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Armour, Kimonos and a Moment of Peace – a Testing Week for Salena

Salena Godden writes her third episode of ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’ about a testing week that had a precious moment of solidarity

Salena Godden writes Episode 3 of ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’ explains why we all need armour.

We all need armour. Sometimes I picture my armour like this famous painting and the heavy suit we seen worn in paintings of Joan of Arc. Other times I feel it is a heat or light, like a shield that might surround us.

Joan of Arc

On stage I wear my kimonos like a superhero cape. My lipstick and eyeliner is war paint. We are bombarded daily by terrible news, terrible and terrifying news. We learn to develop a thick skin, a rhino skin. We try to walk with a matriarch elephant’s steady resilience. Or we curl up and become more like the armadillo and binge on books or gin or Netflix or all three – These are all perfectly reasonable coping mechanisms.

I left my house with pockets rammed with new poetry, a blue kimono the turquoise colour of peace power

I have always needed a barrier, we all do to some degree, I mean a protection necessary to continue to find space in my head to dream, and to visualise a better world, even when there seems to be such little evidence of it. This isn’t easy, it isn’t easy to nurture your empathy with the modern world, we are constantly navigating how to be soft inside but somehow still tough outside. Or maybe it is more the other way around, a soft and friendly outer face, a big heart worn on our sleeve, but a fortress to protect the core, the soul and maintain a belief in the good in people, in our community and humanity.

A Testing Week

This week tested us all. The village idiots were out in full force. Only the hardcore among us could possibly maintain anything resembling optimism as we all saw the red carpet rolled out for those that wish to demolish human rights and those that vote against equality and climate change justice, yet again.

The news this morning as I write this is appalling. Far away the atrocities of the Sudan massacre. Then there is the stripping back of women’s autonomy in the US and globally. And closer to home today’s front page news, a bloody attack on two gay women here in the UK’s capital on a Camden bus. Shame on the enablers of this behaviour. Shame on those that joke about Pride. Shame on the MP’s that vote against equality and women’s empowerment and all of our basic human rights.

People’s Banquet

And so on Monday when I headed out to Parliament Square I prepared as if for battle. I left my house with pockets rammed with new poetry, a blue kimono the turquoise colour of peace power with my fully charged crystals and I felt I was ready for a …. a peace picnic? Ridiculous as it sounds, I was a ball of anxiety, fearful of what I was walking into, these were more than my normal gig nerves, but very real anxieties about violence and confrontation. I took the tube clutching my amethyst and surrounding myself with a shield of light just in case.

Of course there was no need for any of this apprehension I realised once I got there. The Women’s Peace Council ‘Peoples Banquet’ was a very mellow crowd gathered under the sunlit Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square. And how relieved and happy I was to arrive and find a group of cool and calm people gathered in peace and unity, such a gentle gathering.

We try to walk with a matriarch elephant’s steady resilience.

Oh the relief I felt. There was beautiful blue peace bunting designed and created by Lorna Rees, and music, singing, poetry and speeches all hosted by the fantastic Sajeela Keershi. And as we were all laughing and doing some exercise stretches together I noticed how tired I was of fear, of clenching my jaw and of feeling anxious.

I thought about how exhausting it is to be prepared for the worst all the time, for trolls and conflict and argument. How knackering it is to try to understand and debate with the people in the world who seem to apparently oppose tolerance, kindness and unity. Well done!

Come and Meet Salena at this summer’s Byline Festival

Solidarity with all who read this and all who are finding the time, the space and the bottomless well of energy required in these trying times. I just want to say huge thank you to everyone at the Women’s Peace Council for inviting me to speak and for reminding me that we are not alone in this dream of a better present and a better future.

Thank you to Lorna Rees for my medal, I will treasure it forever. We need armour in all shapes. We need to unite. We need to exercise our courage. Courage is a muscle. And just as Fawcett said “Courage calls to courage everywhere.”

Journey to Nutopia

This weekend, Sunday June 9th, Journey to Nutopia – Come to a conversation about positive future narratives that refute the inevitability of global dystopia. We’re not giving up on this world just yet, pessimism is for lightweights –  Journey to Nutopia is at The Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone, number one in a series of Sunday evening talks, spoken word, music and conversation.

On June 9th there will be talks by: JOHN HIGGS (Author of The Future Starts Here) SALENA GODDEN (Poets and Author of Pessimism is for Lightweights) ZOE CORMIER (Author of Sex and Drug and Rock n Roll – The Science of Hedonism) with the great Richard Norris on the decks – Show starts 7pm, get tickets via The Cockpit

Salena Godden is the poet laureate for Byline Festival ‘Pessimism Is For Lightweights, 13 pieces of courage and resistance’ is published by Rough Trade Books

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