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Solidarity stitching and a jar full of hope

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 An inner-city meadow, a three piece band, jam sandwiches, a strawberry patch,  fifty stitchers, a barn of animals and my little toddler rampaging around.  It was a weird wee scene; both very local (I’m sorry, but East London is crazy. Everyone wears such silly clothes but I KNOW they are clothes that we will all be wearing in two years time. *gah* Those hipsters) and hugely global.

We were crafting up lids to fit on to jam jars, jars that would eventually be filled with a scrumptious tomato jam – based on a recipe from a Kenyan farmer, Christine.

In a way Christine is your typical farmer – but what makes her typical is pretty surprising. She is a woman, for starters (women are responsible for most of the world’s food production). And she also doesn’t have quite enough food to eat (small scale farmers like Christine make up 50% of the undernourished and women make up 80% of the world’s poorest.)

 But Christine’s jam oozes with bold, sticky hope.

A few years ago Christine was destitute, her husband had died of Aids and with no rights or access to power, Christine and her two kids were reliant on the kindness of strangers. Now, however, she chairs a small female cooperative group who grow tomatoes (one of those mega crops that is resilient to livelihood upheavaling drought) and they make this jam to sell at the market. The jam is BEYOND delectable and is a right old hit with the customers.

That is quite a story for one little jar to contain, don’t you reckon?

A jar of hope

I guess it was in an act of solidarity that we came together in one of London’s city farms to eat said jam on sandwiches, and to let our creative juices pour out over needle and thread.  We talked about hunger, the parts of our global food system that are utterly broken, the ways people can do something, who we were going to give our jar of jam to.

Stitching my first jam lid. I had to unpick it as it was properly ugly

We have masses of tomato plants in the garden and I can’t wait for the glut to hit *probably announced a bit to hopefully* –  I am going to fill my little jar up, pop my stitched up lid on and give it to my MP, Harriet Harman.  I will ask her to stand up on behalf of small-scale farmers like Christine, to fight the powerful tentacles of huge food corporations, and to promote local food systems in our urban village of Camberwell.

Freedom from hunger. (Bit rubbish eh, but you can understand how bad my first one was if I kept this one!)

Needless to say, Sunday was probably my ideal kind of day. Dreaming together of a future where everyone has enough to eat, crafting up world changey messages and letting Ramona frolick with the farm beasts (check out this little video of her encountering a rooster) combined all the things I love.

And I think it is here,  taking what you love and doing it for a more beautiful world, where change lies.  Hope doesn’t thrive when limited to certain behaviours,  and activists fizzle out after the one millionth petition signature. But if people can marry the thing that gives them energy – be it sewing, blogging, gardening, writing poetry, being a hipster-  with their passion for justice and fairness, change will come.

Solidarity Jam:

 Makes 6 jars

 Ingredients:

● 5 cups peeled and quartered tomatoes.

● Strips of the tomato skin

● 5 cups of sugar

● 1 lemon, sliced thinly and seeded

● 2 tablespoons butter

Method

Put tomatoes, sugar and sliced lemon in large, heavy pot and bring to slow boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. When foam rises to surface, add butter and continue stirring and simmering until preserves thicken, about 45 minutes. (To test, stick a fork in. When preserves cling to tines of fork, it should be thick enough to can). Pour preserves into sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water bath for 15 minutes.

This is your world. Shape it, or someone else will! 

Read about Oxfam’s GROW campaign and join the movement of people who share a vision of EVERYONE thriving and NOT A SOUL going hungry

It isn’t too late to join in. Perhaps you want to host your own lid stich-in and get solidarity jam making in autumn?

To get the full low-down on this beautiful project have a peep at Craftivist Collective founder (and the wonderful person I job share with here at Oxfam) Sarah, explain it in this AMAZE vid:

Have you found a way to do the thing you love for good?

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Activist mummy

I have been blathering on about crafty shenanigans and vintage hauls for quite a few posts now. I would absolutely forgive you for thinking that I have forgotten that there are many ways to make the world a more beautiful place.

I get a feeling that when I post about political/socioeconomic/protest stuff readers roll their eyes and think “DULLLLLL”. They tend to be my least read and least commented posts. Is it because it is alienating? Or lacking creativity? Or bereft of cute Ramona photos and stories?

She lost a pompom. A pom?

Who knows. Let me try and remedy this by ticking ALL those boxes. Wish me luck!

This morning I woke up pretty stoked. We have had a brilliant few days having a sort out and beautifying our home with a few licks of paint (tick) and finally getting some of our lovely secondhand goodies on display (tick!) Ramona and I have been having so much fun chilling out together recently, her talking her little head off (it seems she tends to mostly talk about Gok Wan) me showing off all my moves as we crank the music and have dance parties, as we chase each other for HOURS around the living room, ending up rolling around in stitches.

The faces she pulls!

But as I tuned in to Twitter to find my timeline filled with the latest info on the UK’s corporate slave trade (Workfare in government lingo) and a link to a Suzanne Moore article about demonising poor people I became ANGRY. Like sweary angry.  Stomach crunchingly, teeth clenchingly mad.

What sort of a world are we putting up with? How can we be okay with increasing numbers of our neighbours being pushed further into poverty? Why is our government getting away with policies that consistently discriminate against vulnerable people? What am I going to do about it?

It has never been more easy for me to ignore these questions, to pat them down and say “Sit! … Stay..Stay” as if they are some persistent Jack Russel trying to get attention.  Being a mother is BUSY! It is physically exhausting all this running up and down the stairs, crawling around with a toddler clinging on, throwing a giggler into the air. But it is also meaningful. It is a wonderful and satisfying thing loving a new little person. It gives me a contentedness that makes my striving for other goodness in the world fade away just a little bit.

The truth is I do feel like being a loving parent is enough. I believe that children who have strong attachments and are loved and loved and loved are going to be the people who pour out more love later. By loving we create lovers. And the world definitely needs more lovers. We need lovers to run our countries, the IMF, the ECB. Lovers to paint and build. To organise our banks, to teach, and police the streets.

But still…

I do want Ramona to see me getting angry with the unfair status quo. I do want her to feel that individuals can be powerful, that action can change things. That letter writing, marching and tweeting can create a new mandate and a new story for our world.

I think I need to work on that balance, to make sure motherhood doesn’t ever blinker me to the reality of injustice and the power of fighting it.  Thank goodness for Twitter, where in those few chilled out moments as she drifts off to sleep I can get a little bit furious AND do something about it.