Humanity Lands

This was the poem that became Humanity Lands – the title track of Phoenix Chroi’s second album

I’ve done my penance

Walked on my knees

Fixed on a star

Through the wood and the trees

And as I traversed this scorched earth

I never regretted that I gave birth

I trod the fine line

Between celebration and solace

Saw the selfie explode in its own menace)

I wiped a tear that stole its own path

Slapped my own face to wake my own heart

This blighted star hangs so futile

Amidst terror cruel law all the while

Waits Blinking a beacon of hope

And we have to wait too enlighten folk

But wait for what and wait for who

Hope springs in the heart of you

It’s you who fixes you who builds

You who paints and you who guilds

You can make believe and propagate lies

Or feel the truth see with own eyes

There’s absolutely only one truth

To make a better place starts with you

Pull out your heart and hold it up high

Use its rhythm to move the star from dangerous sky

Spin your tales rewrite the law

Show your children what it is all for

Stand stand stand

The ground is yours now

Take no more milk from their sacred cow

Open your mouth drink in the rain

From high from sky from heaven again

Shout in the face of the despot who dares

Belittle your truth stamp on your cares

Throw off your shackles

There’s no prisoners here

Just the jail made from lies divisions and fear

There’s no ballot box that controls your heart

Take back compassion

March on from the start

The Giants who stood who knew what to do

Had hope in their hearts and holes in their shoes

The once insignificant voiceless few

Felt rage in those hearts but knew what to do

Because rage can be love Set on fire

And rage can be care whose purpose is higher

Take back your lives and hold out your hands

Your people need you

when hope flies

Humanity lands

copyright EMcGinty 2015

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Sword

Even

as my hands

poised over the keys

I asked myself

If I still believe

If I write a story

When so uncertain

Would regret be result

Of pulled back curtain

The WiFi unstable

The resolve shaken

Even committing the words

And feelings forsaken

Never a guarantee

Aught would be read

The chamber of laying

Became chamber of dread

And so as always

I curl my fingers in

Too shy to write the extent of his sin

And so

I sit, contemplate madness

For that is what happens

When you crush your sadness

I try to prevail

Find strength and rally

But dark is the road

And narrow the alley

Bright sharp

pinprick of light

And pen, mighty sword

Will take up your fight

Lessons In Leadership

Two weeks ago I attended the Oxygen Conference organised by Wavelength. As I had graduated from the Community Business Leaders Programme run by RSA/Power To Change/RIO/SUMS they invited me along with other graduates from different parts of the UK to take part to benefit my project The Phoenix Cultural Centre CIC and gain insights from leaders across all sectors.

Everyone needs oxygen an analogy often quoted in life, when dealing with personal stress, stroppy teenagers and projects crashing together on your head it is always the first advice from a wise friend ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’. Is it that it’s often the case with social projects, businesses, charities and start ups that the very nature of what they are leaves their founders exhausted and overwhelmed with doubts and risk combined with a resolve that it is important to carry on regardless, where the need remains the driver despite the difficulties along the way.

Power to Change contacted those of us in the Community Business Leaders programme with an opportunity to take part in the Oxygen event put on by Wavelength. Since the CBL programme has ignited a boldness I was on it like a rat up a drainpipe, and intrigued and excited to learn more, to connect with a gathering of business and social leaders from a diverse global arena. There was everything to be gained to give my project and my own leadership some reflection and insight. Power to Change have published some of our insights here.

Connecting with the organisers beforehand enabled them to understand exactly what we needed from the event. To be able to be open about the challenges that leadership brought, as well as what we felt our project needed, was a refreshing change. Opened by Liam Black one of the founders of Wavelength, it was explained to the room that in order for the event to be successful it would operate under Chatham House Rule; sounds Jane Austenish doesn’t it but it is more like Fight Club – as in, first rule of….. By setting the context this removes the barriers between corporate and charity, large business owner and start up and becomes honest conversations between humans trying to make good sense of how to make good things happen.

Richard Addy introduced the concept of story telling, his strong example of a story of achievement and success swiftly accompanied by story two – the reality, that interwoven in all of the leaps and pinnacles were dark days, situations and struggles with circumstance poverty and integrity. He stressed the importance of putting ourselves into the picture, our real selves and what inspired us to act. Many have said that social enterprise is borne of sadness, an impetus to fix something that has gone wrong or something inside us that we want to heal and help the healing in others. The truth of it is that we can often mask our pain by channelling into social good, deflect it into building something to stop others bearing that. Telling a truthful story can allow others to see the integrity of the issues we are trying to face together and make them part of the social change movement. An authentic story shows situation to complication to resolution people want to see good news and bad news and that problems can be overcome for a better future.

PURPOSE DRIVEN BUSINESS

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

Cecilia Weckstrom from Lego told the tale of how it started, how children should have only the best and how success can be a curse if you forget your ‘why’ – why you exist what you wanted to do/change/be. Diversifying income streams can be a saviour to finance but a killer to concept and companies, large and small, corporate and social have to stop and take that risk. Acknowledging that others do and you must, go back to basics empowers your own belief in your own singular ideal. They went back to talking to children ‘if you want to create change you have to work with young people’. We now know where the large companies were seen to be untouchable and see a return to the core be successful, to hang on to the principle and grow again actually gives some hope when so often our perception is that large, global business seem to be the root of what we believe to be wrong.

Dr Aravind Srinivasan from Aravind Eyecare System who successfully treat eye problems and blindness in India spoke about keeping the purpose and efficiency at the heart of your business so that you can design for non customers – people who can’t access your services – why not? Can you innovate to make it better, easier? He used the example of how a surgeon can do twice as many operations by having more nurses and they trained girls from local villages to be eye nurses a job that a specialised nurse would not undertake, this meant that the surgeon could have nurses preparing two instruments, two tables, one taking place whilst the surgeon worked on the other – twice as many people helped that way. It also highlighted the extra benefits your projects can bring. By extension another purpose is found as a result of the main purpose – in this case young women from nearby villages received education, upskilling and paid work as a result of the need for more nurses to work this way.

‘Intelligence and capabilities are not enough there must be a joy of doing something beautiful’ Dr V – Founder of Aravind Eyecare System

There is nothing bad about profit but, the process to profit needs to be examined. Profit was described as oxygen however, as Dr Aravind pointed out – pure oxygen will kill. Both speakers were using the point that whilst profit has oxygen in its pure state it is dangerous and pointless and this is reflecting in the sea change that has been happening in the last three years – that employees need a purpose, they look for purpose in their roles no matter what they are.

A refreshing change seeing large companies whose leaders are more aware and in touch, knowing the traditional CSR model isn’t working (and yet even now seen as a new thing by so many companies) that they cannot ‘bestow’ favour on grovelling and grateful charities and socially driven organisations as good pr and marketing for them and no gain for anyone who needs the help. Whilst they are busy people with targets, so are the people who they are offering their help to who have left their duties paid or unpaid as well to help develop your CSR strategy (motivational shortcomings) as someone said ‘ don’t tell me you can offer me people to paint a wall when I need access to your health and safety advisers, don’t use up a day of my time telling me your people will fix our strategy when they haven’t understood what we are trying to achieve, don’t use us as a way of motivating your employees – it is not my job to stop your employees hating their jobs – make it actually mean something’ In other words – make it really be what it is: Social and Responsible as well as Corporate. For social businesses it was good to meet global leaders who really believe in social impact and that the two need not be mutually exclusive.

Don’t allow your drive or ambitions to be suppressed by your environment change it or ship out – this is where resilience so needed in this type of business comes in, the very environment change that is needed to allow drive and ambitions will kick back when that is the very point of your existence as a project to change and grow – if it means your project is giving more people a voice in an environment hostile to that then its very nature means it must face these difficulties and stick it out, to give up and ship out isn’t an option especially as the remit we generally all work under and certainly lots of funders require is that we are locally rooted and dealing with locally rooted needs.

Peter KeenCBE – Director of Sport Advancement – Loughborough University has successfully coached many olympic gold medallists and gave insights into how all the elements of excellent performance are needed to proceed and succeed. Martin Narey who ran the Prison Service and Barnados spoke of listening and learning, the loneliness of leadership and David Pemsel Guardian CEO of remembering the principles of your organisations existence and adaptive leadership.

Photo by Sam Mgrdichian on Unsplash

The themes from speakers at the height of their professional careers or who have been there seen it and done it were refreshingly frank, the idea that families, health and easy fixes of having a healthy walk, getting enough sleep, putting boundaries around your time are really that simple and yes really that effective. That to lead requires humility as well as boldness and the best key to everything is to listen, that it is ok to doubt yourself and happy to dispel the myths of leadership. The days of hero leaders are over people look for purpose, collaboration, boldness and kindness in equal measure and a listener who will take advice on organisational decisions.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Self doubt, fear of failure and anxiety will be your constant companions so the purpose has to be there, if you can’t make sense of your business how will someone else. Plan and protect time to think – some decisions are intuitive – but do ensure there are times to think slow, with logic, be willing to let go. In terms of out performing the great performers outlearned others, assimilating and transferring and successful businesses encourage and tolerate a culture of constant questioning.

It is ok to feel doubtful, intimidated and out of your depth, everyone feels the imposter syndrome, keep at the incremental improvements bit by bit everyday that is where the real work happens.

When talking about purpose, look for friends in purpose – I help you/you help me, you understand where each other is going, what you want and need to get there and step forward for each other to help that happen – go where the good energy is, where the good people are and just push it.

Look at your eulogy virtues as opposed to your resume virtues – build your life around that purpose that virtue sung as your last sunset comes.

How you deal with change? We have a disruptive chaos and a paralysis and these things challenge us so look for your reason for being, what unites you, your stakeholders, common goals and values? If you stick to these trust is generated and value is created. Trust your instincts make sure you value your team and their differences and qualities

Within the room was an understanding that large or small, corporate or social – businesses occupy the same space, are part of the same communities, containing the same human beings with complex needs and need to work realistically together. That the needs the social sector are meeting are usually way ahead of traditional business who need to anchor into towns and cities and networks, makes them a valuable barometer indicating change in our society. Now mental health and wellbeing have seeped in as considerations for all employers to be aware of, meet sympathetically and yet people see this happening first as social projects deal with helping those back on their feet who weren’t in an environment ready to acknowledge the existence of invisible, scary health problems. The attitude of the event was that people could openly ask for help and there was no expectation that it must be given and no resentment caused or felt by answering no, by working in this way actual stuff happens rather than good intentions which as we all know pave the road to hell and whatever that is for you.

We had on day two a chance to be open about our needs and ask for help, democratically people were given the chance to voice their needs and for people to come forward everyone was very engaged with the whole process.

Many were inspired by the discussion about platform and purpose and not mixing up the two, something spoke of not forgetting that the platform was not the purpose and the need to have a healthy platform, many things in place to help you spring from. Some of us our communities are adrift of platform and though clinging tenaciously to purpose find a gap there. This is why we need help that the funding does not necessarily become just money but another layer of a platform. Sometimes all we need isn’t a pot of money (though don’t let that stop anyone ever handing some over) but belief, sometimes just an email, an introduction to someone who can open a door just by saying to lofty heights ‘I recognise this value in this project and these people’ so often we talk to people who admire the cut of the emperors new clothes but not the value of a good pair of warm knickers, until they are told warm knickers are this years zeitgeist – then show an interest. That sometimes is all we need, to undo the ‘a prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home’ or as Will Rogers definition of an expert ‘an expert is a man 50 miles from home with a briefcase’. Sometimes the locally rooted, delivering to local issues needs the expert from 50 miles away to say what they have been saying for years to deaf ears.

So many people shared honest stories of reaching successful pinnacles in other worlds having everything and realising it wasn’t enough, no purpose to it, not enough good being made from it so they changed it, took brave leaps and realigned their purpose. It made me feel inspired by them but in fact also disconnected. How for us is it when we are trying to start something from nothing and we have nothing ourselves, how is it that we are starting these things because we are inside the problem and don’t want it to continue further that we know we must act but have no platform to spring from and yet here was our chance to build one. Largely because the generosity of those who can connect reached it out to us here. Hopefully this will be the new concept and template of what real Corporate Social Responsibility is, meaningful for all and really making change and improvements in the communities that we all exist together in. The event definitely gave an oxgen burst to my resolve and purpose

http://www.powertochange.org.uk/blog/above-all-breathe/

SHE SLEEPS SILENTLY

She sleeps silently while the wind rushes

fast and silent across the sea

She sleeps on, eyelash on cheek,

I don’t think she dreams of me

I gave her a kiss and left her there

Never to see her again

But when I left only I said goodbye

silently she slept on

There wasn’t a fight or parting of ways

or sneaking out in the night or break of the day

There were many tears though I left her

to run

away from the fact she’d already gone,

And she sleeps silently despite all she gave

all while I weep mightily

by her grave

At Peace



When will we be 

At peace

With ourselves

With the layers in our bodies 

that repel

Against each other

The cancers that eat and the 

Inflammation that takes hold

Or the sadness that debilitates us

And all of those things 

We carry unending war in our DNA

The gene for this 

The gene for that

Like battle campaigns 

We walk the earth

Minds screaming to ourselves to cope

Our cries 

Sirens of warning

Our depths

Silence

Of aftermath

And we grieve

For ourselves and others

Ones we make 

and 

who we make miserable

Whether we knew them or not

And so

The world follows suit

And we are at war

Inside and out



Where are all the saintsThey should be marching in

Are they in Hoxton drinking all the gin?
Where is their conviction to right the wrongs

Surely not a fiction we sang all the songs?

Why is their armour rusted and worn

Bits mismatched some lost and gone
Turned their faces, heartsick of us

We’d rather a lifestyle than stand, make a fuss

To be the vehicle to dishearten a saint

Makes of us a race of taint
So this after all was our original sin

Blamed on a woman, serpents grin

our inability to stand to defend the weak

Our backbone jelly voices won’t speak
Will we ever connect to a higher plane

Within or without us all one and the same

Children play in gutters of fear

Patterns in the sky ashen tears
We want saints on demand

a credit card to buy a conscience

We want those who were burned 

For belief to take our presence
Life, sham and drudgery have made broken dreams

A society from a sweatshop poorly riven seams

A cleverness we espouse to leave superstition behind

embarrassed to take the fight of the kind
Contemplate our horror over a glass of fizz

Contemplate the fact none of us exist

Whilst we allow ourselves to be grass fed herds

The saints are on strike until we find the right words
Until we find that we will stand strong

Stop dictation, right our wrongs

Until we take our responsibility set fire to our cares

The saints are on strike not marching anywhere
And the angels won’t act as scabs in our war

Humanity it is time we got our arses in gear

Be cynical be wry be all sorts of clever 

Can’t blame religion if we fuck up forever 
It is all down to us now

It is not a roll of the dice

Our humanity resides 

On our ability to be nice

The Fiery Bird & Loud Women

Thursday 25 August 2016 I was joined on the Fiery Bird Show (listen again here) by Cassie Fox founder of Loud Women,promoters of women led music in London ahead of the Loud Women festival taking place at TChances on Sat 3rd September.

I had come across Loud Women at the start of the year as, always interested in what is going on and let’s face it like many, having a look at where my band can get gigs, I saw some postings on Facebook. A refreshing out-there relief articulating the frustrations of many.

Where many women had been working away at balancing the gender bias in music for some time and though connected up were chipping away alone at the brick wall of misogyny, this was new, arriving at a time when many promoters, festival organisers and venues were realising that they needed to face the fact that the issue about under representation of women wasn’t going away and it made commercial sense to jump on the bandwagon and put on a token band albeit usually further down the line up. These new younger female promoters and bands were also taking up the torch and starting to walk the path made by women doing it before in an albeit more underground way tackling, unsupported the established attitudes and setting the scene for a new breed to take the next step. With this torch lit by those before they chose, rather than just use it to cast light on inequality to make it burn a new, more visible, path. In light of society’s returning to values and challenges that we thought we wouldn’t see again when cuts and frustrations spiral down, there’s usually somewhere the buck stops, the person holding the baby and trying to fill out the tax credits form, prove they need legal aid and an equal salary, is a woman. 

That a platform needs to be there to give voice to the unique challenges people face in these uncertain times is how music changes societies and so is not only to celebrate the creative output of 50% of the population and a platform for younger musicians to hone their craft, be a bit shit and make the mistakes that are an accepted part and parcel of a musical journey, but to keep equality on the agenda. It is not a radical notion that the idea of the wet behind the ears, swaggering musician whose ego outstrips talent but with guidance can be shown how to really express themselves is generally seen as a male silhouette in all the best cliches. We too, as females house those little gits and more power to them for they will be the ones we can clip round the ear and send out as fully fledged women musicians ready to play their stuff just as all the old svengalis did to all the new young male bloods they believed in but who were on the road to crash and burn if not nurtured and if not, let’s face it, told they had a lot of work to do but never that the work wasn’t theirs to access, theirs to own and shape and make a new culture from. What they call the svengalis and mentors we can be and are, if that makes us witches to be burnt then there is nothing like rising again, and again.
We have seen this in our beginner open mic sessions at the Phoenix Centre and I know the work musicians in DIY projects such as Hannah White from the SoundLounge,  Catherine Williams from Blue Trouser Records and Emma Hughes have done with increasing the confidence and giving platforms to young women. Additionally in our WIMOD (Women in Music Organisation & Direction) meetings which cover every age there is a context at which people know they are supported, can ask questions and make an arse of themselves and THE WORLD WON’T END.
So now it is great to see promoters like Loud Women run by Cassie & Who Run The World run by Beth White casting a swathe across London and welcome Cassie Fox as a guest to the Fiery Bird Show where she explained the origins of LoudWomen, her own bands and projects and the bands playing the Loud Women Festival on 3 Sept 2016 tickets can be obtained from loudwomen.org

Here is the playlist

Female of the Species – Space – a phrase often used to warn of the femme fatale and yet it comes from the female that is deadly when her young are threatened as guardians of the future, I’d say that was pretty fair 

Mansplaining – The Wimmin’s Institute Cassie’s band with an anthem dedicated to the proponents of mansplaining – telling a woman how to do something they already know

Respect Aretha Franklin – top vocalist and top song nothing more to add

DIY – Dream Nails – a band playing Loud Women festival, they had their first ever gig with Loud Women at the beginning and less than a year later headlined the sisterhood stage at Glastonbury

Silence – Claudia Stark a local songwriter, Claudia is able to take an issue, global or personal and expose her intentions in crystal clear lyrics. The beautiful vocal and what initially appears to be introspective lyric will often take you by surprise with the steel inside the velvet

Sexuality – Billy Bragg a song I always wanted to cover when playing the school PTA BBQ’s 

In These Shoes? – Kirsty MacColl a lyrical genius, MacColl was a treasure of a musician that was taken too soon, her articulation, vocal ability and compassionate wit enriched whatever project she worked on 

The Boat That I Row – Lulu the song was used in the film soundtrack for Made In Dagenham which illustrated the work that women machinists did for equal pay and often in conflict with the male members of their own Union.

Oh Bondage UP YOURS – X Ray Spex I promised the station manager to play it after 9pm – and I did and you can’t have a show about women in music and not include Polystyrene well you might but I didn’t want to so if you don’t like it – UP YOURS!! 🙂 personally I find inequality for anyone more offensive than mild swearing but each to their own

Control – Desperate Journalists an indie band playing Loud Women festival reminiscent of Siousxie in sound with a daffodil slapping by Morrissey in the mix- liked this very much and hope to hear more from them 

Only Time Will Tell – Making Time – led by Fay Hallam still gigging now and playing at 100 club on 14 October supported by the Len Price 3, a respected musician who has kept an innovative career going illustrating that making music as creative rather than celebrity chasing endeavour has its rewards in a critically acclaimed body of work and loyal following

Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks – After the war Waterloo Bridge was rebuilt by women who were written out of history but whose story was kept alive by the lighter men on the Thames. The bridge of steel we may walk over as we leave Waterloo on our adventures in the big city was rebuilt by women – this song was played for JuliaK, Catherine Williams and all the women who were on board to play the Ladies Bridge gig and all the women who have been working in the background for many years giving other women a helping hand

Cover Up – The Ethical Debating Society playing the Loud Women Fest. Energetic post punk.

Carry Go Bring Come – The Selector – they speak of Jezebels causing misery from home to home, many of us feel this way but then you meet a real one and realise the difference between Jezebel and the Angel. 

The Green & Red of Mayo – The Saw Drs – normally I’m in Mayo, Eire at this time of the year, this song goes on in the hire car as we leave Knock airport and I look in the rear view mirror to see the kids pretending to shoot themselves in the head as soon as they realise that the saw Drs have hit the decks again. This song for all my cousins uncles aunts and everyone I didn’t get to see this year because of empty pockets and big bills. It also mentions Grainneuaile pirate queen of the west who made Queen Elizabeth 1 accept her as an equal queen. Her clan was from Clare Island where she had a stronghold and what is left of a look out on Achill Island. A fiery woman indeed.

LinkedIn by Foxcunt (don’t worry I didn’t say the name on Radio) playing the Loud Women Festival 3 Sept

Free World – Kirsty MacColl – this woman has sadly been dead a few years now but these words, also sadly could be now, if anyone knows anyone now who can write songs like this let me know

I thought of you when they closed down the school

And the hospital too

Did they think that you were better?

They were wrong

You had so many friends

They all left you in the end

‘Cause they couldn’t take the patter
And I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again

Women and men united by a struggle

Going down

You’ve got to walk into the water

With your sister and your daughter

In this free world
If I wore your shades could I share your point of view?

Could I make you feel better?

Paint a picture, write a letter?

Well I know what you’re saying

But I see the things you do

And it’s much too dangerous

To get closer to you

But I will see you baby when the clans rise again

Women and men united by the struggle

Going down

With a pocketful of plastic

Like a dollar on elastic

In this free world
I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care

I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again

Women and men united by the struggle

And the ghettoes are full of Mercedes Benz

And you’d never hurt a friend

Who wouldn’t tell you
It’s cold and it’s going to get colder

You may not get much older

You’re much too scared of living

And to die is a reliable exit

So you push it and you test it

With Thunderbird and Rivin*
I’ll see you baby when the clans rise again

Women and men united by the struggle

In this free world baby

Got to take it got to grab it

Got to get it up and shag it

In this free world

Going down
You’ve got to get into the water

Like a lamb goes to the slaughter

In this free world baby

Going down

With a pocketful of plastic

Like a dollar on elastic

In this free world

I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t care