Opening Nights and Radical Futures

19 Feb 2021

By Mira Waligora

Setting: I’m in my pyjamas at the dining room table, with a half eaten falafel wrap next to me and pile of washing on the floor, but it’s 2021 and everything’s online so I can be part of conversations and events that have been made accessible, that have adapted and are exploring what the future is going to look like.

I’m on my now ancient laptop hoping it can manage the load of the evening. How dependent our participation in civic and societal life is on connection, both virtual and human. Questions are already forming in my mind: should free Wi-Fi be a universal human right?

There are over a 100 people watching the event live, even though I can’t see their faces, it’s nice to know that there are humans out there who I may bump into one day who are sharing this experience with me. Comments are coming through in the live chat and there is a spark of togetherness. We might not have the same conversations as we would have had, standing in queues or going for an after-show pint in Paisley, but the conversation certainly still continues in this digital space.

So I ask you: where did you watch this festival from? What did you think?

Conversations and events like the Paisley Book Festival are crucial in allowing and facilitating wider conversations among its audiences on radical thoughts, pushing each other to examine and imagine the future that we want to live in.

The night opened with Laura Waddell and an exploration of exit signs, with a conversation about the importance and precariousness of communication. Do we take the ease with which things are communicated to us for granted? Over this past year communication has changed in some ways, new signs became normal. When I think of the exit sign all it brings to mind is the Keep a Safe Distance signs and stickers plastered all over the place. “Remember to socially distance” – shouldn’t the phrase have been “remember to physically distance”. How much do words matter?

The show closed with Allan Bissett and his new book Lazy Susan, performing the words with wonderful lyricism. It was fun, it was energetic, his accent so wonderful to listen to – I cannot wait to read the book and immerse myself in his prose.

Hannah Lavery was the third performer at the opening night. She was performing from her house, as was every other artist and there’s something intimate about that. It must be very strange for artists to perform to a silent “black” screen. Although I miss live events so much and nothing quite replaces the magic of being together in a space physically, seeing everyone at home is comforting somehow.

Hannah asked: how do we think about the future? We’ve all been “forced into a year of reflection”, a year of having to face ourselves, spend more time with ourselves than we ever have before.

She spoke about family and love and loss, especially in the light of the virus being more prominent and deadly among minority communities and asked us: “whose deaths are valued?” This reminded me of a question Margaret Atwood asked at an event I attended last week: “who gets to have babies?” As we move forward with life, into the future – who will come out on top and who will lose out?

In one poem, Hannah explored her young son’s experience with everyday racism. The radical new future we are emerging into has to be one where a child gets to be a child and isn’t forced to experience hate and prejudice for simply existing.

What does your radical new future look like?

There's still time to register for tickets for Paisley Book Festival events here