I was 8 when I realised the world was f*@ked.
I know right?
Pretty heavy for an 8 year old.
Everyone has varying degrees of existential crisis.
If you're lucky, it hits later than 8... but you know, I had to work with what i was given, so thats when I wrote my first letters, in the 80's.
The first one was to the Prime Minister of Japan, politely asking him to cease whaling, the second was to the Australian Prime Minister.
It was pretty much the same letter, but addressing the culling of kangaroos.
Of course, both of these atrocities went on for a while [they said they didn't, then they did... then they didn't... and so is the way of most things...]
The Australian Prime Ministers office replied. The Japanese office didn't.
I expect they were busy.
I didn't feel there was too much I could do about the ozone layer at that point, but that certainly weighed heavy on my childhood brain as well.
This continued concern for the environment didn't go down too well at school either.
I remember once returning from a PE class to find 'I Am A' written in Tippex on one of my purple DM's and 'WEIRDO' on the other.
When I was 19, I trekked around the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal, as part of a fundraising initiative for Cancer Research.
It was there that I saw first hand 'in real life' all the things that had troubled me vicariously, since the age of 8.
It was a trip organised by a company that facilitate these 'kinds of things' and employ local Nepalese sherpas and guides.
At the time of our trek, many of the villages we walked through, had been experiencing a drought. Many had lost cattle and in the case of one village, a child had died as a result of drought.
Our trek was divided into three groups. As part of their loads, the sherpas were carrying large containers of water.
I presumed this was for drinking. It was....mostly.
However, one evening at camp, some of the people on the trek, had showers with that water.
After passing through villages that had lost children and cattle due to lack of water, they were having showers, in water carried by the same indigenous Nepali, some of whom had relatives in those villages.
What a fucking embarrassment for us all.
What arrogance. What ego. What the fuck....
The irony of being in the most beautiful place in the world, with the ugliest people.
I digress... I always do...
My point is, that from the age of 8, I knew I was going to have trouble finding a place in it all, in the world.
Everything seemed so enormous and impossible.
I dealt with it in lots of different ways, some of them messy.
I thought that by blocking it all out, I would be able to cope.
Needless to say, it didn't work.
As anyone who has ever tried to numb themselves into forgetting will tell you, when you remember, it just comes back harder than anything you were ever trying to forget.
Then in 2010 stumbled across something that seemed to fit.
So I went with it.
I spotted a problem and I wanted to help solve it.
I had found my purpose.
I began travelling around the country, picking up beach fabrics, [initially deck chair canvases] and making them into bags.
I sold quite a few of those bags, so I invited other people to join me in making them.
I wanted to create opportunities in the rural area in which I live. To start a movement, a change.
I wanted to save more and more of these fabrics from languishing in landfill... so in 2017, I opened up the gates for people to send in their unwanted inflatable items to us, turns out, there was a need for it.
A massive massive need for it.
This is it! I thought.... this is forever. I've found my purpose and I can share it with others.
It was everything to me.
Then in February of this year, that business had to close.
I lost my voice.
I lost everything.
I lost hope and my purpose.
I couldn't see anything beyond my own failure. In many ways, I still cant. I probably never will...
In addition 'our' global systems are put in place, to keep disruption to a minimum.
It doesn't 'fit' to pay a living wage, there's not enough profit margin to manufacture in the UK, you should make abroad, you have to make the volume, the price point needs to be attainable, hell, the list goes on...
Over the last few months, Ive gradually crawled out of a hole deeper than Ive ever been in.
Ive observed, listened, thought, read, started an MA in Sustainable fashion and continue slowly, to keep two businesses alive, in order to continue to save these fabrics from landfill.
This year has changed me.
The loss, grief, questions, trajectory of the climate emergency, capitalist construct and systems, warped media narrative, its all changed me.
Im not the same anymore. Im beaten down by it all.
Other companies and businesses have based theirs on our model [great- more fabrics saved] though I wish they had contacted to build a community instead- more on that in another post...
It isn't enough for me to make bags with unicorn heads anymore.
I've put videos up to help others make their own bags from their inflatable waste, Ive run sales, paid for advertising [which goes against my whole ethos- but we are where we are...thanks Primark, Shein et al]
Ive received a fellowship from the Royal Society of Arts, but question if anything endorsed by the word Royal is ethical at all considering its long history with colonialism, which also makes me question the MBE, CBE etc... again, any thoughts on that are welcome...
I've been fortunate enough to have a solid, small group of women who have helped lift me again, helped me visualise, believed in my ability to do it all again, helped me financially, helped me grieve, forced me to run and exercise, got me drunk and sobered me up again... Those women know who they are and I thank them every single day.
Most importantly, those women, my husband and our wonderful children have helped me find my 8 year old voice again.
We'll continue to make bags and bring them to everyone at as reasonable cost as we can, but I also really need to continue to use my voice...
I'm not a sales person, or a manager of people [these things I have learned in the most painful of ways] BUT I do have an inherent need to make change and disrupt systems and I can't do that and make the same volume of bags that I used to.
It made me really ill. I can't go there again.
I have been working on some things in the background, changing systems and listening to some beautiful books...
Ive also been working on wearable statement pieces from difficult to use waste, that help transport me back to my initial purpose.
These pieces take hours.
I lose myself in them.
They're weird, like me and my purple DM's.
Through them, I am gradually able to find my voice again, I hope it will get loud enough to continue to make a difference.
Thank you for reading x