ and ‘fair trade’ are thrown around, targeting the middle and upper classes, who can afford to pay for the ‘ethical’ labelling game. When we digest food labels, we are psychologically influenced into feeling better about ourselves. We feel we have eaten healthily, organically or ‘ethically’.

Ironically, much of the food consumed by middle class whites originates from the culture of marginalised communities, re-branded to seem ‘safe’ to often xenophobic consumers. The type of food available in certain areas is linked to gentrification; in my local area in Hackney for example, local businesses are being shut down to be replaced by ‘trendy’ hipster cafes and bars often profiting from culturally appropriative menus with little respect for the local people, who cannot afford to eat there. This is linked to oppressive capitalist systems of exploitation both at home and abroad. Exploitation fuels the food industry. The UK and US manage to appropriate ‘exotic’ ingredients through exploitation of workers abroad, who cannot even afford the food they harvest. It is a neoliberal slave trade with roots in colonialism, that manipulates small farmers, not to mention engages in cruel battery farming and the slaughter of animals en masse.

These critical discussions were food for thought and inspired the incredible writing group led by experienced poets Zena Edwards and Sai Murray. The big issues surrounding food were tackled head-on. There were no holds barred once the poets stepped into the arena! What was particularly important was that Shake! was primarily a healing space. Each day was structured in a way that involved listening to our bodies. Self-care was paramount. The effects were wonderful – as the week progressed we became increasingly barefoot as we stripped away the negativity from the outside world and began to relax into our natural selves. After our time spent in the green spaces, we would take every opportunity to be outside, making music, running on the grass, doing stretching exercises, all of which helped greatly in making us feel present and grounded. Thanks to Saara we also got to try out some yoga – while some of us may have fallen near flat on our faces in the process, the end result was a rare sensation of oneness. The mantra for this energy was repeated throughout the week – “I am here. I am healthy. I am healing. I am loved”.

The week was divided by a trip to May Project Gardens, an alternative educational green space using hip hop to empower young people to live sustainably. Spending time in the gardens was an invaluable part of the creative process. The experience of cooking together, feeling the earth beneath our fingers, enriched our sense of community and our appreciation for sharing the experience. Few have the privilege of access to green spaces where they can grow their own food. Healthy, genuinely ‘fair trade’ food is expensive, unless we reclaim the means production by growing it ourselves. So massive shout-out to Ian at May Project Gardens for letting us use the space and for showing us the fantastic work you do.

The zine-making workshop run by Paula Serafini provided a great opportunity to take time out from the other workshops. This was a very visual, hands-on approach to arts activism, to me it was a showcase of raw and unfiltered responses to the issues being tackled – and the results were a zine rich with strong imagery and powerful political messages. Copies will be available soon!

This was my second Shake! and I had the honour of returning as a facilitator. My experiences from the previous course had made it clear to me how important alternative modes of education were. I was shown how much could be learnt simply by listening, and many of the issues we approached often required a great deal of ‘unlearning’, especially on topics relating to race and gender and the socio-political privileges attached to them. I felt able to grow and change as a person simply by being present. The space was open for all to contribute whilst also critical of dominant and controlling ideologies – “Tough on ideas, soft on people”. Like we observed with the plants at May Project Gardens, ‘the edges are where we grow from’ – the most powerful poetry and radical filmmaking was developed in an environment in which our ideas were challenged and we were encouraged to ‘go deeper’.

Too often we consume without being nourished, but during this very special few days I spent with such an incredibly powerful group of young artists and activists, I found my stomach filled with truly honest, organic ‘soul food’. It was an experience I will not forget and will stay with me moving forwards. In the space of only 5 days, the group managed to produce a kick-ass zine, multiple short films and some incredible poetry! But the food fight is not over – Shake! encouraged all of us to get involved in local activism and engage with issues surrounding food, which have such a major impact our communities. We will continue to campaign, create and share, with the strength and passion that we give to each other. Watch this space!

#Shake2015: #FoodFight – Applications open

Our next shake! up >> 3rd-7th August 2015<< at Spotlight, Tower Hamlets.

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.
Art can be a powerful and transformative force for justice and 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.


#FOODFIGHT will be exploring the idea that Reistance is Fertile…

On the menu:

· Food and the History of Power- colonialism, consumerism,·gentrification, cultural appropriation
· Food & violence –body and trauma, GM giants & corporations and state violence
· Food & Oppression- racalized and gendered oppression through food systems
· Food and Healing Justice- radical health & self care, building resistance and resilience.

Read more:


Over the five days, the course will include:

>> interactive workshops, stimulating dialogue & skill-shares to creatively campaign for change with practising artists/activists/educators:

>> MICHELLE PATRICK (Earth Oracle)
(+ 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 FOOOOOD! at the landmark multi-million pound creative youth space Spotlight in Tower Hamlets + day trip to the innovative hip hop flavoured community focused May Project Gardens.

>> opportunity to showcase your work and continued involvement in the Shake! network.

Shake! welcomes and looks forward to applicants from all backgrounds. In our efforts to centre marginalised communities and create safe spaces, we will prioritise applications from people of colour, LGBTQI folk and residents of Tower Hamlets. Please state in your application if you want us to consider your application with this in mind.

** 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:

Shake! is initiated and coordinated by Platform in association with:
Conversations Verse in Dialog // Liquorice Fish // Nu Wave Pictures // Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust // Spotlight //

Platform is a company limited by guarantee no. 2658515 and a registered charity no 1044485.

Thoughts on #FoodFight – Shake! Summer Intensive 2015

When the team was asked (I volunteered) to write a blog about the war being waged on our food systems for the next Shake Intensive course ‘#FoodFight’, I started to consider my own relationship with food, what I have personally seen with regard to changing attitudes and patterns of behaviour around food, and found that reams of questions poured out of my finger tips as I typed.

2013 and my finances were particularly low post-London 2012 Olympics. If you had not been recruited with some kind of an Olympic themed large scale poetry project or spoken word education initiative, 4 months of your existence in that year was like being left out in the cold with your face pressed against a window while the party raved inside because you weren’t on the guest list. So, in November, broker than I had been for a very long while (2003 and just starting out as a poet), this freelance artist had to be scrupulous with her food shopping.

Purchasing food in the local superstore took on a more ominous tone. My vigilance peaked and my brow knotted as I price-filtered my way along the aisles. Over time, as I accustomed myself to being more thrifty, I found that only own-brand tinned and white carb foods – white bread, potatoes, pasta – and low cost foods with high and salt and sugar content were available to me. The quality of own-brand food stuffs fluctuated dramatically from packet to packet and tin to tin. Fruit was a luxury. Especially oranges.

Eyes glazing over at the cash till, I remembered delicious foods cooked for me on open fires by street children in the clamouring, hot, dusty city of Mumbi and on Forodhani beach on the island of Zanzibar; honeyed milky bread served to me by the impoverished Khoisan Aboriginal tribes people in the Khalahari desert corridors (reservations). And how I heard their own empty stomachs roar at my privilege.

These memories informed me that going further back into my roots was the way forward for a wholesome and healthier a diet – root vegetable curries, sweet potato, cassava, black eye peas and corn stew; back to my student roots to the humble jacketed spud, pasta and pesto, brown rice and lentils. I’m not a meat fan and fish was a treat, so pulses, beans and ground maizes became staple to my diet.

After a good 6 years of convenience food living, grabbing what was pre-packed and pre-cut after working for no-fuss rapid, efficient “cooking”, I was forced to go back to the street markets in Brixton and Dalston and memories of shopping days with my Mother, having to carry heavy bags of food shopping for the week and big Sunday dinner cook ups that took all day. Those days brought us together as family and they were now long gone. I became more strategic in my food planning. I found I only ate what I needed and packed lunches (sometimes breakfasts for those early meetings) had my stomach straight for the day until dinner. I began to find a flow.

Emotional eating

As I write about of food monitoring and planning, I’m reflecting on a couple of my teen years. I remember being an angsty young woman of colour whose identity was heavily influenced by fashion trends. When I looked in the mirror I rejected most of myself, especially those diasporic curves and took such a hard-lined approach to how much I ate, to the degree of taking diet pills that were simply capsules of fibre and gel extract that expanded in your stomach to make you feel full. But what does it mean to “feel full?” How I saw myself had nothing to do with my appetite so how and why did my emotions begin attaching themselves to food? Food as a device for punishment or as a treat is not uncommon across the generations as body consciousness becomes obsessive in the century of selfies.

Weighing in at…
Obesity has been labeled an “epidemic” in the West.  However, obesity in the UK and US is being closely connected to discourses about class. Low cost but poor diets loaded with sugars and salt are causing heart disease. NHS spokes people stress the need for more education about healthy eating and exercise as it strains under the weight of illness and ailments due to the rise obesity, especially in children.
In some cultures a wide girth is considered a sign of wealth. African diasporic communities find high levels of diabetes and high cholesterol levels due to eating habits reminiscent of “what was left” from “his master’s table”  as chattel enslaved Africans, relabeled as “soul food”. So there are cultural aspects to consider when food is a vehicle for communicating and expressing culture and lived historical experience.  However, a lack of awareness of food’s nutritional value as nourishment and not something you “do” as a consumer activity or a form of cultural expression is putting lives at risk. How informed are we about the addictiveness of the food on supermarket shelves?

What types of rocks and hard places are citizens of a nation placed in when we want to actually change our attitudes toward food? Food advertising campaigns seem scattergun when in fact they are strategically focused to have maximum psychological impact to very targeted viewers. Product placement is  a craft. At varying times of the day and year children are targeted,  this insecurities of women are played up on and an increasing numbers of men are now being documented with having Body Dysmorphic Disorders. What responsibility do food manufacturers have in their product placement and the illusions they sell in content of their advertising?

Ingredients of slavery
We are now forced to think vigilantly about the content of our food as corporates like Monsato, Nestle and Coca Cola step up the disseminate of distorted information about how they manifest corporate responsibility. But the morality of their take-over strategies project and evidence their expansion as brutal disenfranchisement threatening the livelihoods and lives of hardworking people and their families.

Deforestation for palm oil as a cooking ingredient for prepacked goods and snacks, for cattle grazing, and breeding factories, these anomalies raise numerous issues around animal rights and  Earth rights at the same time as ecosystems are destroyed when a trees are mass felled. But local people are fighting against this new economic enslavement via mass food production processes which have mortal impact. Climate issues and food intersect and many campaigns bring powerful arguments against corporate control over government policy.

In various parts of the historically ex-colonised world, there is neo-economic slavery centered around access and supply of food. The issue of food aid destined for conflict zones rattles with dissonance. We’ve seen he images of bags of grain are handed out to traumatized people in manufactured wars over their land and mineral resource. Yet we know that billions donated to charity haemorrhages away from those who need it.

Aid travels with a bomb, Watch out! Aid travels with a bomb!” – Jean Binta Breeze

The Starving West
The UK’s version of food poverty manifest itself in the figures put forward by organisations like the Trussell Trust. The number of people using food banks has risen exponentially since 2009 and there are varying reports of religious community centres over stretched feeding low income hungry families as part of their faith practice. And austerity is set to hit even harder over the next 5 years.

The American public, starved of information, continue to fight for transparency regards naming the ingredients on the packaging of their food. The implication of a life time consuming carcinogens from petsicides  and cancerous  potentional of genetically modified foods is now unavoidably disconcerting.
GMO products have entered the planet’s ecosystem and we have no idea of knowing how food will manifest itself in the next few decades. How well will our bodies adapt, after all we are what we eat? While the rest of the world sees the obscene (GM) abundance and waste of food in the US, millions still struggle to get food daily, living on less than a dollar a day. But at what cost?

Final thoughts…So as I sift through the aisle I am squinting at the back of bottles of cheap pasta sauce checking the suger content and I’m trying to ignore glow-in-the-dark tomatoes in the vegetable section but need them for my own homemade tomato pasta sauce. With no sugar. I look for the yellow stickers to see if I can save a few extra pence here and there and I wonder – How does it come about that supermarket bosses consider sell by dates on the packaging of food as waste markers and that this now deemed “waste” food is a health and safety risk for the homeless and active Freegans foraging superstore waste bins? And when a tomato can sit in a fridge for three months and not deteriorate in any way, what do sell by dates mean anyway?

“We live in an economic system where sellers only value land and commodities relative to their capacity to generate profit. Consumers are constantly being bombarded with advertising telling them to discard and replace the goods they already have because this increases sales. This practice of affluent societies produces an amount of waste so enormous that many people can be fed and supported simply on its trash.”

The most chilling (and empowering) aspect of my thoughts around food is being aware of how our civil liberties and human rights are consistently at odds with the principles of profit and gross expansion. Fatal illnesses, mental unwellness – for example, farmer suicides from lost crops and ‘disappeared’ eco-activists – are considered acceptable collateral damage to corporates leveraging the interests of shareholders and CEO bonuses. Where does the moral compass needle land when food and water – the building blocks to a healthy body and mind, a healthy family and community – become pawns in economic profit battleground?

Shake’s Food Fight intensive summer course 2015
This time Shake! looks into the reclamation of the right to a clean food chain and interrogates (in)equality in universal food distribution. We’ll be asking what are the next radical steps people are taking to decentralise and decolonize the monopoly corporates have over our bodies through food – for example locals in cities and rural areas all over the world are reclaiming economic agency by developing plots of land into community gardens and promoting local green economy initiatives. May Project Gardens is one such initiative and Ian ‘KMT’ Solomon from May Projects will be joining the Shake team for two days workshopping about how it works.

Ultimately, damage to the earth because of food abuse places the rights of the planet at the center of the discussion too, as the earth IS our food, and for out survival as a species urgently needs to be respected and healthily sustained.

· Specials of the day week menu

· Food and the History of Power- colonialism, consumerism,
· gentrification, cultural appropriation
· Food & violence –body and trauma, GM giants & corporations and state violence
· Food & Oppression- racalized and gendered oppression through systems
· Food and Healing Justice- radical health & self care, building resistance and
· resilience.


Shake! welcomes and looks forward to applicants from all backgrounds. In our efforts to centre marginalised communities and create safe spaces, we will prioritise applications from people of colour, LGBTQI folk and residents of Tower Hamlets. Please state in your application if you want us to consider your application with this in mind.

Art, Climate and Displacement: 3 Spoken Word Films by Selina Nwulu and Onysha D Collins

Writer and poet Selina Nwulu and filmmaker Onysha D Collins (both former Shake! participants now involved with Shake! as facilitators and mentors), have teamed up for a series of spoken word films produced by Platform.

The three films ‘Before’, ‘Our Parents’ Children’, and ‘Home is a Hostile Lover’ are part of a commission from metaceptive for their ‘Footprint Modulation’ season on art, climate and displacement. They address, among other things, the themes of migration, displacement, identity, and the environmental damage in Nigeria caused by the oil industry.

The films were first screened at ‘Silence Would Be Treason: Between Nigeria and here + Durham De-Oiled’, a joint event by Platform and Transition Durham, which took place in Durham earlier this week.

All three pieces written and performed by Selina, and filmed and edited by Onysha.


‘Our  Parents’ Children’

‘Home is a Hostile Lover’

Home Cooking: Trauma Genes by Sammy Brough

Congratulations to Sammy for her commission to produce the latest Apples & Snakes Homecooking podcast.

Sammy was inspired to create this project on the subject of Trauma Genes after studying and responding to Audre Lorde’s poem “Litany for Survival” during our recent #StatesOfViolence 5-day intensive arts/activism course at the Stephen Lawrence Centre.

This spoken word collaboration is made up of original pieces from Shake! participants and London-based poets featuring contributions from Nicole, Haneen, Sai and Zena.

Sammy describes the podcast “opening up conversation on the subject of inherited trauma from a limitless number of viewpoints…” and intends to follow up with an event on the same theme.


Follow Sammy on social media to find out more about her and her work:
Twitter: @sammybrough
Mix cloud: Sammy Brough

Shake! featured in new book: Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered

9781783191864_1Shake! has been featured alongside other arts/ activism projects in Lucy Neal’s new book: Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered.

We get a mention in the Activism chapter alongside UK Uncut, Fracking campaigns and others. Our couple of pages features poetry from Orla, quotes from Zareen, a write up from Farzana and a pic of Mujtaba in dynamic poetry mode.

Here’s more info on the book from the CAT blog with liberal sprinkles of Shake! buzz words such as #NewNarratives #Reimagining:

A groundbreaking handbook for  artists, community activists and anyone wishing to reach beyond the facts and figures of science and technology to harness their creativity to make change in the world. This timely book explores the pivotal role artists play in re-thinking the future; re-inventing and re-imagining our world at a time of systemic change and uncertainty. Playing for Time identifies collaborative arts practices emerging in response to planetary challenges, reclaiming a traditional role for artists in the community as truth-tellers and agents of change.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that art can’t change the world because it can and it always has.”
Artist activist, John Jordan

Youth, Technology and Resistance: Tito interviews Paul Mason at Take Back Our World

There was a large Shake! presence at Take Back Our World last month, the relaunch of Global Justice Now (formerly the World Development Movement) and it was great to see so many Shake! family engaging and taking part at last weekends This Changes Everything event.

One active participant at both events, Tito, managed to get an interview with journalist Paul Mason to seek his opinion on youth resistance, voting, social media and austerity. Read the full interview over at Tito’s prolific blog here.

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