Sometimes, making radical change just needs a determined person, a good idea and the solidarity of your peers.
In 2018, that person was Angela Barnes, comedian extraordinaire, the idea was the Get Home Safe Collective, and solidarity came from every layer of the comedy world.
That was the year that a young and promising Melbourne comedian, Eurydice Dixon, was walking home from a gig when she was attacked, raped and murdered. It was also the year that the #metoo movement, started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, was gaining some real traction and bringing consequences to bear on powerful, hitherto untouchable men. There was a real sense that we were at some sort of tipping point to change the world. We were; we still are. It’s 2021, and the attacks on women continue. We will not stop until the change is complete.
Change can come like a tidal wave, or it can come like a tiny pebble in a lake, sending ever-widening circles of change to a waiting shore. Angela’s idea was simple enough- let’s make it easy for women and other vulnerable people to get home safely at any time of the night, from their gigs, their work, their parties, their networking; let’s do this for the whole month of Edinburgh Fringe. Let’s create a fund for taxi fares, create an account with an Edinburgh taxi company, and ask people who need the service to register their email address with us, so we can provide them with a user code. No questions asked; it would work on an honour system and the assumption would be that people would not misuse it.
Great! The pebble has been cast into the lake. What next? Well… the admin. The tedious, unglamorous part. The physical and emotional labour of setting up a bank account, liaising with the taxi company, creating codes and PayPal and email addresses and a FaceBook page. Angela did all of the heavy-lifting there and then reached out for some help with the running of it while we were in Edinburgh. Pauline Eyre and I jumped on board. Time for donations. Angela put the call out, and the immediate and swift response came from, in the first instance, women across the comedy world. Others followed. The ripples, circling out. Before we knew it, we had enough money in the account to see us through Edinburgh Fringe (we hoped; it was the first outing for HSC; we were testing that everything worked).
Larger ripples… a dedicated FB page was created. ‘I’ll walk with you’ allows people to connect and form groups to walk home safely together. An Edinburgh Panel Award, recognising the need for HSC and acknowledging its success, with a £5000 cash prize that went straight into the HSC bank account to be available for 2019, before any fundraising needed to be done. We’re almost at the shore!
There it is. Home Safe Collective. It exists, it helps, it has made a real difference, and will continue to do so as long as we all support it.
Solidarity is magical.
We can do this.
We will do this.