Episode 3: The Art of the Radical Ordinary

In our third and final episode of the Real / Symbol series, we explore how communities are cultivating a collective sense of right to land through real and symbolic acts of defiance, survival and hope. Through conversations with community members, activists, organisers and academics from around the world, we see how this is embodied through the rituals of everyday life in practices of digging, weeding, self building, walking, listening, brewing, seed saving, foraging and trespassing.

We also look at how Christian communities can engage with community led initiatives and how they might respond humbly, wisely and imaginatively to resist the temptations to control the processes of change in our neighbourhoods.

Thanks to all those contributed to this episode: Mo Younis, Charity Akingbade, Julia Heslop, Alastair Mcintosh, Luke Devlin, Sheryl Cathey, Ken Mallon, Val Middleton, Sharon Bousefield, Chris Jones, Al Barrett, Loretta Lees, Gemma Herries, Alison Wilkinson, Lydia Hiorns, Hannah Marsden, Ben Quash, Tom Merritt Smith, Helen Lunn

The podcast was produced by Alison Merritt Smith with post production by David Benjamin Blower. Our title Music comes from Newcastle artist Dextro and the track Clearing which is from their album ‘In the Crossing’. Music also comes from David Benjamin Blower including the tracks ‘The Light’ and ‘O Sleeper’ from Hymns for Nomads Volume 2.

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Reviews of Episode 1

We’ve had some amazing responses to Episode 1 of the podcast – please have a read below to get a sense of how people from a variety of communities are responding! If you’d like to leave a review in the comments below or on AppleGoogleSpotify, it would mean a lot to us and it means more people will be able to hear it! If you haven’t listened to Episode 1 yet, here’s a couple of clips from the Episode 1 to whet your appetite!

Episode 1 preview

I found myself thinking about things in a new way…what a gift!

Celia North, resident of Newcastle East

It was really great to hear so many different voices from Shieldfield as well as grounding the conversation with voices from those who have been thinking about displacement for a long time. 

Lydia Hiorns, Director of Shieldfield Art Works

Really thought-provoking and inspiring.

Professor Robert Song, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University

In a world where people seem to be talking past one another—shouting past one another, actually—it is a delight to find those who give the gift of listening. The folks behind the Real/Symbol podcast know how to listen and it is life-giving and transformative. As our economy unfolds, changes occur, sometimes for blessing and sometimes for curse, even if it is unintentional. Some changes alter the places we live, where people raise families and work and and play and develop community. Listening to them describe what is transpiring in their world allows us all to consider working for the common good so that everyone can have not just shelter but a home among other families who know and care for them. This is beyond politics and sociology, touching instead on what it means to be human and how to help our neighbors flourish. Real/Symbol is a voice of quiet sanity, offering hope and healing in a broken yet beautiful world.

Denis Haack, Founder of Ransom Fellowship

Very powerful and emotive.

Hannah Marsden, Newcastle University

As a pioneer [in the Methodist Church] I found the podcast insightful, it was a timely reminder to look more carefully at my locality. I found the idea of thinking about gentrification as social cleansing really challenging. 

Rob Wylie, Fresh Expressions Worker – North Shields and Whitley Bay Methodist Circuit 

The tree thing…that really got me. It’s greed disguised as regeneration that is so nauseating.

Anna McCall, resident of Newcastle East

A MUST listen on the lived experience of ‘social cleansing’ caused by demolition & how ‘..these processes have caused not just physical displacement but also emotional and spiritual displacement..”

Neighbours of West Kentish Town

Episode 2: Land, Place, Roots

Real / Symbol Episode 2: Land, Place, Roots

Making peace with the earth we create and sustain environments where we can come back to ourselves, where we can return home, stand on solid ground and be a true witness.

bell hooks, Belonging: A Culture of Place, (2016)

In our second episode we will explore more deeply how our ideas about place and land shape how we might begin the healing and repair from the violence caused by displacement, gentrifcation and urban development. In our often enclosed narratives of extraction and profit, we have allowed the logic of capitalism to tell us what’s possible, but our imaginations can and must stretch further.

As we listen to the experiences of community members in Shieldfield and beyond, we invite listeners to expand and reimagine our collective responsibilities to the land and to each other through ideas of commons. Drawing on notions of the commons through history, through contemporary protest movements and through work being done in our communities we explore how might tell a different story of our relationship to the land – to tend and care, to caress and cherish it – and to see it as vital to a more life giving and regenerative common life.

Thanks to all those who contributed to this episode: Haley Paxton, Mo Younis, Julia Heslop , Alastair Mcintosh, Luke Devlin, Sheryl Cathey, Ronnie Dougall, Ken Mallon, Val Middleton , Sharon Bousefield, Chris Jones, Al Barrett, Sally Mann, Loretta Lees, Gemma Herries, Alison Wilkinson, Lydia Hiorns, Hannah Marsden.

The podcast was produced by Alison Merritt Smith with post production by David Benjamin Blower. Music used with permission by Newcastle artist Dextro and several tracks from their album ‘In the Crossing’. The song ‘Lay of the Land’ was used by permission from the Newcastle based artist Me Lost Me. The song ‘Holy Ground’ by David Benjamin Blower is the song used in the closing.

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Episode 1: Even the trees are being displaced

Real / Symbol Episode 1: Even the trees are being displaced

“Colonisation is not just the clearance of people’s lands. To sustain unequal power relations, it is an ongoing clearance of our minds. A people without a history struggle to know themselves. A person who struggles to know themselves will feel insecure in their sense of agency in life. Rootlessness left unresolved can lead to inner disconnects between people and place. The oppressed can then so easily flip to becoming the oppressor, as the Persian second devil sets loose. Narcissism, or pronounced self-centredness, is less a choice than an affliction.”

Alastair McIntosh, Soil and Soul: People Versus Corporate Power,

In this episode we start at the beginning by exploring how the process of development has deeply affected neighbourhoods like Shieldfield. We weave conversations with Shieldfield residents alongside sociologists, artists, theologians and activists about the emotional effects of development on people’s everyday lives and sense of self and how these processes have caused not just physical displacement but also emotional and spiritual displacement.

We also ask you to consider how the processes of development are affecting your community. What are the multiple effects of gentrification where you live ? How is it preventing certain communities from flourishing? How can you call attention to what is happening?

Contributors to this episode include Shieldfield residents: Ken, Val, Sharon, Mahamat, Haley, Sheryl, John, Ronnie as well as contributions from Loretta Lees, Chris Jones, Willie James Jennings, Darren McGarvey, Alastair McIntosh, Julia Heslop, Hannah Marsden, Lydia Hiorns, Gemma Herries and Alison Wilkinson.

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