The North Devon Solidarity Network

Let it never be said that art has no place in politics. The North Devon Solidarity Network (NDSN) is an autonomous democratic affinity group, formed three months ago. What does that mean, exactly? In the group’s own words, “Rather than being directed towards one single goal, it’s aimed at encouraging and facilitating local grassroots activism in North Devon, and hopefully the rest of the South West.”

The NDSN encourages local communities to stand up to issues that matter to them. They work to show people the power they have, giving them a platform to voice their concerns. One such example is the group’s commitment to campaigning against public service cuts. To quote, “austerity harms the poorest and most vulnerable in society over an economic crisis they had no part in causing.”

Now, the group is creating a booklet – a self-published collection of poetry, essays, stories – about issues close to people’s hearts, that are relevant to or affect the South West. As NDSN co-founder Julian Langer explained, “This booklet is a space where people can say, ‘this is what pisses me off, this is what I care about, this is what I want to change.’ The idea is for it to be a personal, and about things that matter to people in their day-to-day lives.”

And who can submit? Apparently, “writers, radicals, poets, free-thinkers, lovers, iconoclasts, hippies, punks, (maybe some drunks), anti-‘s, pro-‘s, huggers, innovators, pirates, misanthropes, optimists and anyone else who is willing to contribute.”

I’m sure that list covers any and all Razz readers.

It is important to point out that the NDSN is non-ideological. They rightly see the world as an ever-changing environment, and believe there is never a point where things stop being worthy of discussion. Julian explained that “it’s about encouraging a certain culture, rather than promoting a certain idea.”

It’s easy to feel like we can’t change anything when the hammer of the political gods comes down. What can a submission in a booklet do, you ask? “If we’re talking about culture change and encouraging a certain culture, that takes time,” Julian said, “more than can and will go into this booklet. The point isn’t for an immediate change; no-one involved in this has delusions of utopian shift. However, those who write and submit, they’ll know. Their friends will know. We want to distribute the copies and if it gets a good response, then we might print more. It’ll be uploaded online in PDF form for people to read. It’s really dangerous to undervalue the effect of a few people.”

While each member of the NDSN will have his or her own personal ideology, the care that the NDSN takes to remain democratic means the booklet will have no singular voice. “That actual, collected creation of something,” Julian pointed out, “A tangible vocalisation of what matters to those involved – that’s a substantial thing. It’s not just about what the submissions themselves say. The booklet itself is designed to be a statement. It’s a statement saying that discussions of these issues are not just limited to certain tier of society.”

You can submit either directly through the NDSN page here, or by emailing northdevonsolidaritynetwork@gmail.com. Get your submissions in before the end of March, formatted to two A5 pages, in size 12 Times New Roman.

Nickie Shobeiry

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