I’ve been working on a project over on Instagram for the past thirty days called #thirtydaysofBrexit. It began on the day of the referendum result as part of a desperate effort to try and understand what happened. I voted remain, everyone I know voted remain (aside from a couple of family members) so it came as a shock. A three hour train journey to a meeting in Cardiff that day meant I was unable to concentrate on anything but the result.
The Saturday newspapers were bought with a plan to create a series of blackout poems from that day only. I’d had reservations about our mainstream media’s portrayal of Brexit (across the board) for some time and so decided to take solace in defacing them, confident that whatever I created would be less absurd than some of the headlines I’d read in the lead up to the Brexit vote (anyone still think we’ll be spending £350million a week on the NHS now we’re leaving the EU? No. I didn’t think so).
This is the first time I’ve regularly bought newspapers for a couple of years – I was a lifelong reader of The Guardian until recently and switching to the Independent lasted a short short time (I now subscribe to The Canary and read Al Jazeera) – and it soon became a depressing task. Thirty days of reading the same right-wing-establishment-rhetoric helped me to understand just how we ended up voting leave, but that didn’t make life any easier. Even the papers who promoted Remain created such hysterical, apocalyptical noise it made me feel seasick.
I decided to go with thirty days as that seemed (at the time) like a reasonable length of time to establish a reliable picture of the fallout. That was a mistake. But honestly I’m not sure I could cope with reading the news like this every day. Am I better informed? Yes. But not in the manner envisaged. The entrenched right-wing bias of our entire media has thoroughly shocked me (and I make a point of reading the online news every day, I like to think I bother to educate myself). This exercise removed a comfortable social media echo chamber and forced me to face the truth of the extent of our media’s manipulation and downright lies.
Nothing illustrated this more succinctly than the treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, who is, by all mainstream media accounts, the devil incarnate. Which makes me question, how did it become the norm that an, admittedly flawed, man of integrity (he still stands by his CND principles) and obvious deeply-held socialist values, with a massive popular mandate, could be vilified by the press in this way? I blame Thatcher of course, and Blair, and The Establishment.
But in actual fact (and contrary to mainstream press reporting) this entire Brexit mess is the fault of David Cameron. He finally proved himself to be the pathetic, weak-willed jelly of a man many of us suspected from the beginning, with the clown that is BoJo only adding to the circus that is our current (embarrassing) political situation in the UK – the two of them have left us an international laughing-stock.
So now we have The Unelected Theresa May heading the most right-wing government we’ve seen in decades getting away with murder because the backstabbing, Machiavellian, careerist politicians in the PLP feel they have a right to derail the democratic system and oust Corbyn. They will fail, of course, but the havoc the Tories will wreak in the meantime will be devastating to our already decimated communities.
What does the future hold? I dream of Corby in number 10 with a solid, progressive coalition of the left (Plaid Cymru, SNP & The Greens) helping to support the poor with proper labour laws, protecting our environment, dismantling Trident, taxing the rich and creating jobs by fully nationalising the NHS again as well as renationalising our public services (let’s start with the railways). If this happens perhaps we’ll see racism and xenophobia recede naturally – when everybody has enough they don’t feel the need to focus frustrations on newcomers.
From this series of poems I’ve also created (with Lauren Evans) a 30min performance of poetry, improvisation & noise called, predictably, #thirtydaysofBrexit. We’d like to tour it around the UK so if you have a suitable venue (preferably a derelict warehouse or other such decaying structure) please get in touch?
All poems are taken from that day’s papers and are produced using an i-phone. The full series can be found on Instagram: instagram.com/sophie_mckeand