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2020 Must Stop: Our Annual Round-Up

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

by Niall Walker



Just over a year ago I was listening to Aaron Bastani at The World Transformed in Brighton talking about how robots were going to usher in Communism. I think. In truth I was a little inebriated, drunk on Corbyn-mania, a few too many cans of something or other and fresh sea breeze.

We’d just released our sixth issue, TOMORROW, about art which engaged in narratives of the future. We thought we’d covered it all: nuclear winters, the racialisation of emerging technologies, the urgency of climate activism. How wrong we were.

For it turned out that instead, society collapse was about to be triggered by a deadly virus, and Brighton would probably be the last memorable holiday I ever have.

Issue #7: SOLITUDE

Image: 'A Month of Sundays', Mike Downing

At the start of the year, if you said 'pandemic' to most people it would conjure up images of bird masks, boils and 'X's on doors.

Yet COVID-19 has had social as well as biological symptoms. For many, it has meant living on the borders of trauma, trapped away from those we love. Lockdown has had an emotional impact, as isolation leads to anxiety, insecurity and long, repetitive periods of boredom.

We decided around June that our seventh issue would respond to this.

Solitude has turned out to be our biggest issue yet. In it, we wanted to explore how artists respond to psychological isolation in different forms, and how we can hope to build new communities in an era of separation.

It helped that a late-night email, tossed into the wilderness of our outbox and soon forgotten, came back covered in gold. An application to the London Metroland Fund - set up after the pandemic had laid to waste Brent's year as London borough of culture - was granted, and we suddenly had money for our first ever print run. Sadiq Khan had paid for us to make a magazine!

We are so proud of this issue. It marks the culmination of around three years' work, and we've been able to distribute free copies to homeless and incarcerated artists. Copies are still available to buy online, just click on the image and we'll send one over.

We discuss gentrification in Cornwall with BAFTA-award winning director Mark Jenkin; the ghosts of 80s Japan with Afropean creator Johny Pitts; and what to do when your art becomes obsolete with HANS, the Drag King of Iceland. We also feature the work of artists imprisoned around the world, and art and poetry from voices who have so often been ignored this past year, stuck indoors, shielding or critically vulnerable.

2020: A Year in Activism