On the Road With Amanda Palmer — Part 4

Words: Jack Nicholls
Photographs:
Gabrielle Motola

[Part 1: Us and Them] [Part 2: Revolutions] [Part 3: The Art of Asking About Abortion]

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Shepherd’s Bush Roundabout May 28th, 2020, London, United Kingdom

When the coronavirus pandemic dissolved the boundaries of our world, Amanda Palmer was already positioned in New Zealand — long considered the go-to destination for wealthy Americans looking to wait out the apocalypse.

In March, on the day that New Zealand announced the closure of music events, Amanda was in Wellington prepping to play the final show of her year-long There Will Be No Intermission tour. Six months later, the whole world is in intermission, and Amanda is still in New Zealand. Travelling with her child, she had to make the hard decision whether to return to her community in a United States crumbling under the pandemic, or stay in a country where case numbers hovered near zero. …


A Letter to the Victorian Government

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The Victorian State Government has called for submissions to their new Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline. This is my attempt to explain my emotions about an extinction crisis that has shadowed my life.

To the members of the Environment and Planning Committee,

I have a Masters of Environment from the University of Melbourne, and I know a bit about the details of our ecosystem crises — percentage declines, hectares burned, etc. — but you will get other submissions that explain that better. What I want to make you understand, is what it feels like to live in a world that is dying.

I am still young, but I’ve seen the change in my lifetime. There are fewer insects around now, have you noticed? Fewer fish in the rivers. Our porch light used to flicker in the wings of bogong moths, they’re all gone now. I’d guess that is going to have a cascade effect up the food chain. …


On the Road With Amanda Palmer — Part 3: Ireland

Words: Jack Nicholls
Photographs:
Gabrielle Motola

[Part 1: Us and Them] [Part 2: Revolutions] [Part 4: Safe Spaces]

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Amanda performing in Belfast’s Ulster Hall

BELFAST

“So, how has the, um, topic of abortion…been part of your life…up till now?”

I am floundering.

“Well, I’ve… helped women access abortions in Northern Ireland, illegally, for the last maybe ten years.”

It is a few minutes shy of midnight, and Emma and I are sitting beneath bucolic friezes in the empty theatre at Belfast’s Ulster Hall. Emma — white-haired, polite to a fault — doesn’t look like a criminal. But, in the eyes of the Northern Irish State, that is exactly what she has been considered for the past decade. …


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“Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”

- J. G. Ballard, High Rise

A weary voice crackles through the apartment loudspeaker, and tells me not to panic, they are just testing the emergency alarm system; then the complex fills with the lonely wails of the sirens. Like Dr Laing, I am sitting on the balcony of the huge apartment building where I’m spending my days, though luckily I have not yet had to eat a dog. …


Part 2: Revolutions

Words: Jack Nicholls
Photographs:
Gabrielle Motola

[Part 1: Us and Them] [Part 3: The Art of Asking About Abortion] [Part 4: Safe Spaces]

“In the dark times. Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.”

- Bertolt Brecht, ‘Motto’

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When I was hired to document musician Amanda Palmer’s There Will Be No Intermission tour of Europe, I was not expecting to encounter neo-Nazi parades through suburban German streets or to witness a two week occupation of central London by grief-stricken environmentalists. …


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Welcome to the Party at the End of the World.

This is a diary of one person’s fortnight with Extinction Rebellion. As a writer and sometime climate activist, I’ve been attending Extinction Rebellion (‘XR’) events since a month after the group’s foundation. In Australia I worked in the Extinction Rebellion media team, but for the worldwide October Uprising, I was in London, and so it was the London revolt I joined.

I spent a long time hesitating over whether I should get myself arrested. Ultimately I did not, because I had some serious creative deadlines of my own, and because I am a coward. As an Australian abroad, I was also not part of a London ‘affinity group’, and I’ll confess I found it hard to make more than fleeting friends during the protests. …


Part 1: Us and Them

Words: Jack Nicholls
Photographs:
Gabrielle Motola

[Part 2: Revolutions] [Part 3: The Art of Asking About Abortion][Part 4: Safe Spaces]

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I sit before a stage, night after night. A blue-green spotlight shines against the darkness, and into it strides a woman in an exquisitely tailored jacket, red leather boots and a white shirt. Sometimes she carries a ukulele, sometimes a glass of wine. She looks out at a sea of faces and begins.

“Compassion is very complicated. When I was fourteen years old, a man tied me to a table in his basement.”


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No foreign travel stories today. Instead here is the tale of politics a little closer to home — the state of Australia’s poisonous security laws, and the day my girlfriend Jodie and I were evicted from Parliament House.

DETAINEES

Jodie and I went for an Aussie road-trip to Canberra a little while ago, and being political types we were of course going to stop at the shiny geometry of the Parliament building — which is light, airy, full of indigenous dot-paintings and Australian landscapes, and rather nice.

We joined a tour-group of the public areas, where we learned that Bob Hawke used to play basketball in the polished great hall, and that the trickling water-features were implemented to deter eavesdroppers. We strolled past the portraits of PMs past, where Rudd was a notable absence, although his successor-and-predecessor Julia Gillard was there. …


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Banksy Extinction Rebellion mural at Marble Arch

Extinction Rebellion is a decentralised, global movement that calls for non-violent, disruptive civil disobedience — a rebellion, to save our land, and ultimately ourselves, from the collapse of our biosphere.

The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens. A government that cannot do that, loses legitimacy. We are facing a climate emergency that threatens not just our prosperity, but our health and eventually all of our lives. …


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Things are not going well.

In recent weeks, reading international news has been an exercise in pain. Turkey’s autocratic President is ‘re-elected’ with dictatorial powers. Italy’s new government turns away a Doctors Without Borders ship from its ports, and announces a crackdown on Roma people. Children are put in cages on the US-Mexican border. Algeria deports thousands of migrants into the Sahara. Yemen is starving under Saudi-imposed famine, and of course insurgencies continue in Northern Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Faced with a daily bombardment of stories like these, half my friends have consciously tuned-out of the news, the other half are hypnotised by it. …

About

Jack Nicholls

Speculative fiction writer and observer of life. My website is http://www.jacknicholls.net/

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