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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Rejoiners in Liverpool (A Battle Against The Wind)

Updated: Mar 26

We arrived in Liverpool the night before, since some bus-replacement-bollocks meant the quickest train journey was going to take 3 hours – and was complicated by the fact that my Dad needed to drop off his dog in Wakefield with her dog-sitter and then pick her back up en-route from Shire-Oaks where his narrow boat is moored. It wasn’t feasible to do there and back in a day. Besides which, we wanted to spend some time together, so we made a weekend of the trip.



On Saturday morning, after a quick visit to the Tate gallery, I attempted to decorate my umbrella with gold stars (my Dad repeatedly warned me that the weather forecast was up to 40mph winds – but as a typically un-pragmatic artist, I disregarded his concerns – he said he admired my optimism). I realised that sticky tape alone wasn’t going to hold them, so I bought some safety pins as well. However, I immediately encountered a problem – the stars which were connected by a very fine thread had become tangled during transportation and were almost impossible to this untangle once this has happened (Dad attempted to, before admitting defeat). Fortunately, two out of four of the 32-star long garlands, were untangled which was enough to create two rows of loops on and hanging from the umbrella. We were careful to limit the length of the hanging loop – to avoid the stars tangling in the wind. It took us about half an hour to decorate the umbrella. It wasn’t possible to fold the umbrella to carry it to the start of the march (I attempted that first but the stars, in closer proximity to each other, immediately became tangled – and it took us another 15 minutes to untangle them).


Hands down this is the cutest picture I took all day.


Nevertheless, it looked majestic, and when I took it outside - made this beautiful fluttering noise as I walked up Hanover Street. Dad didn’t walk with me, since he has a bad hip, he was meeting us at the Pier Head where the rally would take place two hours later. Unfortunately, after all that joint effort, the umbrella didn’t last ten minutes in the ferocious Liverpool winds – I didn’t even make it to the start of the march before it had turned inside-out, causing the stars to completely tangle and all the spokes had bent (it wasn’t a flimsy umbrella either). I should have listened to my Dad, shouldn’t I? It became apparent throughout the day, that it wasn’t the rain which I should have been concerned about (there as only a mild smattering throughout the day), but in fact, the freezing cold winds – not helped by the fact that I was not appropriately dressed. Again, this is my unpragmatic nature at play – opting for ‘style over substance’ – I had recently listened to a BBC Radio 4 programme about the effects of “Wind Chill” and clearly LEARNED NOTHING from it.


I think the whole Umbrella saga could be considered a 'performance artwork' - as a metaphor for my campaigning against Brexit: I started out with such enthusiasm, creativity and naive optimism -- which was obliterated by the sheer force of the opposition - leaving me laughing (slightly hysterically) at the ridiculousness of the situation.

 

The turn-out for the march wasn’t great, despite all the publicity we gained on social media, courtesy of the Twitter and Facebook trolls, my posts alone reaching 150,000 accounts – but the main impact of these posts will have probably been in right-wing echo chambers and not necessarily reaching sympathetic supporters. I think this was due to a number of factors; the poor weather forecast, the fact that it was the “National day for Rejoin” with other regional events happening across the country, the fact that the local pro EU-group Liverpoo for Europe had 'Collapsed’ and general Brexit fatigue (I can relate). Despite the low-attendance, the event was absolutely worth it for the impact we have had on social media – trolling is horrible but at least you know you are rattling cages! Additionally, some people had travelled from Wales and Scotland to join us, and it was lovely to catch up with old friends and meet some new people – everyone was lovely and we had great fun. There was also a protestor who had brought one of my favourite flags – designed and distributed by the Pulse of Europe movement which is an amalgamation of the Pride flag and the EU emblem – I love this flag not only for it’s inclusive message but the clever design which pixelates one flag into another, rather than just splicing the two together along a diagonal, as is typically done with hybrid flags.



We did a number of chants during the march, but I think my favourite has to be “You can shove your Brexit up Farage! Up Farage!” due to my childish sense of humour where these matters are concerned. We got a few cheers from passers-by, but mostly it was gawping from the good people of Liverpool – bemused as to what these raving-loony-lefty-Europhiles were doing on a freezing Saturday afternoon. The main upside to the raging winds was that the EU flags and my velvet cape looked great in the photos. Unfortunately, I had to move my bEUtterfly hair clips to my collar, since they kept getting tangled up in my hair. My make-up was also completely smudged because the wind and cold was making my eyes water.



By the time we got to the Pier Head, 20 mins before the scheduled start time to the rally, everyone was frozen – so, we headed into the Tate Gallery café to reheat and re-caffeinate ourselves before resuming our battle against the wind. Fortunately, my Dad, in his sensible wisdom, had brought my big red coat along with my guitar – which I was extremely grateful for as I was so cold I was visibly shaking and my hands had gone completely numb and were starting to turn white (I have Reynaud’s) which isn’t exactly conducive to playing the guitar. My Dad was, sensibly, wearing his big, thick coat, to which he had attached one of my bEUtterfly hair clips – he said he liked it so much that he wanted to keep it – which seemed like a fair payment for carrying all my shit around for me.



We delayed the start of the rally, to ensure that everyone had time to get a hot drink (the Tate were loving out custom) before heading back outside. We located ourselves on some steps, which were slightly more sheltered from the wind than the planned location across the road. We kicked off with a song, and I opted for my Rejoining anthem, ‘Hearts Will Rejoin’ which is a slightly melancholic song mourning the loss of ‘my rights, my privileges and my pride in our country’. Unfortunately, the organisers had been unable to acquire a music license, so all of the other musicians had been called off and my performance had to be completely unamplified – which is always difficult, since your focus then becomes on singing as loudly as possible usually compromising the tone and musical quality. The first speaker, Peter Corr, who is one of the main organisers was amazing – he’s a lorry driver and ex-army, yet smashes all the stereotypes associated with these backgrounds, with his eloquence, humour and fact-based rational arguments. He blows me away every time I hear him speak. Unfortunately, the wind nearly blowed the paper his speech was written on away, and another speaker had to hold a placard to shelter it from the wind.

 


I spoke in the middle of the rally and tried to incorporate some humour into my speech as well as leaving the audience with a sense of optimism and empowerment – I’m not entirely sure whether I succeeded, but given the freezing winds, most people just wanted to get to the pub by this point! The last speaker was a great friend of mine, Graham Hughes who proudly claims he is “the most well-travelled Scouser” and holds a Guinness World Record for travelling to every country in the world without flying – he’s always engaging and creative with his speakers and is great at rousing the crowd. This contrasted sharply with the preceding speaker, whose key message can be summarised as “The Tories are evil, Labour are fucked, the Lib Dems betrayed us and the Green party threw me out”, which was relatable, but didn’t exactly inspire hope in anyone. We finished the rally with another song, and I opted for a song which I usually get the crowd to participate with, since this would be more engaging for the audience take the burden of singing loudly from me. ‘We Won’t Go Down Without A Fight!’ is also an upbeat and empowering song, with which is great to end. Predictably, (and despite Graham lending me his gloves – I really had not made sensible clothing choices) my hands were so cold by this point ( that I was struggling to strum the guitar in time. But we had a laugh and I think people enjoyed it despite the weather.


I edited this video with my speech (in full) and clips from the march and my performance - the video is subtitled in yellow text for inclusivity. A shortened version of this video posted on Twitter currently has 16,000 views.


Then onto the most important part of the day – THE PUB! I immediately located myself by the radiator and refused to leave it until I could feel my fingers again. A lovely couple bought me a drink, and I found out that one of them was a graphic designer who made travel sketches – he showed me his sketchbook, which was full of delightful watercolours and said he would have liked to have done a sketch today but (and this will come as no surprise to anyone) - it was too cold and windy. I bought my WANGLAND flag along, to see how people would react within a supportive community – unsurprisingly, it delighted the Scotsman and offended one of the Welsh men, Gareth Williams, who said that I should have put the dragon at the top of the St. George’s cross and not the bottom, to get the priorities right. Which I thought was a fair criticism.



It was so lovely to catch up with old friends in the pub, but I ducked out after three hours - there was no point me trying to keep up with Graham - I am a total lightweight and he can drink me under the table. Besides which, my Dad had had enough and wanted to go out for dinner. I also had a long chat with my friend Cosi, who is trying to organise for my Brexiles exhibition to come to Liverpool (probably in July) after the Edinburgh show.


The Trolls Return (did they ever go away?)

 

This time it wasn’t just me, but my Dad who has been subjected to the onslaught of trolling on social media posts (I feel guilty about this) – fortunately, he is only on Facebook and never really uses it, so he doesn’t have to read all the bollocks they are writing. I did tell him that several trolls had been asking if he was Jeremy Corbyn, to which he laughed and replied, ‘I’ve heard that before.’ Currently the video we filmed together ahead of the march has 594 comments, 795 likes and has 58,000 views.



Twitter Trolling

 

I didn’t tell him about the multiple accounts asking if he was ‘Gary Glitter’. Or the delightful troll who commented, ‘I say this with a heavy heart as I’m a father of 2 girls but I bet he’d wished he’d put his bollocks in a vice’. Another just retweeted our video with the word ‘Jews’.

 

There were slightly fewer misogynistic comments this time and more insults stigmatising mental health illness – probably because the posts they were trolling were not just featuring photos of me specifically; they were either photographs of the whole group or a video I filmed with me and my Dad together. Highlights include, ‘dysgenic traitorous freaks’ (to be fair, I was quite impressed by his atypical use of impressive words), ‘Escapees from the loonatic [sic] asylum’ and ‘bed wetters’.


 

Some of the insults thrown at me specifically included, ‘silly girl’, ‘embarrassing’, ‘EU super screech’, and one wrote ‘FFS don’t sing’. On TikTok, one user with the name ‘Jesus Christ’ called me a ‘posh middle class white guardian reader Londoners champagne socialist’ and another called me a ‘rich little daddy’s girl’. Others (also stigmatising mental health) included, ‘There you are, you silly billy…. I told you what would happen if you missed your tablets!’ and I was asked ‘Are you fucking mad…’ and ‘Is he your carer MADeleina’? Another wrote, ‘Hahaha you’re looking old and fat now too’ – which to be fair to him, relative to 2019 are both true, so I guess he has a point.


 

TikTok Trolling

 

Given that one of my videos from the March for rejoin in London, last year, went viral (the definition of viral is over 100K views) due to trolling – I was expecting a backlash on my videos from Liverpool. My videos achieved 8,300 views and 4,300 views – which wasn’t as good but still respectable given my tiny following of 940 on this platform. Comments included, ‘We don’t class Scouse as English’ (which I think was supposed to be an insult? Although I wouldn’t take it as such…) and ‘so you want the euro to replace the £ ,replace road signs into KM and all the other stuff the [sic] would dump on us’ – to which my response is an enthusiastic ‘yes, please!’ Several of them called us ‘woke’, which I also don’t consider to be an insult. Another user despaired that there were ‘No police stopping them flying an illegal flag’ – I wasn’t aware that the EU flag had become an illegal symbol, but I wouldn’t be surprised given the Tories ever increasing attempts to crack down on our rights to protest. Another user commented on the video of my speech ‘I’m glad I went to school in the 70/80s. The youth of today have been brainwashed to the point of them being zombies’, despite the fact that the majority of the people attending the march were his age or older. Another wrote, ‘Can you carry on walking into the Irish sea? Just keep walking!! Don’t stop!’ when questioned on whether this was a death threat, he responded, ‘😂😂😂 what do you think?’.







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