BALTIC Activism Art Project - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Thought-provoking art has been and will always be a catalyst for postive change. That is what believe, and continued to prove at Ctrl.Alt.Shift with this collaborative project with Newcastle's BALTIC:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ Baltic
On Friday, Ctrl.Alt.Shift hit the BALTIC to cast an eye over the art created by Graham Hudson, Matthew Stone and 12 students and recent graduates from Newcastle University's LifeWorkArt programme, around conflict.

Having been set the challenge by Ctrl.Alt.Shift and BALTIC, Newcastle University's LifeWorkArt programme have embarked on a five month project working with high-profile artists and emerging talent from the contemporary art scene. Through workshops, seminars and specialist talks they have gained insight into extreme conflict in Colombia and begun a creative journey which has produced a challenging new exhibition at BALTIC, which will run for six weeks.

As well as the Ctrl.Alt.Shift team, ambassador David Shrigley, mentors T-Magic, Benjamin Wachenje, Matthew Stone and 350 art fans were in attendance at the launch. Held in the Riverside Bar area, over-looking the river Tyne, music was supplied by Road to Rimini...

Read the full article here

Newcastle Jesmond Festival Mural - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Newcastle, Newcastle, oh how I do love Newcastle! I really do love the land of the Geordies. From my bubble of London, I quickly learnt that Ant, Dec and Cheryl Cole are small, very small, parts of this bustling city. I think a drastic transition from the hectic capital I call my home (especially in East London, where police sirens are that familiar sound), to Preston's Central Lancashire Uni, was a bit of a wrong impression of what I could find northbound. 4 days working in around Newcastle for the Jesmond Festival was enough to leave me craving another Quayside session. I'll be back for more! Here's the Jesmond review for Ctrl.Alt.Shift online:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ The Jesmond Festival
Ctrl.Alt.Shift hit the ground at this year's Jesmond Community Festival in Newcastle. In the heavily-student populated region, we gathered up the foot soldiers to indicate how young people are ready and willing to play a big part in global development.

On the opening day, Saturday March 14th, Ctrl.Alt.Shift kicked off with a 'Hand in Hand' mural stunt just outside Jesmond Methodist Church. A graffed-up banner flew high like a beacon luring in bypassers to come and plant their painted hands on the mural. It got messy, as students and young people alike (either on their way to the library or pub) stopped to get involved in the Art Attack spectacle.

Project co-ordinator Anita Morais said: "The idea of this project is to raise the profile of young people in the community, so they may follow up and want to be part of the global community. It's about different people working together in a partnership, and the mural is a pledge for young adults to work 'Hand in Hand' alongside their neighbours, globally and locally".

This colourful stunt was just a starting point for future events, a sign to show how young people will continue to carry the torch of justice; and so the mural was appropriately followed on by a Ctrl.Alt.Shift In:Justice workshop on Monday night. Taking place in Jesmond Methodist Church, the event welcomed young people to tackle the issues of HIV stigma, gender power and climate change though drama workshops and discussion...

Read the full article here


Stop The Rape & War In DRCongo Protests - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

The sooner the war and rape stops in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sooner the millions involved in the African civil war who have died, been pillaged, ravaged, and lost loved ones, can live a progressive future. It's been devastating for way too long, a situation so uncontrollable and incomprehensible - that those of the DRC nation now living here are protesting, marching and demanding support from our government, and resistance from the Rwandan government. Here's the latest in my report for Ctrl.Alt.Shift:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ Fight for DRCongo
There have been a number of protests this week by a Congolese contingent who have joined together to send a strong message to the UK public - they state we are just as responsible for the victims of the war in Africa if we do not stand up and demand change. Let me explain before you turn a blind eye...

On Saturday March 7, the day before International Women's Day, they arrived outside the Rwandan Embassy in London with placards stating "Stop the Rape!" to demand justice for the Congolese women raped and killed in the war - an ongoing conflict which has seen millions of Africans killed since 1996.

A few days later in Oxford, on Wednesday March 11, they planned to 'welcome' Rwandan President Paul Kagame with the clear cutthroat message of "Stop Terrorist Kagame!" Kagame was merely visiting Oxford Union, but wouldn't have been prepared for a group of passionate, uncompromising protestors looking to expose him as an instigator in the genocidal war - as he represents a Rwandan nation that has pillaged and raped Congo whilst occupying the eastern regions of the country over the past couple of years.

The actions of the outspoken group, consisting of faction Mbongwana (meaning 'change') and the Uhuru Movement, were made to call for a World Tribunal for Reparations to Africa and African people to indict all responsible for imperialist crimes against the Congolese people. And according to organiser Papy Makola, the people of the UK have just as much blood on their hands if we remain naïve as to our country's influence, and if we continue to use the companies who exploit the lives of the Congolese people every day, without ever really getting their hands too dirty...

Read the full article here


How Would You Punish A Sex Trafficker? - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

This survey below was conducted for Ctrl.Alt.Shift, following a Moldovan sex trafficking news story; seeing four girls receive around £600,000 in compensation from the scum that kidnapped, drugged and sold their bodies for sex with strangers (aka equally scum). Consider their position, and would that wod of cash suffice, or do we need to go medieval and get out the torture devices...? Here's the vox pop:

Vox Pops: Justice for Sex Slaves
Recently, four Moldovan sex slaves won more than £600,000 in compensation from their captors in a British legal battle.

The facts: The women were tricked into coming into London after being offered jobs as dancers. They arrived all shiny happy people, but were instantly told by a gang that they had been bought for £20,000 and would have to earn at least £1000 each day through charging customers £50 for a 15-minute session of unprotected sex - refusals and defiance would result in fines and further punishment. The women hustled 24/7. In addition, their traffickers Gavril Dulghieru and his wife Tamara, served the women one miniscule meal a day and dropped them with £300 in rental charge for disgusting rooms.

The result: Mr Justice Treacy awarded each of the sex-slave victims more than £100,000 for their traumatic ordeal. Disgraced Tamara has been banged up five years, whilst her husband will enjoy nine years behind bars for conspiracy to traffic in prostitution and sexual exploitation.

My verdict: You lucky lucky girls...

Of course, this is just in comparison with sex slaves prevalent and suffering in regions such as India, Thailand and South Africa - rarely do they seek nor see justice. In South Africa alone, it has been reported that a large percentage of the 900,000 people smuggled across its borders are used as sex slaves - it comes as no surprise then that the South African government estimate that there are over 50,000 women raped in the country each year. The saddest thing remains that there is currently no anti-sex trafficking law to punish the pimps, and give the women their justice and respect. That's what makes the four Moldovan women lucky.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift took this issue to the streets. We put the law in the hands of the public, testing their leniency on the subject of sex trafficking, and their knowledge of dire conditions in other parts of the world. We asked:

How much compensation would you expect from being a victim of sex slavery?
What punishment would you want put upon your pimps?
Did you know there is currently no law against sex trafficking in South Africa?(How does that make you feel?)
And consider you are the law...how do you stop the problem of sex trafficking?

Parveen, 21:
"Compensation? I wouldn't want compensation, I would want justice - I wouldn't want it dragged through the courts either, the only thing that would make me feel better is if the culprits were either castrated or given a lethal injection. In certain countries it's shocking to think that there are no laws in place, when people are being exploited there should always be some sort of deterrent to stop things like this happening. While I can't think of a solution, I think if the women who are being targeted by sex traffickers were given opportunities, so they didn't need to turn to dodgy people for a better future, then there wouldn't be as much of a problem, along with harsher deterrents for the criminals, who should get their fingers cut off!"

Read the full article and the rest of the comments here


'50 Million Missing' In India Stunt - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Definitely one of the most fun jobs I've done for Ctrl.Alt.Shift yet. We essentially tried to crash a champagne, sparkly, flash as you can get banker's party - to demand justice and a better way for the millions of women living, and dying in the impoverished shadows of India (a country sharing business with the big banks).

To emphasise on the deadbound situation of those voiceless and missing, we dressed up in black gowns and ghost masks as a mark of respect (it was also just a giggle to see our targets stagger at the sight). Read, and watch on:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ 50 Million Missing Women
When the feds stopped me and my mate before even reaching London's Guildhall, I was thinking damn! Things are really going to get crazy today...

It was an ungodly 8am start for Ctrl.Alt.Shifters, who congregated at St. Paul's station to prep for our '50 Million Women Missing' demonstration. Most of the 50-strong group got geared up in black gowns and ghostly masks; the purpose was to represent the millions of women in India with no voice, no say, being unjustly killed off, either through disputed dowries, or neglect and starvation from birth - seeing as many baby girls are considered an economic burden in India.

Once ready, we marched with banner flying high towards the Great Hall at Guildhall to interrupt a lush champagne breakfast where some of the most successful women in the city were sitting down to enjoy their wealth and sip Cristal - we came as a youth movement to remind them of the missing women of India, especially the reps from Barclays and Credit Suisse (both major players in India) whose companies should be pushing the Indian government to be held accountable for their nation's lost females, a system that needs to enforce existing laws that in turn might actually protect Indian women, as oppose to forgetting those getting beaten, murdered and buried without a whisper...

Read the full article here


The Power Of Flashmobbing - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

Yep, that's my ugly, shameless mug doing the promotional vid for our Ctrl.Alt.Shift Fairtrade banana campaign. Fun times! After our crazy banana flashmob attack on Tescos (exposing their unfair banana trade), I took to the streets of London with Ctrl.Alt.Shift to throw the concept of flashmobbing to the people. Is to something cool? Something powerful, effective and memorable? Or just plane stupid...? Here's the response:

Vox Pops: Flashmobbing
Ctrl.Alt.Shift rustled some feathers this week, invading the premises of Tesco outlets around the country with a synchronised Fairtrade banana flashmob - the mission was to expose how the shameless economic giants refuse to sell solely fair trade bananas.

With all the ruckus of Ctrl.Alt.Shifters simultaneously running around handing out Sainbury's Fairtrade bananas to Tesco's unsuspecting customers, it was stunt that delivered a hard laugh and an even harder message, as each Fairtrade banana was tagged with: "Tesco's banana workers are paid less than half a living wage. Don't buy bananas unless they're Fairtrade."

Now we hope the lasting impact of the flashmob will be that more and more people will boycott unfair trade products – but was it the most rational and effective way of making a statement?

The popularity of flashmobs is growing - there are at least 500 Facebook groups for flashmobs, but not everyone is a fan. Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter of the British Transport Police (BTP) called flashmobsters "inconsiderate to commuters." This follows the closure of Liverpool Street Station in February this year, when about 12,000 people took part in a Facebook-driven flashmob event. Now the BTP are tracking FB groups in hopes to shut flashmobs down in advance... so you people best keep it on the d-low.

A great inconvenience they say. Then again, consider the impact of the T-Mobile dance flashmob, again in Liverpool Street that got bypassers and viewers alike up and body-popping along with the 1000 dancers shaking their thang. Or recall the 4000 people who turned up for the silent rave flashmob in Victoria station who will remember it as a fun and crazy day. But where do our youth stand on the matter of flashmob fever?

We took to the streets to ask the following questions:

Do flashmobs work?
Are they the best way for our disgruntled youth to get their point across?
What's more important to consider, the inconvenience to others caught in the commotion, the fun, or the cause of the flashmob? (And should police be shutting them down?)
Would you ever take part in a flashmob (such as Ctrl.lt.Shift's banana stunt)?

Chris, 21:
"There's no real point in flashmobs is there? I don't understand what they achieve, although I suppose it depends on the cause behind the flashmob, but a lot of them are not based on anything - it's just random nothingness. I think they can be a good way of getting our youth to do something, if you can get them to do something positive while still making it fun you're on to a winner. The cause is surely the most important part of the flashmob, but I suppose fun and originality both play a part in getting the point across to people who may not always be as interested. I don't think the police should be able to lock them off, it's freedom of speech. And sure, I would be happy to take part in a flashmob with Ctrl.Alt.Shift."

Read the full article with all the other comments here


National Protest Against Tesco's Unfair Trade - Ctrl.Alt.Shift

This was manic - a simultaneous invasion of Tesco outlets across the country to; protest and raise awareness that they do not give their banana farmers in developing nations a fair deal (i.e. they pay Ghanaian farmers pittance in comparison with the mass profit they swallow up each year). In London, I headed down with Ctrl.Alt.Shift to literally launch an offensive, wondering through the store handing out the fairer option (actual Fairtrade bananas - thank you Sainsbury's!), before tossing a few leftover ones at the Tesco's sign outside for a photo-finish. A glorious piece of activism:

Ctrl.Alt.Shift @ Tescos Fairtrade Banana Protest
Today we were joined by a nationwide army of Ctrl.Alt.Shift volunteers, tooled up with Fairtrade bananas, with our sights set on Tesco stores around the country in a flashmob protest against the fact that the retail giants disgracefully still sell non-fair trade bananas.

The aim was to get as many heads down to their local Tesco store, once they arrived they synchronised their watches with the other Ctrl.Alt.Shifters and set an alarm for 1pm. When the alarms belled, everyone had to pull out their Ctrl.Alt.Shift-branded Fairtrade banana and speak into it like a phone (Dom Joly style), before passing them on to unsuspecting Tesco customers, leaving them baffled, holding a banana tagged with a load of facts about why non fair trade products are wrong and should be banned from supermarkets. Planned like a true military operation, our group of foot soldiers were determined to make an impact on the people in and around the shameless Tesco outlets.

Just to fill you in, non-fair trade bananas are grown by plantation workers in developing countries, often getting paid under $2 a day - that's half their standard living wage as a result of the supermarket price wars that drive the prices of bananas to a pittance, all to satisfy you, the consumer. In 2007 supermarkets such as Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer all agreed to stop selling non-fair trade bananas, recognising that the sale of these products have direct implications on the poverty that the plantation workers suffer. However, the country's leading supermarket chain Tesco refused to follow suit and decided to continue to sell these products regardless of the conditions and measly pay that the workers receive.

The flashmobbers escaped the London demonstration without being tackled by Tesco but protests around the country didn't go down as smoothly, with Ctrl.Alt.Shift volunteers being escorted off the premises in Bristol, Brighton, Nottingham and Leeds by security...

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