How I got here

Harpy Marx Louise Whittle

Photo by Louise Whittle

I’ve been campaigning about all sorts of things since as far back as I can remember, fighting not only my own corner but the corners of others I believed deserved support. The first times I can remember getting involved was helping my mother paint placards for a series of protests over the death of a young man killed in Upper Street, Islington, and being taken to Vietnam War demonstrations in Grosvenor Square, so I guess it’s in my blood.

I’d been frustrated by the absence of media engagement from the left in the late 1990s, despite their ability to mount some pretty interesting events and protests which I felt were a vital part of democratic life in Britain. Fresh from enjoying a degree of success as the first British Chinese comedienne to appear on television (Fist Of Fun 1996) and a solo show that attracted a nice chunk of media attention (Suzy Wrong Human Cannon), I conducted an experiment to see if it was indeed true that the media were determined to ignore what a swathe of British society were up to, and began promoting various left events. I soon realised it was possible to find tiny cracks in the barriers and work at them until the gatekeepers had to let us in. All it took was pounding your head against the wall so hard it bled. Oh, and getting interesting information out to stressed, overworked journalists.

My first major actions came swiftly one after the other with three major national campaigns: the London Socialist Alliance running in the London mayoral election in 2000; The Socialist Alliance in the 2001 general election, and the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) campaign in 2001, when I had to firefight an attempt to scapegoat the UK Chinese community for the outbreak. It was hard work, but I took to it with a sense of challenge and proved it could be done.

But the biggie was the anti-war movement press campaign, which I established and ran in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. CND, normally the leading campaign group, had largely disappeared from the fray since the London demonstrations in the aftermath of the 911 attack on the World Trade Towers, leaving a dangerous vacuum. Believing that opposition to an impending war needed a coherent and cohesive voice in order to be effective, I managed to propel the Stop The War Coalition (STWC) into the public eye from years of typical left obscurity since being set up by Paul Foot and others in the 1990s.

I also handled the national publicity for Paul Foot when he stood for the Socialist Alliance in the 2001 general election. Since then I have promoted authors whose work I admire including the awesome Greg Palast (The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) and the devastatingly smart Loretta Napoleoni (Modern Jihad: Tracing the dollars behind the terror networks).

I’m also an occasional TV and radio pundit on China matters, speaking on issues as diverse as representations in the media and the environment.

I’m currently promoting legendary writer Charles Shaar Murray and his many talents including his Hothouse Project writing course which is about to start in September. Do check it out and maybe see you there.

London Socialist Alliance 2000 [More to come]
Socialist Alliance 2001 [More to come]
Foot and Mouth Disease smear campaign 2001
Anti-war campaign 2001 – 2003 [More to come]

Photo by Louise Whittle

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