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  • Writer's pictureHilary Cox Condron

‘Damning photos and information'

Updated: Jan 14

This week an email landed in my County Councillor inbox ‘warning’ me that someone is ‘investigating’ my links to Extinction Rebellion. The email , in a threatening tone, claimed that ‘someone’ has found ‘damning photos and information' which they plan to share.

Leaving aside the attempts to intimidate me why didn't the person just ask me about my involvement with climate protests?

In the month in which the COP27 UN Chief stated that 'the deadly impacts of climate change are here and now. Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug. It is a moral imperative'', Just Stop Oil protesters are having their homes raided and farmers in Fenland are worried that their chipping potato harvest may not survive the mild November (crop insecurity on Our Doorsteps!) – is anyone is still burying their head in the sand about the devastation of the climate crisis?

Are they??

As an artist and activist I’ve been involved in campaigning for years. I am very proud to have been at the first Extinction Rebellion Cambridge meetings, to have set up the Cambridge XR arts group, taken part in the first Rebellion at Hyde Park, been a Red Rebel, led community climate talks, and run creative workshops at galleries and festivals. It was a call for government and billionaire media moguls to tell the truth about the climate breakdown. These protests played a part in changing world-wide narrative and action. And I met some of the most knowledgeable, inspiring and loving humans I will ever meet. To anyone saying that being involved in protests is damning: the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Suffragettes, the Levellers standing up for workers rights, the right to vote…

Once the narrative about Climate Change started to shift (Though I’m still shocked at how many divisive distractions are thrown our way) my direction changed, as I thought about how best to try and play my part in making changes.

I was working as an artist with Transition Cambridge  when I read an article about Doughnut Economics saying (and I paraphrase) ‘if you are a community artist reading this, consider standing in local politics - we need more creatives’.

So, after much deliberation, knowing some incredible friends working as councillors , being surrounded by inspiring community groups and grassroots movements, and equipped with a blissful ignorance of the gruelling task ahead, I thought I might be able to offer something and I decided to stand.

Being a County Councillor who has been involved in environmental and social justice protests is not a conflict of interests - it is an extension of interest. I don’t have a single councillor colleague in Cambridge or the County Joint Administration who isn’t fighting against climate breakdown and social injustice. But it’s hard going. I’ve recently heard how ‘it’s alright for them' and how I have my ‘minions’ working for me. Ha!! If only!!

It is really telling about the lack of information and education about local politics and the painful way it has been forced to operate. That councillors are seen as something other than local residents and not seen as people who have had to give up time, income and a social life – to represent and try and improve the places in which they live.

So - here I am in 2022. Having always been freelance and working outside of systems I find myself now well and truly captured in a system that is flawed and frustratingly slow. A system that demands constant discussion, deliberation, collaboration, reflection and (that most difficult process) compromise. A system that is attempting to function in a time of multiple perma-crisis whilst the Government continues to cut local council funding as we work to try and change the circumstances that perpetuate poverty, sickness and environmental devistation. Do I feel at home in the County Council? Do I feel at home in the Labour Party? Very often not. Am I working alongside diligent, caring, passionate and determined colleagues? That I know to be true. I definitely am.

There is no one easy solution that’s for sure.

But - we persevere, hay...

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