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The Crack Magazine

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Resistance is Fertile

As the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passes through parliament, Side Gallery in Newcastle are presenting two exhibitions that explore the motivations and methods of individuals and communities who have been compelled to campaign and protest.

Today, if I stood in front of a Toblerone factory with a loudspeaker and started yelling: “Stop making Toblerones smaller and charging us the same price for them you bandits,” I could be fined £2,500. (Obviously, that’s never going to happen because I’m not overly keen on that particular chocolate, and I doubt there’s even such a thing as a “Toblerone factory”, but you get the picture.) It’s all down to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which has just received royal assent. The bill also includes a raft of other new laws including one that makes it an offence to “intentionally or recklessly cause public nuisance”. Another measure clarifies that damage to memorials could lead up to 10 years in prison. (This would have applied to the people who toppled the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. As a point of reference, a man called Peter Swailes was convicted earlier this year for actual modern slavery after exploiting a disabled victim for 40 years. He was given nine-month jail term.) Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Amnesty International UK, has said of the bill: “The Policing Bill is part of a hugely worrying and widespread attack on human rights from across Government, which will not only see basic rights reduced across the board, but will also strip people of the means to challenge or contest their treatment.” All of which makes these shows at Side Gallery particulary timely.Gary Calton’s ‘Citizens of Our Time’ is an ongoing, collaborative, multimedia collection of campaigner portraits covering a wide range of issues that have engaged the UK population over the past 25 years. It represents everyday people, many of whom were protesting for the first time, who were compelled to take to the streets because they had exhausted all other avenues. Subjects range from deeply personal causes to local, national and international movements. Some led to changes in government policy, while others have educated and informed the public and created a groundswell of popular support.‘What Happened Here’, meanwhile, is an audio-visual installation incorporating prints from Izabela Jedrzejczyk’s ‘Striking Women’ series, which documented the effective and organised approach by a group of women in Easington Colliery during the 1984 Miners’ Strike.Thirty-five years after the strike, Amber helped staged a Miners Picnic to remember with pride the efforts the people of Easington had made to protect their jobs and save their community. ‘What Happened Here’ is the film that came out of this year-long engagement. It makes extensive use of archive resources from the AmberSide Collection alongside footage from Amber Films. RM

Citizens of Our Time & What Happened Here: Gary Calton, Izabela Jedrzejczyk & Amber Films, until 26 June, Side Gallery Newcastle. Open: Thurs & Fri 11am-5pm; Sat-Sun 12-5pm. 

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