With the release of Ken Loach’s latest Newcastle-based film I, Daniel Blake opening this Friday, The NewBridge Project alongside artist John Harrison and the film’s promoters have come together to provide an artistic response to the film, and they want your help to put it together.
The film serves as a call to arms against the current struggles of the increasingly bureaucratic austerity measures across Britain today, exposing the difficulty many ordinary citizens find in accessing the support they need. Within it all however, an element of hope is retained by highlighting how direct community action can make a big difference in people’s lives. John Harrison will be recreating the job seeker’s ‘signing on’ experience in the middle of Northumberland Street on Thursday 20th October, inviting people to take part in the work, but instead of signing piles on paperwork, Harrison is asking people to sign a small block of wood with a message of support and solidarity for anyone, be friends, colleagues, family members, or neighbours, who have to go through the benefits system. These blocks will form an Empathy Tower in the middle of Northumberland Street, acting as a symbol of community support. The tower will then move to the NewBridge project space on Sunday 30th October where it will be on display after a special screening of the film taking place that afternoon at Tyneside Cinema, alongside a panel discussion about the issues from the film with cast members, trade union representatives and charity campaigners, with people invited to add to the tower and show their support.
The film and the tower both serve as an opportunity to start questioning and interrogating the current benefit’s system, and its increasingly detached and automated methods that make it so difficult to navigate. If enough people get involved, and enough conversations are begun as a result, the next stage is to turn them into something active and community driven to fight back against austerity, and fight for a fairer system.