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Walker & Bromwich: How do we Slay the Dragon of Profit, Private Ownership and Corporate Greed?

How do we Slay The Dragon of Profit, Private Ownership and Corporate Greed? was an Edinburgh Art Festival Event that took place at the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, University of Edinburgh on Saturday August 12th 2017 from 4pm to 5.30pm.

At the start of the event, a 10 minute edit of the film, The Dragon of Profit and Private Ownership, documenting By leaves we live...not by the jingling of our coins, was screened. By leaves we live... was Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich's quasi mediaeval procession along Edinburgh's Royal Mile, which took place on July 27th 2017 as part of Edinburgh Art Festival.

1. Good afternoon and welcome to Walker and Bromwich's event - How do we slay The Dragon of Profit, Private Ownership and Corporate Greed?, which forms part of Edinburgh Art Festival's Events programme.

My name is Neil Cooper, and I'm a writer and critic, and in a moment I'll introduce you to the panellists today, but first let me give you an idea of what's going to happen today.
First of all, once I've introduced the panel, I'm going to say a few words about the purpose of today as I understand it, and some thoughts its prompted in me
After that, each panellist will speak in turn for about 15 minutes each.

Inbetween each speaker, we're going to take questions from the audience for about 5 minutes, then we'll have the next speaker, another 5 minutes questions, and so on, and at the end we'll open things out to the floor even more.

After that I'll attempt to sum up the day and hopefully the discussion can go on more informally beyond this event.

We've got this space until 5.30 / 5.45, so there's a lot to pack in, but lets see how we get on.

2. For anyone who may not be aware, today's event follows on from Walker and Bromwich's processional performance – By Leaves we live...not by the jingling of our coins – which was a parade that saw an inflatable dragon taken onto the streets of Edinburgh in a way that questioned corporate capitalism and the way money talks.

By Leaves we live...not by the jingling of our coins was inspired by the ideas of Patrick Geddes, the radical nineteenth century thinker who first coined a rough approximation of the phrase 'Think global, act local'.

By leaves We Live... also took its inspiration from a 1920s banner from the Northumberland Miners' Association, which has particular resonances that trickle down to the 1984/85 UK Miners Strike, and the fallout of that when Margaret Thatcher's government effectively tied to destroy working class communities and either shut down or else privatise a previously publicly owned industry.

The main works of art inspired by the Miners Strike thus far have been Jeremy Deller's filmed reconstruction of the Battle of Orgreave, and Lee Hall and Stephen Daldry's film and stage musical, Billy Elliot.

What we're trying to do today is to ask our speakers what are the alternative systems that offer common ownership and re-align values with the natural world?

Building on radical thinking from the turn of the century from Geddes and others, we have speakers from the field of ecology, economy and the arts who we've invited to pitch their solutions in a bit to slay the dragon of corporate greed.

We're also asking how do we re-imagine dominant mythologies, and how a society based on monetary gain re-think its belief systems?

So let's talk about money.

3. Before I introduce the speakers, if I could give a few snapshots of some of the things happening on our own doorstep in terms of how money talks that might help illustrate what follows

4. Last October I heard a phrase I'd never heard of before.

That phrase was how something couldn't 'wash it's face'.

The phrase was uttered by the Regius Keeper of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in relation to the sudden closure of Inverleith House as a contemporary art gallery.
For 30 years, the programme of work at Inverleith House was recognised as one of the most important galleries in the world.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh's Regius Keeper and other middle managers decided to close Inverleith House, without notice, without any public consultation , and despite a commercial consultants report on the future of the Inverleith House making numerous recommendations for the future of the House as a contemporary art gallery.
None of these recommendations included closure.

One of the reasons given for the closure was that Inverleith House couldn't 'wash its face' financially.

This was not the language one would expect from a publicly accountable custodian of a major Scottish asset.

It was the language of a market trader only interested in making a quick buck.

It was also in keeping with the rest of the events in the Gardens, which may give off the air an air of cosy localism, when in fact all events in the garden are franchised out to a French multi national called Sodexo.

In terms of thinking global and acting local, I suspect this wasn't quite what Patrick Geddes had in mind.

5. This isn't unusual, though, and in terms of finding out what exactly is local, you have to scratch the surface a bit.

Take my local pub, the Barony, on Broughton Street, for instance.

At first glance, any casual punters would think of it as a traditional Edinburgh boozer steeped in history.

In actual fact, the licensee leases it from a large Scottish pub chain.

While this again isn't unusual, the building itself is owned by a Saudi Arabian squillionaire, who the Scottish pub chain lease it from.

6. This is much the case too over at Saltire Court, the building that houses the Traverse Theatre, the internationally renowned new writing theatre which when it started in a former brothel in 1963, pretty much invented fringe theatre in the UK.

Saltire Court – which also houses offices for numerous financial bodies - has been the Traverse's home since 1991.

Since then, knife-edge finances for the theatre have not been helped by the Traverse having to pay a substantial rental, again to a Saudi Arabian squillionaire.

7. Last week at Edinburgh Playhouse as part of Edinburgh International Festival, PJ Harvey gave a live performance of her album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, which she wrote after visiting Kosovo,Afghanistan and Washington.

The title of the album was taken from a real project in Washington, where run-down housing is knocked down, and rebuilt in a more habitable fashion.

While this sounds like a good thing, the end result was that those who originally lived in those houses could no longer afford to live in the rebuilt versions.

In effect, people had been priced out of their own community.

One of the songs on the Hope Six Demolition Project is called The Community of Hope, which is a people powered anthem that documents what happened in Hope 6, and which finishes with a rousing refrain of 'They're Gonna Build A Walmart Here.'

Washington Council were not impressed.

8. Last night down at Leith Theatre, Edinburgh spoken word night Neu! Reekie! Hosted a major benefit show to try and raise funds to reopen Leith Theatre on a permanent basis.

Leith Theatre, which is owned by City of Edinburgh Council, has lain empty and unloved for 20 years after no one could afford to keep it open.

The venue built as a gift to the people of Leith, and in the 1970s and 1980s hosted gigs by the likes of Kraftwerk and AC DC.

More recently, Leith Theatre Trust have been attempting to reopen it, and are attempting to raise somewhere around 10 million quid to do so.

Last night, various Edinburgh local heroes, including Irvine Welsh, Ewan Bremner and Edinburgh's premiere post punk band, Fire Engines – who reformed especially for the occasion, and whose members Davy Henderson and Russell Burn took part in Walker and Bromwich's parade last month – played to an audience of 1,000 people.

This will be a major boost to Leith Theatre Trust, and long may it continue.

However, there are already vague unofficial rumblings emanating from City of Edinburgh Council about whether it might be a good idea to put Leith Theatre into the hands of Live Nation, one of the biggest events companies in the world.

This would take yet another local Edinburgh public asset away from the people it was gifted to and into the hands of yet another multi national company.

9. A few months ago I accidentally subscribed to an email newsletter called Artnet Auctions, which looks at the buying and selling of art in the lucrative global marketplace.

Two days ago I received the latest edition of Artnet Auctions, which led with the headline, Is The Art Market A Scam?

It highlighted a short video by comedian Adam Conover, who suggests that the said art market is – quote – 'no more than a playground for snobs and crooks'.

10. In a couple of weeks time, on August 23rd in Liverpool, Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, aka The K Foundation, aka The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, aka The KLF, will reconvene on the 23rd anniversary of the day they travelled to the Isle of Jura and famously burnt a million quid, and filmed themselves doing so.

After 23 years, why Drummond and Cauty did what they did, effectively putting their own earnings as a commercial entity on a funeral pyre, may yet be explained over a three day event that features a book, a film, and a one-off performance by a mysterious band called Badger Kull, who will play the only performance of their only song before retiring – Who knows who that might be?

The event is called Welcome To The Dark Ages.

As in 1994 when they burnt their million quid, the K Foundation will also be asking What The Fuck is Going On?

In terms of attempting to slay the dragon of corporate capitalism as we are today, perhaps this is the simplest question of all.

11. Todays speakers are : -
David Korowicz is a systems thinker, physicist and human systems ecologist.

David has been a pioneer in drawing upon ideas from ecology and systems science, and has written influential studies on the nature of the globalised economy as a complex living system, large scale catastrophe risk and numerous other presentations across the world.
He has been invited to contribute to the pandemic working group of the Global Agenda Council on Complexity and Risk, was a ministerial appointment to the council of Ireland's sustainable development commission, and was on the executive committee of the think tank, Feasta, The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability.

He is currently working on a number of projects dealing with societal preparedness for an increasingly turbulent world.
Today, he's going to be giving a reflection on how we do – or do not – slay the dragon of profit.

Nadine Andrews - Nadine's work is concerned with supporting individuals and organisations to live in more harmonious relationship with the natural world.

She specialises in using nature-based and mindfulness-based approaches in research, consultancy, coaching and facilitation. Her trans-disciplinary PhD investigated psychosocial factor influencing responses to ecological crisis.

Nadine worked for many years in the arts and heritage sector, and in her early career worked in various aspects of the music industry and event/festival management.

Nadine is currently Visiting Researcher, Lancaster University Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business.

Today, Nadine is going to be talking about ecological crisis, values and transformational change.

Walker and Bromwich, our hosts for the day, - Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich - have presented live performances in venues such as Tate Britain, the Whitechapel Gallery , the CCA in Glasgow and many others. Their most celebrated work is Celestial Radio, a pirate radio station launched in 2004, and which has subverted the airwaves in many places since then.

More recently, Love Cannon Parade has been taken all over the world, and which as has previously been suggested takes the most aggressive iconography of state sponsored killing machines, and by reimagining them as vivid pink coloured inflatables, transforms them into weapons of happiness.

They're going to be talking about the role of art in society as a tool for change.

After each presentation, no questions were forthcoming, though after everyone had spoke, a lively discussion ensued, followed by my attempts to sum up the event. As others had noted, the dragon of profit is dying, but it is how we deal with it, both in the personal and political, which determines what happens next. A renewed sense of community needs to be forged, and we need to take the power back.

Saturday August 12th 2017



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