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Is Northampton ready for change?

Cavan McLaughlin introduces a new kind of night out which brings the outsiders in…

Change is a funny thing. Fear (or at least serious dislike) of change seems rife in humanity. Maybe it is simply rooted in a fear of our own mortality, but change is clearly often judged to be — a very bad thing.

Neophobia, or a fear of the new, is everywhere in nature and the human animal is no different it seems. When we do hear a rallying cry for change, it’s often coming from those that choose to contradict the forward march of progress, demanding instead, to change things “back the way they were”.

 In case you hadn’t noticed, fear of change, or the desire for regressive change, is a hot topic right now. Arguably, Brexit, Trump (Make America Great Again?), protectionism, the rise of the alt-right, all manner of immigration anxieties, and even, general fears about ever rapidly emerging new technologies, are rooted in the narrative that everything was ‘better’ in some kind of lost and romanticised idyllic past, whilst “in this day and age”, everything is going to hell in a handcart. And it’s not hard to understand why so many people buy into those sort of narratives. Change is difficult. And if we resist it (which even those among us that claim to love change, often do) it is, at best, uncomfortable and perplexing. Change is not an easy thing. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to change myself for the better — let alone change society. Familiar is easy. Better the devil you know. We all want an easy life, after all. So why on earth would anyone dedicate their life to change: to ‘transition’? Well, as a genuinely wise man once said (that man would be the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus): “change is the only constant in life.” Difficult or not, this is the only game in play. We are all changing one way or the other, it seems somewhat sensible to try any welcome it, and maybe even — here’s a crazy thought — try and change for the better. Maybe that is naively optimistic, but I am OK with that.

Boundaries bring us safety and security. Humankind build walls and towers to make sure what we know and love, in here, is kept safe from the unknown ‘others’, out there. I am an academic, and for all academia’s protestations about a certain US-Mexico border wall, we are not entirely guilt-free of building walls ourselves. The accusation of the ivory tower, is far from an unfair criticism, and we would do well to make sure we are following our own advice about openness and integration. So that is exactly what myself, and like-minded colleagues, intend to do.

Alan Moore and Cavan McLaughlin at Trans States

I recently organised a successful conference at the University of Northampton, that focused on many of these very themes. It was called Trans- States: the art of crossing over and although we did our best to avoid elitist academic navel-gazing, by welcoming the general public and participants from outside academia, even taking the somewhat radical position (in academia) of accepting applicants from any background, with no minimum education levels — it was still held, in a university. We clearly had to go farther yet, to escape the ivory tower. And so that is exactly what we plan to do.  Out of the ivory tower and down the road to the pub. Well, a nightclub.

 So, we are launching a new event night called Transition, where we aim to bring our discussions about innovative academic research, around methods of realising progressive change, into the wider community. We are a part of that wider community and that is exactly where this conversation should be taking place. But, we also understand people’s need to feel safe and secure… so Transition plans to be a radically inclusive, safe, shared, creative, recreational space for everyone. We aim to be tolerant of everything — except intolerance.

The event name, Transition, describes this process of changing from one state or condition to another, and so each of our events will have a theme around a form of transitioning, or an area in which transition is sorely needed. We hope to tackle important issues such as gender, feminism, identity and power. Northampton’s very own Alan Moore will be on hand on one of our nights, to talk about magic (and if you don’t see how magic fits into this discussion, perhaps you haven’t read about the Pepe the Frog ‘Great Meme War’). 

We really hope that this event will provide a new forum in Northampton devoted to the idea of bringing together people interested in embracing change, for the better. Where they can socialise and network and share ideas about how such change can happen. And we are more interested in people trying to change themselves for the better, than those who think that changing society is about lecturing others on what they ‘should’ be doing. Like I said, tolerance is at the heart of this. I don’t think it is too controversial to say that we could all do with a bit more tolerance right now.

So, we will be particularly welcoming those that that have suffered intolerance in the past. We will be welcoming the queer community, and also anyone who self-identify as ‘others’, in any sense. Most importantly, we will be open to anyone who embraces openness and tolerance themselves.

If you think you’d like to enjoy some free vegan and vegetarian food, live music, dancing, art exhibitions, film screenings, public speaking, and the sharing of ideas — all crowned by a desire to welcome positive change for yourself and for the wider community — then come along to The Underground, Phoenix Bar, on Thursday nights for Transition, where our doors will be most definitely: open.




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