Mayday Rooms: Travelling Archive Discussion
Resilient and Resisting welcomes the Mayday Rooms, who bring a travelling archive to the Arcola: for an evening of DIY History training, archive exploration, with a participatory recorded discussion. Featuring material from Queeruption, Dissenting Ephemera: Women’s Movement and Wages for Housework.
Order of events:
- Tea and cake
- Rosemary and Fani from the MayDay Rooms talk about the archive and possibilities to be involved
- Jet Moon of Resisting and Resilient talks about ethics and guidelines for recording Oral Histories
- After looking at archive material individuals were invited to take part in a recorded discussion reflecting on what they have seen
- This is followed by a discussion about squatted spaces and affordable housing which have supported social organising and community life. Various concepts of work, what ‘counts’ as work and how or current economic climate affects this
A selection of objects, pamphlets and zines available to view at the Mayday Travelling Archive display
Wages for Housework (New York Committee)
The Wages for Housework campaign was launched in Padova at the International Feminist Conference of July 1972. Within two years it was holding its own international conference in Brooklyn, New York and issued a position statement…
Wages for Housework
“Wages for Housework is the feminist perspective and therefore the class perspective.” Opening up both an exploration of the wage and presciently raising the issue of reproductive and affective labour.
Wages for Housework
We are at the travelling archive and we have got the Mayday rooms materials here. Let us open the discussion!
I guess what I get from the archive is nostalgia, a lot of nostalgia. I have got a lot of fanzines and posters and tat from years and years of having them on my walls and collecting them. I have lost lots. I used to squat a lot in Hackney. For years I squatted and travelled so I have lost lots of stuff as well. So it’s nice to see stuff. I remember how difficult it used to be to be able to produce things with old-fashioned photo-copiers and, something else I cannot remember what they were called. But just typing them and having to put photo copy paper in between to get another copy, copy paper.
All those kind of things which now you just take for granted on a computer and a word processor. And you could not print out hundreds and hundreds in your own room. It is like a dream. [laughs] And also sadness, I guess, because a lot of it is lost, a lot of the kind of cohesion and support you would get as a woman with children squatting and there was a big movement and there was a lot of communality, I guess.
There was a lot of empty housing, a lot of empty housing. So you could choose where you lived and you could live in huge big houses. You know, we were very, very lucky. This is not the 80s, I guess, when I was doing it, huge big Victorian houses so we could all live communally together, bringing up our children communally, which was brilliant. And from that I went on to travelling with them on the road. I would not have been able to do that otherwise, live in London on the wages that I was living on. I know now it is commercial properties. But it is not the same. And I think there is a lot of it that is lost and it is amazing to have this here, to be able to see what has been in the past.
Has anyone got a particular piece from the archive that they wanted to talk about?
I was looking at Red Therapy. And I just found it incredible that it was just… I do not know, it felt incredibly relevant to the kind of mental health situation we have going on today. I just thought it really amazing. I found it was an incredibly complete and detailed analysis of the situation, of the political and cultural situation that leads to people being mentally ill. I thought it was an incredibly thorough thing that you do not really get today even though a lot of people in radical activist circles talk about mental health but it is all very focussed on what you can do or what the people around you can do. About closed groups and getting help in a very vague way. I definitely have been looking at it because I thought it was really, really good. That is something I would really love to see happen today.
I get so excited when I remember that archives exist and that people were making stuff and that we can just make stuff still. It does not have to all be online because I think that a lot of organising and a lot of community exists online now and that is so alienating and often can also lead to… I do not know… people not being very nice to each other. And I think that it is always really refreshing and really a relief to see this material and be like: This is possible to do, we can still do this now. So many good ideas. Here!
Can I just say something really quickly about how someone said before that it was really different to see this kind of stuff physically as opposed to online and I really, really agree with that now. It is a completely different feeling to be sitting in a room with people actually reading the stuff and commenting on it as opposed to just having a PDF you know you are never going to finish.
I found this interesting: Homo-core. Just the format is so different from anything that you get. You have all these angry letters to the community or something like that and it is just quite interesting. But also this is the last issue. I was a bit disappointed to learn that it was American because I was picturing London back then in 91 and stuff like that. It is just kind of how it relates to my story and stuff like that. It feels like a lot of queer stuff comes from America, so it is kind of: what about the rest of the world? That sort of thing. But it was really interesting because there is an editorial.
In the beginning the guy is talking about why he is closing this magazine down. He is like: He does not have time for it and he feels guilty when he is not doing it because he should help the community and stuff like that. He talks about mental health a little bit and the responsibility you have. So he has other projects in mind but there is something quite urgent about it that I found really interesting. I do not know, just something quite powerful. And then I found this really funny. [laughs] It says: “Which dance do you prefer? This? Or this?” [laughing] You see people dancing together clothed for a regular party and then you unfold the paper and they are all half-naked and in sexual acts, having a great time! [more laughing]
Ah, that is what I forgot: Here he mentions that there is not a lot about the war in this issue. I do not know which war it is in 91, I imagine The Golf? Yes. So he says that this is because by the time the war started, a lot of it was already made, they had already created the magazine. But nowadays you would adapt so much quicker. The format of having things prepared and then going to print and the time it takes nowadays, I think, would not be as much. So that was interesting.
Just a comment on what you were saying and I suppose also about how looking at the material in its material form is useful: I suppose if you were to read a history of that particular era in queer politics in America, it would be a historical account which has its merit but you do not get the urgency from the source material, right? You might have a pamphlet that says everyone has to come to the Tottenham tube station tomorrow at 5 o’clock and you can see through these documents thinking and strategy behind political campaigns that have a certain urgency towards them which you cannot get from history books, I think. Anyway, that is also another reason why it is quite interesting to look at the material even if it is just a printed out pamphlet with a bit of clip art on it or something.
Can I just comment on what you just showed us? I think it is really refreshing to read things that are really playful and funny. Especially… I have just been looking at the queer zines but the [Rad Therapy? 00:10:24] as well: There are little drawings and little things on it that just kind of make you laugh in a… It is nice to know that when you are reading something to have the feeling that the people behind it are not super-serious and are clearly having a good time just drawing this stuff and coming up with this stuff.
I was reading the [corruption? 00:10:49] ones and I do not think I have ever read a magazine where I relate to it so deeply. As someone who did not get to live through this or experience it, it is easy to look back with nostalgia and ignore the challenges that people went through to do this kind of thing and the challenges of that sort of living. But it is also really nice to see that playfulness, that excitement, the fact that they are so daring.
I do drag performance as a political act and I see it very much linked to this genealogy. So to read the stuff that they are doing and to see parallels in what I do, that we are all building on the same movement is really affirming and quite nice.
Anyone who has not spoken who would like to speak?
I usually go around trying to look for zines quite often in archives and I am very pleased and surprised to find the wages for housework material, both in English and Italian because that was really one of the first movements that managed to be a sort of international connection. It is always a very fresh critique unpaid labour and usually linked with gender and women’s labour. It just makes me think. What I am trying to do is to use archive to build an argument around time and child care, especially for women, and how we can think as a society about how to support women to bring from birth… in the role as mothers but actually how do we value that role? Sometimes as a modern society we believe that women are free from childcare because there are nurseries available. There is some childcare that is paid? but actually the time that is free from childcare is used to go to work so it is still time that is another job. It is wage work but it is still not free time.
I remember when you mentioned that when you were living communally you had a lot free time and childcare was sort of a shared responsibility. And perhaps exploring these models that have been successful in the past to see if they are still viable today or they can still perhaps have an interest. Also the policy level is actually present in a financial plan and to see where we can find the resources because I am sure it is possible. Some countries talk about the basic income for everyone but perhaps we should think about something that is specific for women’s labour, every woman, single mothers, couples who are not married, anyone that brings up a child. Does not have to be a woman, can be a man, but is a carer basically.
On the topic of labour, and I think not just mothering, what I think about is first of all how expensive it is to live and how I remember reading a squatting manifesto somewhere else and it had a list of housing rights that people could have. One of the things that was listed was that everyone should have the right to permanent housing. That is not an outrageous thing but to me it was a real shock to read that as listed in a manifesto because the idea of people having permanent housing where you would never move if you did not want to… I know people who are moving every three months or whatever because of precarious housing or housing costs. Also the idea that communities and neighbourhoods form around stable housing. So when labour is mentioned I also think about work and I also think that I have had the ability to sometimes not work or to work very little because I have had cheap housing or I have had squatted housing and that has changed the way that I live.
It has given me time to do things that I want and now often that seems like an unimaginable thing to talk about with others where people are like: when was that? I am like: well, not that long ago, 20 years. But for some people it is something where they would never have the experience of or they do not think would be just a common thing that many people had.
Thank you. Just briefly, just to adapt to what you say when you talk about community and building. Actually, people moving houses, it is a massive issue in building up a community. I think especially for childcare. We assume that bringing up a child is the sole parent’s responsibility but in fact it should be a shared responsibility, should be some mutual help, because those children will be the citizens of the future so somehow I think building that solidarity within a community can also help in parenting and having some childcare. As an experiment, I guess. I don’t know if anyone knows of any project or any archive?
I do know about a project that is potentially coming up in maybe a couple of months’ time in *omitted* which is a squatted project that definitely will need more people to be involved with because it is huge. I have sent that on record. [laughing] Maybe you can take that off later. And it is all legit because it is… I mean … I have squatted in various places since the squatting ban came in in 2012 which is when I decided to start squatting: the month that it was made illegal to squat in residential buildings. I am always late to the party. So the places I squatted have been commercial buildings. I have ended up squatting with a load of people who were very middle class and kind of have chosen to squat in a way. Maybe that is damning but ultimately what it has meant is that they were able then to kind of liaise with a landlord who was like: oh, you seem alright, yeah you can look after my building for a while. So they had longevity because of that.
This next project has come about through a similar sort of way of basically privileged squatters but that is not… That is why, I guess, am bringing this project up because I think actually what it really needs is the older generation and younger generation to feed in and make it a good, exciting project, not a closed project. Yes… [pause] It is very difficult to apply for… I mean… I do not know, I have got loads of things to say actually. [laughs] Maybe I stop for a bit and then talk more later.
Thinking about housing, time, we talked about childcare. I wondered if anyone had anything to say about disability or queerness for example in terms of work or housing or just being able to live freely. Because those Corruption, a lot of those things were organised in squats or squatted social centres where no one tells you what to do. You can use the space when you like, how you like. With someone together we were reading the thing on fun ways to do an enema. That is in the King zine. It is just like there is that level of acceptance that people can make their own choices. It is not like: what do you want to use the building for? Just think of cultural freedom. [pause] Anyone who has not spoken?
I have spoken before but… I guess especially in the current context of all the queer spaces like clubs, bars, the small venues being shut down at an alarming rate even though they are regulated spaces. We just do not have space full stop anymore. I went to an interesting night recently and they took over ta pub which is not a queer venue but they just completely took it over for the night and put on a big performance and had flags and kicked out anyone who was being a twat and it was really nice. It is kind of like having to migrate out of our designated safe spaces to appropriate others.
There is certainly a lot of negotiation that comes in with that which you do not get the same kind of limitation of what people can do. You would have so much more freedom if it was a squatted space or a community-owned space free from that kind of thing. And the only times I have ever experienced that is when I have had people have access to fields and… They found a random place in the woods and we just go out there and do stuff because there is no one regulating that. But in a lot of those cases it has come from someone who knows someone who owns land. So again it is inherently tied to privilege.
I think it is a shame that we have lost the ability to have spaces like they seem to have because it seems so liberating and powerful in a way that we cannot quite replicate because everything we do is extremely constrained and I cannot do half the stuff I want to on stage at the moment.
Dissenting Ephemera: Women’s Movement
These materials, dubbed ‘dissenting ephemera’, were delivered to Mayday Rooms as a contextual backdrop to the October 2014 reunion of East London Big Flame. The close connections this group had to the Women’s Liberation Movement is reflected in the documents, discussion papers, flyers and magazines (Red Rag, Spare Rib) collected here.
Dissenting Ephemera: Women’s Movement
Dissenting Ephemera: Women’s Movement
Dissenting Ephemera: Women’s Movement
We were talking a bit before about how some of the zines have a lot of listings and I was saying that there is bits in the Mayday archive which are entirely dedicated… It will be like a collection of Timeouts which will have all the listings of all kind of political meetings, nights, countercultural stuff and it was all kind of centralised in that thing. Not only as a good research tool but also just something that should probably make us angry about the poverty of our own situation and that enclosure of space.
You can count on two hands maybe places that you could have a political meeting in London easily that is not in a cafe or in a pub or something that is solely dedicated to that. I think sometimes looking at the archive can also just show you the sort of poverty of your own situation now brought into kind of sharp relief or something. Not on a depressing note but also good angry in a productive way maybe.
Just briefly. I think I guess when you have limited resources and also space is limited, you have to find alternative ways and that is where you become a bit more creative. And the fact of working with other people, being an activist usually involves having relating to a group of like-minded people. I think that also gives sort of motivation and helps. I find that the lack of space really constrains one’s life in general. The expression of ones being and life both mentally and materially. Cannot exercise or you have a hobby or… Do not know. I mean something that you can dedicate yourself and dedicate that space to that particular activity which is very frustrating.
I was just thinking as well listening to that. The idea of kind of freedom beyond the home as well. Because there are no affordable places to live there is no easy way to disengage from families or origin support systems. It means that a lot of people and queer people in particular are very much constrained with what they can do. I feel like part of the reason why there has historically been queer squats and that kind of thing is the need to move away from where you have grown up in order to fully express yourself. So now when I go home I have to tone everything down: I cannot bind, I cannot express myself in quite the same way and you have to make yourself appealing to heterosexual family structures, so I think it is a shame that that is missing because for a lot of people they do not have the virtue of what I have got, which is a nice student loan so I could not run away for a bit and then go back and it is like: that is bad! But it is that sense that there is no permanent place to not flee the home but rather grow into yourself and come into and form your own community and organisation. It is very much disparate, especially in somewhere like London where it is so hard to connect to and find.
There was actually a bunch of stuff in Red Therapy about housing and mental illness and about how there is either the new housing model as in living in high-rises, it talked all about high-rises, kind of give someone the choice of… There is a choice between being isolated and being in your house with not knowing anyone around you or the family unit. So it is either just being by yourself and being very isolated with no one to turn to or just… When the only strong, permanent link you have, the strongest one you have or you can find is to your family, that is going to create a whole load of problems for queer people especially. I have not thought of that but you are completely right. When there is a problem in that, when you are in a bad family situation, it just leaves people so vulnerable and so… I do not know.
I want to talk about this one a little bit which is Queer Mutiny, Not Gay Community. It is about the gay pride and how it is connected to very commercial things… It is very much like the same ideas that are here nowadays. I do not know from when this is.
It is all late 90s, early 2000s.
From that perspective, it has not gotten that much further. It made me think a bit about queer existence and stuff. I think we have moved a lot in terms of legal rights and certain things. But some community things are exactly the same: muscle worship, whatever it is talking about, and beauty and shaming of other things, the things it talks about here. There was something else I was going to say…
Yes, it talks about religion here. It is talking about how the guy wanted everyone to see how religion is a mental illness of sorts. There is very angry writing there from the same guy. These things interest me because it is part of my own experience and also what I talk about in my work and all of that.
But it is true, you know, I come from Brazil. We were talking earlier about Brazil and politics. It is really going backwards at the moment and the far right are rising. These things, we say they come in cycles. I do not know if they come in cycles. A lot of things are moving forward but there are waves of certain ideas that get more powerful and it is a shame we are not discussing certain things but perhaps we will be. Like, you know, the wave of far right that is going on, I think all these clandestine spaces and things we are talking about, not so clandestine, but maybe they will start just by being discussion of places which are a bit more clandestine and then they will be officialised in time. Maybe these things come and go. It is true that the commerciality of everything crushes a little bit the genuine things, I think. It is a lot of really interesting thought process.
Can I just comment really quickly on what you were talking about: queer communities. I think it is something really interesting to talk about how a lot of it has actually moved online and I think it would be interesting to think about how this happened. Also of the isolation we have in our day to day lives and the positive parts of it. But also how it is actually affecting us to have these very strong bonds with people you do not get to see or be physically close to. Because I feel that is very much a reality for pretty much everyone I know, to have these really tightly knit online communities, people you just never see.
This was a rolling international DIY festival that took place eight times between 1998 and 2000. Activity continues under the Queeruption name to the present.
Often based in squats and an ‘opportunity for Queers of all genders and sexualities to gather, celebrate [their] queerness and diversity… and learn from each other’. This collection includes ephemera from the first Queeruption festivals and is supplemented by a selection of queer zines from the 1990s.
MayDay Rooms is an educational charity founded as a safe haven for historical material linked to social movements, experimental culture and the radical expression of marginalised figures and groups.