On Tuesday night, as rain was falling across London, there was a quiet revolution going on in a cafe near Kings Cross. Amid china teacups and origami cranes suspended from the ceiling, vintage furniture was gradually getting covered in paper, glue and sparkly pompoms.
The London cafe Drink Shop Do is used to being a hub of creative activity, with evenings that range from biscuit decorating to Lego building. But on Tuesday evening, craft was in the name of social care.
The Britain Cares campaign, which has already seen support from over 27,000 people, is calling on the Government to ensure that 100,000 disabled people receive essential social care support to live their lives. Under current Government plans, they’ll be denied it.
This is why a group of crafters, varying in experience, gathered to prove to politicians that not only are the current plans unjust, but that people in Britain really care about the issue. And they intend to prove it…with pompom-embellished socks. The 25+ crafters who met on Tuesday, marking the beginning of Britain Cares: Britain Crafts week, spent their evening adding ‘I care’ messages to socks, soaps, coasters and even tote bags.
As you can see from the photos, their creativity was limitless – and this is exactly what is needed to catch the attention of MPs, with meaningful messages that people have spent time creating, calling on them to really think about the issue, and take action.
Using craft for activism may be increasingly popular, but it’s not new.
If you’re not familiar with crafty activism, or ‘craftivism’ here’s the lowdown:
What is it?
Betsy Greer coined the term ‘Craftivism’ as:
“A way at looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite.”
The Craftivist Collective point out that craft + activism = craftivism, and they aim to show that ‘making people aware of the injustices and poverty in the world can be joyful as well as empowering and fulfilling.’
Why would I do it?
Craftivists say that as a campaigning method, it can be very satisfying. Making time to think about the issue is always refreshing, and craft encourages you to really consider your message.
It’s great that online activism has allowed us to campaign at the click of a button, but it can be overwhelming if you’re actually asked, ‘Why does this issue matter to you?’ Pause. In that frame of mind, when swiftly sending a pre-prepared email, it can be difficult to stop and really think about why what you’re doing matters. For me, craftivism is the self-initiated ‘pause’.
But isn’t this urgent?
Like many steps out of the ordinary, it can feel counter-intuitive:
‘Quick! There’s a crisis going on! We must shout loudly!’
Using craft doesn’t take away the urgency – it allows you to contemplate why the issue is so urgent and consider the most powerful and meaningful way to make change. It puts the power back in the hands of the campaigner – quite literally. Sometimes sitting and thinking about how we could create something that really gets across why we feel a certain way can be the most empowering way to use our voices.
Time is important
It doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Timing of action is always important. But actually, the time it takes to make something is part of the process.
Time is our most democratic and precious resource, and should be valued by those on the receiving end. By investing my time in something I really care about, I hope my MP will respect the action all the more, and feel that he is also valued as my representative.
I’m not sure my MP will really be convinced by craft
With all campaigning we have to ask what will have an impact. Scope already knows that delivering messages creatively can make an impression. As part of our Keep Us Close campaign, MPs received hundreds of wish stars and family memories, making them realise how significant the issue was.
Giving something as an ongoing reminder is personal and long-lasting. One MP told us, ‘The wish stars now have pride of place in my office in Westminster’.
So when an MP receives an ‘I care’ sock or soap this week, they’ll be reminded of the 4 in 10 disabled people who receive social care support that does not meet their basic needs like washing or dressing. And each time they have a cup of tea and replace their mug on a coaster made by one of their constituents, they will be reminded of how this issue is important to that constituent – and that they have asked them to take action on their behalf.
This weekend, could you make sure your MP knows how much you care about social care? By spending half an hour creating a message, you can enjoy the benefits of crafting, really thinking about the issue AND proving to your MP that you really care about social care – and that you’re not going to stop at an email.
Everyone’s getting involved. Even the cast of Downton Abbey!
Ema, who is disabled and struggling to live the life she wants to lead without social care, is making a pencil case for her MP with ‘I Care’ beading. In her film she talks more about living what she describes as ‘a half-life’. As Ema says, ‘social care is worth fighting for’ and if that means decorating hundreds of bars of soap, we’re up for the challenge.