It’s an interesting experience watching a General Election as an expat abroad. My boyfriend and I have been tuning in to the debates, watching the interviews, reading all the commentary and then, I look out of the window and get a funny space-time-shifting feeling that oh, I am here and not there.
One of our friends in Brno is from Manchester. He described the strange feeling of connection he experienced hearing his own accent on TV after the concert bombing two weeks ago. I had my own moment of connection on Saturday night. A ping on my phone: my youngest cousin ‘marked safe’ during the London attack, the compulsion to search ‘BBC news’, then seeing all the interviews with people like me on a night out in Borough Market, just like I might have been two years ago.
It’s nearly two years since I moved to Brno and also two years since the last General Election. So far each year has been way-posted by a very important June-time postal vote.
The last General Election was personally significant for me and Queen’s Wood Studio because, in the wonderfully mad way of the world it was through my jewellery that, politically, I finally woke up…
Can I write the blog post I was going to write before this election became so urgent?
When I first thought of this post the election was a joke. It was a cynical power grab by Teresa May with only one possible outcome: a landslide for the Conservatives. But the landscape has changed. Could it be that this time our country understands that, in Jeremy Corbyn’s words, ‘Poverty is a waste’? And now, after Saturday, could Austerity – caught in the harsh fluorescent light of police cuts and terrorist attacks – finally be dead?
I will write what I was going to write. But please understand I also feel the urgency of this Thursday. The longing and dread for what might be – for what is going to be.
General Election awakening
It is harsh but I think fair to say that before the last election I embodied the reason back in the day that people said it was pointless giving women the vote. I voted Lib Dem like my parents did until I got a Labour boyfriend at university and then I voted Labour. It’s not that my parents and boyfriend convinced me with their arguments. It’s that when I listened to politicians the words meant nothing to me at all. It all sounded good, it all sounded bad, it all sounded like teeny tiny changes this way and that, so that there seemed little point making changes at all. I relied on people I respected to be interested in politics for me and then I voted the way they did.
That’s how it was until a growing feeling of distaste for politics in general meant I ended up, towards the end of university, just voting Green every time instead. Not because I had read their manifesto but pretty much as a protest. I cared about the environment and if my vote could be counted in support of that agenda then at least it wasn’t entirely wasted.
Now, I received one of the best (institutional) educations it is possible to get in the UK, and what I have just written makes me incredibly angry. Where the f*** was my political education? How did I not have the tools to follow and take interest in political debate? I suspect I am not the only one who felt and acted like I did.
In December 2014 I launched Queen’s Wood Studio. In early January 2015 I was surprised and delighted to see that Natalie Bennett, then Green Party Leader, had favourited my shop on Etsy! I immediately took to Twitter to thank her, and since I’d been voting Green for a few years by then, to tell her she had my support for the upcoming General Election too. She replied asking if I’d ever thought of becoming a Green Party member. I hadn’t but as a way of prolonging the excitement of my first ‘celebrity’ fan I looked into it.
I started reading the Green Party website. I watched some youtube videos of Natalie speaking and I felt she was a real human being who didn’t do the usual political double speak. Everything she said seemed to make actual sense. The Green Party was calling for real change; change, moreover, that joined up and brought everyone with it. Care for the environment was just one part of a virtuous-circle way of doing things that would create a properly functioning economy, reduce inequality, respect our human rights and make for a society that was good for everyone: a country where we could be generous rather than fearful of each other.
Finally here was a politics I could support. I took Natalie up on her suggestion, joined the Green Party and was immediately welcomed to new member meetings, to the local party group and the London Young Greens. It was the ‘Green Surge’, an exciting time where thousands of people were having the same awakening I had had. I helped brainstorm campaigns with the Young Greens, I leafletted my local streets and and spoke to commuters at Highgate tube station. I was a teller outside Hornsey Library on election day.
It was also very inspiring to see Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood on the TV election debates. People say that we need role models to aspire to and in my experience seeing women being party leaders, and speaking like normal people rather than like the usual political elites, mattered a lot. To my surprise I found myself considering going into politics. Our decision to move abroad to the Czech Republic has put that on hold somewhat but I am biding my time 🙂
Making Queen’s Wood Studio green
To thank Natalie for awakening my political soul I wrote to her and asked if I could make her a necklace.
And here is where the whole story gets really significant for Queen’s Wood Studio.
As I set about making a necklace fit for the Green Party leader I realised I could make it eco friendly. I had recently started using recycled silver simply because my suppliers had started stocking it, but I realised there was more I could do. I began to research and discovered that of course gemstones, mined from underneath forests and on mountainsides, had significant environmental impact. There were also ethical issues with unregulated mines and poor working conditions for miners and gem cutters. My packaging could be eco friendly too, of course! And the threads and any findings I used. There were eco improvements I could make to my jewellery business everywhere and from that moment I began to develop and implement the eco policies you can see here.
I made Natalie Bennett a necklace using recycled vintage aventurine beads, African powder glass beads I’d had in my collection since I was a child, moonstones left over from another project and a clasp I made from recycled silver. I was very pleased to see her wearing it during the 2015 General Election campaign.
So thank you Natalie Bennett for getting me interested in politics. It’s amazing how a little interest can lead effortlessly to a lot of learning and understanding. Oh god, it’s empowering to know what politicians really mean.
And thank you Natalie Bennett for inspiring me to make my jewellery eco friendly, ethical and sustainable. It’s thanks to you that I made Queen’s Wood Studio green!
P.s. If you’d like your own green necklace or earrings you can head over to my shop. I hope to see you there!