366 Days of Kindness
A Response to the London Riots
1 Aug - 31 Aug 2012
London is my adopted city; I have lived here since 1998 and can't imagine living anywhere else.I love it, and when others criticise London and its inhabitants for being unfriendly/frightening/rude I always leap to her defense. When the riots broke out in August 2011, I was at the Edinburgh Festival with my play. I sat in a cafe off Princes Street and watched the unbelievable scenes of fires, looting, destruction. I was sad and angry; I just wanted to get home. I was worried about friends in
Tottenham and Peckham, wondering whether it was going to spread nearer to my home in Deptford and hoped my neighbours' shops would be spared the chaos. Friends in Scotland advised to wait until things had calmed down but I got the train home as planned on the 17th and arrived into an unusally quiet King's Cross.
The next day, while queuing in the Post Office, the boy in front of me, hood up, was explaining to the man behind the counter that he didn't have enough money for his stamps. Watching him, I thought that he looked just like the kind of boy everyone was still blaming for the troubles, before we all discovered that those involved represented a total cross-section of people and were just as likely to be a teacher/mum/middle aged neighbour as someone like him. On impulse I offered to pay for his stamp. I just thought it was a nice thing to do, no big deal. He said thank you, more than once and I decided in that moment to try and do a kind thing for a stranger every single day of the next year. A spontaneous decision inspired by a boy being overly grateful for a very small gesture. Since then I've kept it up.
It's been difficult, occasionally depressing but largely rewarding and inspiring. I've made new friends. I know more of my neighbours. I got over my fear of dontating blood. I've volunteered at my local charity shop. Over the course of the year I've lost half of my income like many Londoners and have had to discover more imaginative ways of being kind that don't involve money. I've read stories to children, passed on stuff I no longer use, baked and given away a lot of cakes. I hope and believe that I've been able to put smiles on a lot of faces in a year in which our city has struggled with enormous difficulties. What I have found is that London is full of kindness. While we are all quick to remember the moment in our day when someone barges past us in line, or treats us rudely, we often fail to recognize the goodness in others-- when someone holds a door open for us, helps us with our bags, or smiles at us for no obvious reason.
This exhibition is my opportunity to display the results of my year-long experiment. I hope it will inspire you and make you smile.
About Bernadette Russell
Bernadette Russell is a writer, performer and comedian who lives and works in Deptford, South East London.Together with Gareth Brierley she runs White Rabbit :they make theatre, radio, installation and cabaret, in particular the long running story telling cabaret “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” with residencies at Toynbee Studios (LONDON) and The Basement (BRIGHTON). They have also created work for National Theatre, Thames Festival and Thames Diamond Jubilee Pagaent. As a solo artist she has been commissioned by Deptford X (interactive performance installation “The Lost Property Office”) which was also performed at the National Theatre and the Freud Museum. This year she was commissioned by the Basement for the Brighton Festival and created “Somniloquy” a new show about insomnia. She is also currently working as writer and dramaturg on Wet Picnic’s new theatre show “Death and Gardening”, alongside performing in Stan Café co-production with Birmingham Rep “The Just Price of Flowers’ a new play about the current economic crisis. This year her short stories were published by Pulp Press in an anthology called Short Stack. Bernadette is resident compere at Madam Jojos for The Cheek of It! Cabaret as her alter-ego Toni Galore, and has performed in many alternative cabarets including Duckies.
Follow her on Twitter @betterussell or visit her blog www.thewhiterabbit.org.uk