28 MARCH 2019: NOT BREXIT EVE AFTER ALL



Caroline Lucas MP


'There's not a soul in sight, and then you open the door, and all of you are in here, being this burning light of hope in Brighton.' – Caroline Lucas on coming to Club Europ Express at the Rose Hill.

A moving and inspiring night with our guests Caroline Lucas MP, Juliet Riddell, who made the film 'Hard Border', featuring Stephen Rea, Jakob Sonnenholzner, who came from Paris to talk to us about the Volt Europa pan-European progressive political movement, his colleague Spencer, Martin Pairet and his colleague Clara of European Alternatives, speaking from Berlin about EA's Transeuropa Caravans and European May projects, photographer-artist Tereza Červeňová, telling us about why she was travelling back to Slovakia to vote for pro-European, liberal presidential candidate Zuzana Čaputova, and Duncan McKellar, inviting us to take part in his EU SOS project, shining mirrors to send a signal across the Channel.

There were two big questions running throught the night.

One, of course, was 'what on earth is going on with Brexit?'

The other was the question that underlies what we're doing with Club Europ Express: 'whatever happens with Brexit, how do we make connections and collaborate with people, here and in other European countries, who share our vision of an open, inclusive Europe?'

Four of our guests represented projects tackling that second question on a transnational scale. They talked to us about the challenges of organising across countries and connecting with citizens ahead of the European parliamentary elections in May.

As Volt Europa organisers, Jakob and Spencer are involved in supporting Volt candidates for the European Parliament. But Jakob emphasised that Volt has a presence in 32 European countries – including the UK, where Spencer is the London organiser – so it isn't confined to the EU.

Jakob Sonnenholzer
                and William Shaw

'We want to transform the European democracy into something very useful, working and functioning.' – Jakob Sonnenholzner (left) speaks; host William Shaw listens.

European Alternatives isn't running candidates in the elections, but is sending out Transeuropa Caravans on different routes across Europe to engage citizens and reinvigorate grass-roots democracy. It's also organising a series of actions under the banner of European May – two words that, as our host William Shaw pointed out, we find difficult to put together in this country.  One of these actions is planned for the Irish border on 4 May, which is to be Free Movement Day.


Clara and Martin,
                  European Alternatives

'European Alternatives is a transnational network of activists trying to promote democracy, equality and culture beyond the nation state.' – Martin Pairet


Tereza Červeňová spoke passionately and movingly about why she and many other young Slovaks were travelling from around Europe to vote for Zuzana Čaputova – who won the Slovak presidency two days later. Many of them were shocked into action by the murder last year of the journalist Ján Kuciak. One of Tereza's photographic responses to the demonstrations shows a bunch of keys being shaken. She explained that the gesture of key-jangling dates from thirty years ago, when her parents took part in protests demanding freedom of movement – open borders – from the communist regime. Now she and her peers were demonstrating in the same Bratislava square, demanding freedom of speech.


Tereza Červeňová


Caroline Lucas explained as best as she or anybody else could what was going on with Brexit. She also spoke about her 'Dear Leavers' project to hold conversations with people in majority-Leave parts of the country.

William asked her about how we in Brighton can be better connected to the rest of Europe. She pointed out that for an outward-looking city, Brighton & Hove is remarkably lacking in twin towns. 'We ought have one with at least 27 countries,' she said. 'And then get them all together for a drink here. It would be a lot of fun.'


'We have the values to know that what matters is relationships with each other, whether you're in Slovakia or in Serbia or if you're here in Brighton.' – Caroline Lucas


1 november: 'flood the debate with hope'


'We've got to flood the debate with hope' -  Zoe Williams, Guardian columnist,  Another Europe Is Possible campaigner, and our special guest on 1.11.18.

It was a fantastic night, thanks to Zoe, our video guests Michał Iwanowski and Niccolo Milanese, host William Shaw and the CEE team, the Rose Hill crew, and everybody who came along and packed the place out.

From Cardiff, Michał talked to us about 'Go Home, Polish', his photo story of how he walked 1900 km from his home in Wales to his home in Poland earlier this year. He had seen the hostile message scrawled on a wall in his Cardiff neighbourhood, but the  journey stripped the venom from it: 'I own it now. This is my project, which is about kindness, gentleness, empathy.' 




I learned that landscape is my home, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Germany, Belgium or France, I understand this landscape before I understand nationality.’'  – Michał Iwanowski
 
From Paris, Niccolo talked about gettting back the utopian vision of Europe, the threat from the nationalist right who want to remake Europe in their image, and why it's wrong to say that the EU is just a neoliberal project.

Niccolo is a founder of the transnational European Alternatives project, co-author of Citizens of Nowhere: How Europe Can Be Saved From Itself, and a contributor to Another Europe Is Possible's pamphlet The Left Against Brexit.
 

 


'We are European whether we like it or not, and that gives us a responsibility to try and create the politics we want for Europe.'  – Niccolo Milanese


On the Rose Hill stage, Zoe also talked about rediscovering the virtues of Europe and reforming the other parts. She underlined that the big three challenges that we face - fascism, climate change, and workplace exploitation - need to be met by transnational co-operation, and that there's a set of institutions in the EU to help us achieve that.

Zoe argued that we need to be ready for a People's Vote, because there's definitely going to be one, and that the case for Remain has to be made from the left, because last time it was made from the centre and it failed.  ‘If you see the EU as the set of institutions through which you could use your citizenly power in concord, then you begin to be able to make a case for Remain.’


Some highlights from our conversations with Zoe, Michał and Niccolo:






24 MAY: REFERENDUM EVE


Host Viv Groskop

On the eve of the referendum in Ireland about repealing the 8th amendment to the constitution, which effectively banned abortion, our theme for the night was Women and Politics in Europe.

As it turned out, we were on the eve of history being made. Speaking from Dublin, campaigner and journalist Una Mullally didn’t dare to expect a landslide in Ireland’s referendum – but the vote was two to one in favour of repealing the amendment.

Una Mullally


The Irish government has promised a bill to liberalise Ireland's abortion laws, and Una foresees that the campaign will have still more far-reaching effects. Over the past year, she said, the campaigners have ‘unpacked a lot of things around gender equality in this country, and once people see that unmasked, it’s very hard to unsee. So I think that that energy, and that feminist revolution, will have a profound impact on things that we perhaps can’t even conceive of yet.’

In the west, that is. By demonstrating their increasingly liberal view of society, Irish voters highlighted the growing contrast between attitudes in western and eastern European countries. Up till Friday, Ireland and Poland stood out (along with Northern Ireland and Malta) as the countries with the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Two years ago, a move to ban abortion in Poland altogether was countered by a mass women’s movement, which has mobilised again to oppose a new initiative to restrict abortion rights still further. Activist Marta Lempart, of Strajk Kobiet (Women’s Strike), emphasised that 90 per cent of their protests took place in small or medium-sized towns. It’s more than a metropolitan movement.

‘The law doesn’t work anyway,’ said Marta, speaking from Wrocław in south-western Poland. Even when the law does permit abortions, such as in cases of rape or risk to the mother’s health, they are increasingly hard to get – medical staff can refuse on grounds of conscience.

From the Rose Hill stage, our star host  Viv Groskop asked her what she would most like to change. ‘We would like to change the government!’ Marta shot back. ‘We wouldn’t have this big wave of feminism, and we wouldn’t have feminism mainstreamed in the media and in the democratic movement if we didn’t have this crazy government that was trying to kill us! But this is not just about the abortion ban threat. This is about all human rights in danger; this is about personal freedoms being in danger.’  Marta spoke about government moves against opponents, as did Aleksandra Knapik of Dziewuchy Dziewuchom ('Gals4Gals') in Łódź, part of a network that sprang up in response to the 2016 abortion ban initiative.

Aleksandra Knapik


Both Una Mullally and Marta Lempart feel that their campaigns are about more than abortion rights. But the distance across Europe was highlighted when Viv asked Marta the Polish for #MeToo, and Marta told her that the movement had not got off the ground there. Yet Marta also suggested that, as in Ireland, people are becoming readier to distinguish between their religion and the Church. ‘There are a lot of people now who see that the Church has too much influence, too much power.’

Later, Viv looked still further east, talking about Ksenia Sobchak, presidential candidate and ‘Russia’s answer to Davina McCall’, whom she interviewed recently. ‘I think she represents something really fascinating about what can happen in Russia in the next years,’ she said, explaining that Sobchak is one of the insiders pressing for a liberal (in Russian terms) successor to Putin.







26 APRIL: 1ST ANNIVERSARY


Our host was #EUSupergirl Madeleina Kay, who came down from Sheffield to join us. As well as singing, she spoke via video  with Ligia Mahalean of the Anticorruption Umbrella group in Cluj, Romania, part of a movement that protested in Bucharest on 12 May under the slogan 'We want Europe, not dictatorship'.




She also chatted with Steve Bullock of CakeWatch in Brussels.




Sir Michael Arthur, who worked for the UK government on negotiations for the Maastricht Treaty and the EU single market, joined her on stage.




Author Linda Grant talked to Jane McMorrow about the novel she's working on, which reflects her experiences living in London since the Brexit referendum: 'The theme of it is home: what is your home, what is the nature of home?'






15 MARCH: CEE #10



Vanessa Grotti joined us from Florence to talk about EU Border Care, a study of migrants 'giving birth on Europe's remote borderlands'.


15 FEBRUARY: CEE #9




Attila the Stockbroker broke new ground in CEE live links by speaking with Carsten Witt in German. Carsten, the founder of Go! Europe, is walking 5000km from Lisbon to Tallinn. At this point he had reached Burgos: the Make Europe Greater Tour will take a year, finishing in October 2018. You can follow his progress on Instagram.

14 DECEMBER: CLUB EUROP XMAS




Live from Lapland, Bibbi Good told Sophie Cook what Santa's really like.


23 NOVEMBER: CEE #7




19 OCTOBER: CEE #6




Joseph Young aka Giuseppe Marinetti, backed by Kassia Zermon of the Rose Hill. You'll just have to imagine what it sounded like. It's still ringing in the ears of those who were there.


27 JULY: CEE #4





Photos © Bernard G Mills except where otherwise stated.


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