Artists Against TTIP and the social importance of PR
At tpr, it's really important for us to work on projects that make a difference and we feel very lucky when we have the opportunity to share powerful messages that help to influence real political change.
Last year, for example, we worked on a multi-layered media campaign around classical pianist James Rhodes' two-part Channel 4 series Don't Stop The Music, which highlighted the decline of musical education in primary schools. Alongside a nationwide 'instrument amnesty' in partnership with Oxfam shops across the country, we worked on a wider political campaign sparked by the project. This culminated in an open letter to the Government signed by over 25 highly respected names in music and education and a Change.org petition, signed by over 75,000 member of the public. Interest was enormous and helped influence mainstream audiences, galvinising political opinion and debate. It was really exciting to be a part of this.
Since 2009, we've also been working on Callum Macrae's Emmy and Nobel-nominated documentary film No Fire Zone. The product of a three-year investigation, the film documents the horrific human rights abuses committed in the closing weeks of civil war in Sri Lanka in 2009. We're extremely proud to have managed an ongoing UK and international news and current affairs press campaign for No Fire Zone, which has raised huge international awareness and even helped to play a key role in convincing the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014 to launch a major international war crimes investigation into the atrocities.
We're passionate about all the projects we're part of at the moment too, exploring social issues from disability to mental illness. These include Channel 4's award-winning observational series Born to be Different – which will be broadcast on Tuesday March – and the Dragon Café, the UK's first 'mental health café' and creative space open every Monday just opposite Borough Market, devised and delivered by Mental Fight Club. You can read Christina Patterson's article for the Guardian if you'd like to know more about this incredible project where people with mental illness can thrive in places they call their own.
We're also delighted to have just started working with Artists Against TTIP, an inspiring project established by theatre director Carrie Cracknell and her brother Jon Cracknell, and backed by some of the UK's top talent, including Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Ruth Wilson, Lily Cole, Alison Goldfrapp and Vivienne Westwood (see the current list of artists involved with the campaign here).
The aim of Artists Against TTIP is to raise awareness of the threats posed by the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the free trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated between the European Union and the USA. The stated goal of TTIP is to reduce "barriers to trade" between the EU and US.
If you haven't heard about it before, you'll be shocked to hear that, in practice, TTIP would lead to a huge transfer of power from democratically elected governments to large corporations. The impact on public health, the environment, public service provision, financial regulation, labour standards and social protections are profound.
For example, if TTIP is passed, things that are now banned in the EU – like American beef that has been reared with growth hormones (that we know are carcinogenic) will be allowed onto our supermarket shelves. And overnight governments will lose their ability to change their mind about privatisation – once a public service has been privatised, they will never be allowed to take it back into the public sector again. On top of this, research produced for the European Commission estimates that TTIP will lead to the loss of one million jobs. But that's not all… here are six other reasons why you should be scared of TTIP, summarised in an enlightening Independent article.
It's fantastic to be working on part of a wider European movement, especially with War on War and Global Justice Now. But one of the challenges is to demonstrate, in concrete terms, how something as abstract as a trade treaty can impact on our everyday lives. TTIP is a boring acronym. And trade agreements themselves are highly technical and boring. And for some, even democracy has started to feel boring and alienating and pointless.
But this fight against TTIP isn't boring. It is fundamental. It is about the kind of world we want to live in. About making sure that our world isn't run on behalf of big businesses – that instead it is a world in which our families, our social services, our precious natural environment and our democracies can thrive.
If you'd like to know more about TTIP, you might enjoy reading Carrie Cracknell's recent article for the Huffington Post, or watching this video – starring Ruth Wilson, Tobias Menzies, Andrew Scott, Katherine Parkinson, Juliet Stevenson and designer Vivienne Westwood. You can also follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. If you'd like to take direct action, you can sign the self-organized European Citizens Initiative petition to say no to TTIP.