Today is May Day. Also known as Labour Day and Eight Hour Day. Of course, the phrase “may day” has echoes of the famous call for help, signalling some emergency going down, but that’s only a coincidence of the date.
May Day is actually an historic celebration of strikes and struggles by workers in countries all over the world, the battles they fought for better wages and conditions that benefited those who followed. Rights and improvements that have been undermined and whittled away in recent decades.
So it that May Day is not without fresh challenges and increasing urgency as rents spiral upwards, wages stall, and inequality continues to grow while workers are ‘casualised’ and chained to what is effectively a new form of digital feudalism, a hi-tech clock constantly manacling them, second-by-second, to mind-breaking productivity, anxiety and low-wage poverty.
At Addi Road we are seeing the results of this manifest itself in terrible economic difficulties, mental health issues and a flat-out hunger that is driving people to shop at our Food Pantry. We’re working with allies on the ground in the meanwhile to also supply food hampers to various social justice organisations and community groups across the city and Sydney’s Inner West. The pandemic, as well bushfire and flood relief work, trained us in this area and we are finding our abilities as a community centre called up again as another ‘plague’ takes economic hold.
On a policy level we are working with the Australian Council of Social Service on their renewed ‘Raise The Rate’ campaign as the next Budget looms closer: “We all want the security of knowing that we’ll be supported during tough times. But right now, the rate of JobSeeker is so low that people are being forced to choose between paying their rent or buying enough food and medicine.”
You can sign an Open Letter to the Prime Minister in support of this campaign here: https://www.acoss.org.au/raise-the-rate-open-letter/
All of the above reflections relate to our desire to honour the significance of May Day today, right now in this country. And with that, the part we can all play in understanding a history of fighting for fairness and equality in our community.
For Addi Road this takes many forms – as noted – from direct political lobbying with ‘Raise The Rate’ to our food relief actions, to many of the broader connections we believe are worth making and supporting culturally.
At the Addi Road Writers’ Festival on Saturday 20 May in Marrickville we will maintain just a little of the May Day spirit in a conversation between the novelist Alan Fyfe and the poets DG Lloyd and Magdalena Ball.
This talk explores how underclass and working class life is depicted in contemporary Australian literature, from methamphetamine addictions through to regional economic struggles and the human history that lays behind the symptoms.
New literary voices exploring aesthetic and political concerns that are far from didactic, offering up wild and complex visions of an all too-often hidden country.
We’re glad to bring this forward into the light every way we can. Program on our website. See you there.
(Story: Mark Mordue, Co-Artistic Director of Addi Road Writers’ Festival 2023)
Book tickets via the link in our event
All ticket proceeds go to food relief.