As October draws to a close and everyone has a good rummage around for their scariest Halloween costume, I don’t feel like I necessarily need to add another layer of spookiness to what has already been quite a surreal month. For a sampling of spine-tingling events, we only have to look towards the recent rise in nationalism and xenophobia throughout Europe, the chilling prospect of the Trump in the White House, as well as the latest climate research which confirms we are all collectively hurtling towards calamity. I mean, how much more hair-raising does it get? Well, there’s always that fearsome feeling that you’ve got more AGMs to go to than there are haunted places in Scotland.
I don’t think there has ever before been a time when I had 6 AGMs in the diary, all scheduled for the same month. Well, I have to come out and admit straight away that because there are only so many Chair’s Reports one can take, I only managed to attend a measly 4 of them – I know, tut tut!
So why would anyone do it to themselves? For much the same reasons that I am putting my translation skills almost exclusively at the disposal of clients who work on human rights, environmental and social justice issues: because I would like to see a world where people take responsibility for their actions towards each other and the planet. And that means empowering people and creating opportunities and options for them at the local level. In order to get involved in projects aiming to do precisely that (and to learn more about my specialist subjects in the process – a bit like continuous CPD!), over the past year I joined Bristol Women’s Voice, the Bristol Energy Cooperative, the Bristol Community Land Trust and the Bristol Green Party. And their AGMs seemed like the obvious starting point for getting truly informed and stuck in.
Apart from lots of information about organisational structures, budgets, board compositions and targets, was there anything useful I took away from this AGM marathon? Well, yes: the realisation that this kind of scene is actually smaller than you might expect for a city of about half a million people. I came away with the impression that the Bristol activist scene is pretty much run by about a dozen people. And these certainly aren’t the people that can be seen at the proverbial barricades, waving banners and shouting slogans. They are the hard grafters, winning the grassroots revolution through their relentless determination to make stuff happen: wading through Council regulations, doing untold amounts of behind-the-scenes organising, applying for grants and lobbying MPs.
I guess my role as an “activist translator” has always lain somewhere in between these spheres – being a cog in the process of producing internal and published materials for organising, campaigning and awareness-raising. By its very nature this sort of work is fairly international, so it’s great to also be able to play a part in effecting change at my own local level with all the wonderful organisations we have in Bristol.
In wrapping up, I feel a rallying cry coming on. Here it is: Join the grassroots revolution in your community! And be prepared for paper cuts, points of information and any other business. Lots and lots of it.