I co-facilitated a short taster in nonviolent direct action (NVDA) at the UK Feminista Summer School, alongside Gill Hay. It’s the first time we’d worked together. Bit of a baptism of fire, given that we had over 50 people and not enough time (just 75 minutes), but that’s the way with conference sessions. We walked down the canal, back into Birmingham and had a natter afterwards. From a co-facilitation perspective we agreed we’d be happy to work together again – always a good sign.
We focused on giving the participants a taste of the realities of NVDA – potential confrontation, physicality, exploring where power lies, how we can best use our bodies and voices, and so on. It seemed a sensible choice as there’d already been a panel discussion on the whys and wherefores of direct action., so we wanted some doing to accompany the thinking.
We haven’t seen the official evaluations, but the participants left buzzing. And here’s one of them quoted in the Guardian, talking about our session:
After just one day of classes at her summer school of choice, Emily Birkenshaw had already learned a crucial lesson: how to “go floppy” when facing arrest. “You’re heavier then, so you can’t be carried,” she said, with the genuine delight of a new recruit.
The 24-year-old been practising by linking arms with her classmates and singing loudly at a pretend policeman. “It just felt really empowering,” she said. “If that happened [in real life] – and I hope it wouldn’t – I’d know how to do it without getting hurt.”