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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Preparing for filming the "SICK NOTE CULTURE" music video

It had always been my intention to recycle the ‘It’s Time To Vote’ song which I wrote for the YEUF project (mobilising young voters for the EU elections), for the upcoming UK General Election in 2024 – it is why I wrote generalised lyrics that would work for both contexts. I wasn’t expecting the UK election to come so soon after the EU election, but anyway, Sunak does and Sunak wants … I am more than slightly burnt out at this point, but I wasn’t prepared to let this opportunity to speak up slide at such an important juncture in the nation’s history – so I am persevering (albeit between naps and visits to the doctors to get whatever medication I need).

Since the song lyrics are so general, and “a bit cheese” as my colleague put it – I didn’t have a clear idea for the messaging and visual identity of the music video…. Until, the “Sick Note Culture” overhaul of the benefits system announcement. I have always been appalled by the Tories systematic targeting of the most vulnerable minorities in society, but this time it felt personal. It’s not that I don’t think the cruelty against refugees and the Trans community aren’t equally as abhorrent, but I am a strong believer that the most powerful political statements come from an “authentic” voice, so it made sense to focus on an issue which has directly affected me. I also thought the ridiculous nature of the “Sick Note Culture” statement was ripe for ridicule and a bit of punk attitude which maybe wouldn’t be as appropriately sensitive for the abuse we have witnessed of other minority groups.


I had made a “sick note” jacket and jewellery (if it’s a “culture” – we should have clothes and accessories, right?), and booked to have photographs taken of me modelling it at the CSM Kings Cross photo booth. I turned these photos into a reel for social media with the text “VOTE CRUELTY OUT! General election 4th July!’ – I had some great feedback, including comments; ‘This is incredible’ and ‘This jacket is EVERYTHING!’. Then, my friend, actor and film-maker, Thom Jackson-Wood who accompanied us on the Bollocks to Brexit bus tour in 2019 to make his documentary ‘A Peace of Europe’ messaged me asking if I would consider making him a jacket which he could wear to Film Festivals.

He offered to pay me to make one for him, but I had a better idea: I asked him if he would consider wearing the jacket for a general election music video, if I made it for free. And to my delight, he agreed! My idea for the music video, besides posing outside the Palace of Westminster in the jackets with placards reading; “VOTE CRUELTY OUT!” and (Thom’s choice of messaging) “I AM CHRONICALLY SICK – OF THE TORIES!”, was to shred photographs of the Conservative Party politicians (and Nigel Farage for good measure).

So, my first job was to source a paper shredder which is portable but wide enough to shred an A4 sheet (without folding so the full image would be visible); after extensive research, I found two options which could be delivered in time; a hand-operated and a battery-operated shredder. I did a test run of both, printing out two photos; one of Farage and one of Sunak – and filmed both of them going through the shredders. I turned both of these videos into reels with music and text for Tiktok and was alarmed to discover the Farage video, in particular, inciting a wave of rabid Reform trolls – some of which I am pretty sure are bots – others seem to be genuine humans who are hero worshipping Farage. It was absurd and concerning.


I love that my Dad comments on my Facebook page with MY.THOUGHTS.EXACTLY.


It was important that I did this “test’ because I discovered that the 80gsm paper flopped over as it went through the shredder, obscuring the image – so, I ordered some thicker 160 gsm to use for the music video. I also realised from the footage that the hand-held shredder if more “clunky” than the battery-powered one – I think we will still use both since we might be able to create some visual drama, through the physical exertion – however, we will probably film most of the shredding with the smoother, battery-operated shredder.

The next job was collating all the photographs of Tory MPs to print out… This was a thankless task. There is nothing I would like to do less than spending hours of my time staring at images of obnoxiously cruel power-crazy elites … but art requires many sacrifices. I went onto the UK parliament website and systematically reviewed every currently serving MP – choosing the worst offenders (and Boris Johnson, for good measure) to feature in the music video. I then Google image searched high-res photos (which could be printed at a decent quality at A4 size) of each MP and compiled them into a pdf ready for printing – this took a good few hours, and I was glad when it was over.

Then I turned to creating Thom’s “sick note” jacket. I asked him to order a white, denim jacket in his size – since I already had the other materials (paint, felt, polymer clay, etc.) which I needed. The process was easier this time, since I was copying the design from the jacket I had made for myself. Although, we made a slight revision to the design – since Thom’s wheelchair seat would obscure his lower back – the felt “sick note” needed to be located higher up his back, under the collar of the shirt. The last part of the job was super-gluing the polymer-clay “pill” buttons on – and, of course I got superglue on my fingers – I always do!

Then came creating the placards. I started off with “VOTE CRUELTY OUT” accompanied by the Tory party logo going into the bin. However,  wasn’t super happy with how this placard turned out in terms of its impactfulness. So, I created another one, to glue to the other side which read simply “CRUELTY is NOT a SOLUTION” – the fact that this even needs to be said makes me slightly angry. Then I made a placard for Thom, with his chosen message; “I AM CHRONICALLY SICK OF THE TORIES”.

Boudicca supervising my placard making...

All of that done, I addressed the finishing touches; dying my hair multicoloured to match the colourfulness of the jacket and getting my union jack flag out of the roof. I realised that I because I had to take so much stuff down to London (and that I would also be returning with the bag full of shreds), that I would need to take my large suitcase to transport everything. The plan is for my Dad to film me burning the shreds after I bring them back up to Sheffield – we’ll see if I get round to that or not.


I also had to visit the GP today to sort out my chronic back pain – turns out I have torn a very small muscle in my ribs from coughing too much (due to the pneumonia which I am still recovering from). So, I’m probably not in the fittest state to handle tomorrow, but there isn’t really an option to post-pone at this point so I am going to attempt to power through the pain. Thankfully the GP told me what pain killers and gel to buy to help… And referred me for a chest X-ray in case my cough hasn’t gone in two weeks. It’s also fortunate that I don’t need to perform live for the music video – only mouthing to lip sync – since I can’t actually sing at the moment either!   


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