By far the most inspirational talk I heard at Open Tech 2009 conference was from Robin, a member of Space Hijackers, who spoke about ‘Community and Democracy in Hijacked Space’. I’d recommend you listening again if you have the time.
It was a great to hear about play being used as a surprisingly effective and disruptive method of protest. Space Hijackers, who attempt to ‘corrupt the culture of architecture, and destroy the hierarchies that exist’ by staging hilariously anarchic happenings, got me thinking about putting the fun back into local campaigning, which many hyperlocal sites find themselves involved with.
Obviously, justifiable anger and reasoned argument about issues causing serious damage to the community is a great and worthwhile thing, I’m not denying that. It’s just that sometimes you’re met with problems so ridiculous the best option may be to fight like with like.
For instance, Birmingham pub The Rainbow has recently faced closure after Birmingham City Council served a Noise Abatement Order in response to complaints from one lone tenant, who lives in an apartment block built long after the pub was. The council seeing fit to threaten this renowned live music venue because of one complainant, but aspiring to develop the area’s cultural character in their Big City Plan, seemed kafkaesque enough to warrant a game. After hearing Robin speak, I was pondering on some noisy, twisted version of musical statues, or a loud complaints choir outside the council house.
The fun doesn’t necessarily have be physical, you can have it in your online space too. Keep Digbeth Vibrant do a great job of tempering their obvious frustration with Birmingham City Council Environmental Health, with quirky creations like the spoof Stella advert above and The Digbeth Whisperer newspaper. On my site Digbeth is Good, when Birmingham City Council Leader Mike Whitby commandeered a Big City Plan public consultation bus from my neighbourhood for a photoshoot on the other side of town, I initially responded with righteous indignation. My emails and calls to the press office were met with a wall of silence until the fantastic local satire site Lolitics helped to bring it to a wider audience. Soon after a lolled image of Mike Whitby appeared, closely followed by several of a walrus bemoaning the loss of his bus, I received an apologetic statement from Director of Planning and Regeneration Clive Dutton. The increasing amount of attention from other sources the incident was getting seemed to make them realise ignoring me was not making me go away.
So next time you’re met with local plans, politics or problems that would be funny if they weren’t so angering, perhaps just try highlighting the funny. Point out the silly and match it. The results this approach gets from The Man may be limited, as he’s not known for his sense of humour, but it will make engaging with the issue much more fun for your readers, and give you a bit of light relief from feeling just plain mad.