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A world of difference – Blackpool Artists calling for democracy in Myanmar

You wake up. You reach for your phone. You scroll aimlessly through various media, before peeling yourself out of bed for another tedious day of work and general chit-chat. Day after day. It’s become a little mundane after a year of lockdown, hasn’t it?

But what if you didn’t have that? What if you couldn’t instantly check and see which festival has optimistically announced the release of tickets in the distant, glorious future of faces free of coverings? What if you couldn’t even challenge your right to this ‘privilege’; to access the internet, to have your vote upheld, to have your voice heard at any given moment of the day- without being shot, maimed, killed?

The people of Myanmar know what this feels like only too well. On 1st February 2021 the military seized control following the landslide victory of the NLD and declared a year-long state of emergency. In their more moderate attempts to control the mass protests against the coup, the military has imposed 5 internet blackouts, curfews, and limited gatherings. Where this fails to stop the people of Myanmar trying to exercise their human right to free speech and peaceful protest, the military has turned to more extreme methods of persuasion: water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition. So far over 230 people have lost their lives according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. Whilst we in the west quickly object to the slightest whiff of government control, quick to cry that we oppose the dictatorial handling of the COVID crisis, the situation in Myanmar stands as a stark reminder of the vast discrepancies in the quality of life that we enjoy on earth at this moment in time.

Exhausted as we are by all the change and turmoil in our own lives during the past 12 months, we may protest but what has this got to do with me? But there is no real freedom unless there is freedom for all. Whilst we may be tempted to look away from the plight of people so far removed from our own reality, we must try to remember that we must raise our voices to help those who cannot.

So how can you help?

Touched by his personal connection to the crisis, local designer Daniel Astbury is teaming up with the Blackpool based and award-winning screen-print artist Robin Ross to raise funds for the people of Myanmar through design. Having lived for many years in Myanmar setting up an ethical retail business with his partner, Daniel made the difficult decision to leave at the start of last year’s COVID crisis to return to Blackpool and care for family in ill health. Little did he (or any of us) expect to still be dealing with lockdown a year later with a very scant chance of returning. The military coup in February added further distaste to an already bitter pill to swallow. No longer simply unable to return, he now had to see the country he had grown to love and make his home torn apart; his friends’ and colleagues’ lives thrown into turmoil and at real risk of danger.

Together we have crafted a screenprint as a tribute to the peaceful protesters and to support the CDM. The artwork features pictures of our friends protesting and the three- finger salute with the slogan Disobey in Burmese.

The money raised will go directly to local organisers who will decide how best to use it locally; supporting staff who are boycotting work under the military and medical costs for those protesting. The designs have been co-created with friends in Mandalay using images of peaceful protestors, including the We Want Democracy street murals popping up across Myanmar. These prints are going on sale on: https://www.whow.me/cdm/

Blackpool-based screen printer Robin Ross kindly donated his time in the studio to print these limited editions. Money raised goes directly to CDM organisers.
"Our friends in Mandalay were using screenprinting as one way to protest. They can no longer do so as they must protect themselves from teargas, brutal beating and bullets. Now they are working on making their own shields and protective equipment as the violence from the police escalates."

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