Guest interview: Arron Gill

Through my writing work I’ve had the honour of meeting some incredible activists across the world. Continuing this series, I interviewed Arron Gill this week in Birmingham We talked about the city, art activism and…of course…cats.

Image shows: Arron and Zomok the cat. Zomok is black with green eyes and is looking straight at the camera, Arron is just behind him and is about to kiss or blow in his ear. Behind them is a wall with ‘Broken English’ written on a postcard. There are two other postcards on the wall.

Otter: We met in Birmingham when you kindly hosted me for a reading at The_GAP, a beautiful arts project for young people. What are you working on at the moment?

Arron: So I work at the space in which you did your reading of Margins, The GAP. It’s a creative cultural space for young people in Birmingham. Birmingham is the youngest city (in proportion to population) in Europe, it also has the largest and most in-debt council in Europe. The space runs a project space, so one of the current programmes is a drama and education project that looks at the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham which catalysed a lot of anti Irish sentiment both in local culture and in government policy, and investigates the the similarities between then and current islamaphobic sentiment and policies. The space is also a local community resource space, for meetings, workshops, events, parties, films, whatever is needed and wanted.

O: It seems a lot of your work is about building connections — is that easy in Birmingham?

A: No. This city is seemingly purposefully disconnected. Birmingham has long attempted to enter the milieu of the global city and so often it has come at the expense of its citizens, such as the wholesale markets redevelopment, the failings of the new library, and that in a city this big we still do not have a single public transport system that goes from North to South. The city feels fractured. No one really lives in the city either, unless you’re a student or work in the financial district,. There is no social centre, no radical spaces in the centre. There is no radical organising structure in the city either, which leaves people very vulnerable when for example the fash go on their marches, or when there are immigration raids, or riots in the prisons. I always find it crazy that in such an ethnically diverse, young city like Birmingham there are no city wide networks. Although, slowly, over the past two years in particular I’ve met some really special people who can also see this, and were now looking to tackle it.

O: What motivates and inspires you to continue your work?

A: Ah so many things. My love for the city motivates me, I’m a Brummie for life, and for now I live here and want to provide whatever I can to the communities that I’m a part of. People like you inspire me Otter, I remember reading your work for the first time and thinking that I hadn’t read anything in this style ever before, and I could tell that it must be so important for so many people. I was inspired to create space, no matter how big or small where people could gather to listen to you read and share that space with you.

O: *Blush*. It was a beautiful space and I loved the conversations that it held! Touring was so epic and exhausting and you just reminded me that I already miss it. Thanks for organising!

A: I’m motivated by the potential of the city too, as much as I can moan about its lack of infrastructure it also means that its ours to create and shape into what works for us.

O: I love that. What other things are you involved in that you’d love more people to know about?

A: MIDLANDS ANTI EXPANSION NETWORK — A prison abolition group set up this year in order to resist the new mega prisons being built in Wellingbrough (Northamptonshire) and Glen Parva (Leicestershire). The governments new Prison Estates Transformation Programme aims to create new super-size prisons and they are really focusing on the Midlands. See CAPE, and Corporate Watch for more details about the PETP, and for more details about us you can find us on Midlands Anti Expansion Network or MidlandsAEN

O: Important stuff, thank you for sharing. And finally: what is your connection to more-than-human nature in the place you live? (I remember your cat is pretty awesome)

A: My cat moved house! :( Zomok moved to Erdington to live with our friends as they have a bigger house, however there are a lot of cats on my road so I get to hang with them. So Birmingham has more parks than any other city in the UK, my favourite is Sutton Park, its a large urban park, most of it is nature reserve and there’s lots of wildlife, mushrooms, lakes and all things nice. I enjoy walking through there any season. But I do feel a sharp alienation with nature a lot of the time so I do enjoy pretending to be animals in my spare time.

O: That sounds amazing! Thank you ❤

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Arron is a Brummie boy and technically Creative Producer. See The GAP at www.thegapartsproejct.co.uk and more information about Midlands Anti Expansion Network on twitter @MidlandsAEN and Facebook/MidlandsAEN

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