It’s January, time to start anew. Start afresh. “Ring out the old, ring in the new”, as Lord Tennyson put it. It’s also totally fine to just carry on snuggling up and hibernating – Jean-Paul Sartre did once say that January is the perfect month to read poetry. So crack open Hollie McNish’s book of poems, Cherry Pie (featuring illustrations by her fave artists and illustrators, such as Aurora Cacciapuoti), which includes poems inspired by advice from her grandparents, including hit poem Mathematics. If you haven’t already come across Cambridge-based Hollie’s lyrical brilliance, make this your number one poetry goal for 2016. You can order Cherry Pie on Amazon. If you can, catch her at the Women of the World Festival (WOW) at Cambridge Junction, on 5 March, too – she’s brilliant. Meanwhile, for poetry lovers who are wanting a treat for themselves, why not commission Cambridge poet Fay Roberts to write you your very own poem? Fay is a gifted, fluent lyricist, foraging beauty from observation and rhythm – you’ll certainly be in good hands – see more at www.fayroberts.co.uk. Or watch out for SHINDIG’s soon-to-be-launched online shop, featuring DIY interactive poem kits from Abi Palmer, at www.shindiggig.com.
If the political landscape might feel full of gloom for some in 2016, performance, literature and art can be incendiary, vital, with those now glitter-filled mediums, cabaret and burlesque, originating as a form of satire. So it’s also absolutely fine to continue the festive trend of going to see out-there, technicolour theatre, full of glitter and psychedelic charm, to break you into the new year. NHS lovers, get thee to Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine’s Addenbrooke’s panto The Wizard of Obs, running from 26 to 30 January at the Mumford Theatre. Save Addenbrooke’s and slay the Wicked Witch of Westminster!
Using your voice, the art of dissent will be one of the biggest trends not just in contemporary art, but in our social landscape this year. Diversity in the arts looks set to be a hot topic throughout 2016, pushed onto the agenda by last month’s oversubscribed, packed-out conference at the British Museum, Things To Do Before We Die. Hosted by Farnham Maltings and supported by Arts Council England South East, arts professionals, directors and performers from all over the UK came together to act on inclusivity in the arts. When the vast majority of arts institutions are led by white middle-class men, change has never been needed more! But this isn’t about ticking boxes, ‘it’s a matter of life and death’, urged Joe Baden, from Goldsmiths University’s Open Book project. Because as living costs soar, being forced to choose between heating your flat and engaging with the arts often impacts which voices are heard in our society. In fact, that isn’t really a choice at all – it’s called oppression. Those interested in making the arts accessible to all should check national charity, Arts Emergency (patrons include Kate Tempest), who call for mentors to help kids from poorer backgrounds access careers in the arts – www.artsemergency.org.
Cambridge might be one of the most affluent cities in the UK, but it has a long tradition of creative responses to political issues, home to the likes of the notorious War on Terror board game, dubbed ‘a game with attitude’ by The Independent – illustrated by Cambridge based, award-winning Tom Morgan-Jones (www.inkymess.com). So take a read of The Art of Protest this month, written by Cambridge designer and illustrator, Rebbeca Scambler, it’s an online archive of protest and dissent, stirring stuff indeed (www.artofprotest.com). Rebecca is a shining example of putting your politics into creative action, building a successful freelance creative business while using her talents to support others and speak out on issues that she cares about. “We must not turn against each other at a time when we should be coming together in support and solidarity. Let the art of protest thrive. Let us be inspired by the struggles of others,” she says. She’s designed sites and branding for many of the city’s fave artists, too – including the wonderful Katherina Klug. So if you’re itching to make 2016 your year to do something, exploring any or all of these artists and groups will inspire.
There’s nothing like seeing a gutsy woman take on taboo issues with side-splitting gusto to inspire you to speak out yourself, so make a beeline for comedian Tiff Stevenson at Cambridge Junction this month on 22 January. Yummy mummies go at your own risk – she is hilarious, romping through issues such as the objectification of women and class (just don’t ask her for a babycino. Ever). Less than perfect mums (um, all of us?) can also cackle along with Scummy Mummies for fortnightly podcasts: razor-sharp, down-to-earth comedy that excels in telling it like it is. Got to be better than listening to Helen and Rob’s downward spiral in The Archers, surely? Check www.scummymummies.com. Meanwhile, creative mamas in and around the city seeking kindred spirits will also be overjoyed to learn about #CamMamaCollective, from the folk who brought us the Cambridge branch of national creative parents network Mothers Meeting (‘a wunderkind’ – Vogue). This new network will be hosting seasonal events throughout 2016 to help mamas have creative time out for themselves. Can’t wait. Creatives can also connect with the likes of the Cambridge Creative Network to meet with now award winning Karen Jinks and Mandy Knapp, for a dose of inspirational chutzpah – check out www.cambridgecreativenetwork.co.uk
So whatever your creative goal for 2016 is, good luck! Let your voice be heard. Get organised. Join others like you. Because as artist Yoko Ono says, ‘You change the world by being yourself’. Happy New Year, all.