Friday, 9 December 2016

I, Helen Dearnley

Last month I was teaching in my other job - the Kickstarter campaign could've prevented this if it'd been funded, but obviously no one can illustrate a graphic novel without food, shelter, heat or water, and as you all know, Cloudbusting is based on real experiences with the DWP as a graduate and single parent in 2008.

After a busy week, I finally found time to go to the cinema and see the current Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake.
The film has been criticised by ex-Work And Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith (there are two i's in his Iain, I usually can't be bothered with his second ego!) as being not real. So I would like to take time now to explain what is and isn't real in Cloudbusting as illustrated.

Back in 2013, I illustrated a series of images for Cloudbusting that is entitled "Jobkill".
The illustrations are slightly surreal, to reflect the surreal events that occurred. They borrow from references such as Andrzej Klimowski's "The Depository", and the title is from Hariton Pushwagner's Soft City

However, the circumstances are real.

I had graduated from University, I am a single parent, I have two sons from a previous bad relationship.

I was at that time claiming Income Support as a lone parent. I had made the effort to achieve a degree in the hope of gaining a higher paid career and that the work I produced would be of a higher quality, but the support that I'd previously found very good, albeit never good enough to actually provide paid graduate jobs in the arts, was, as someone else has said in a Youtube blog about their experiences working in a Jobcentre, been suddenly turned into the Stanley Milgram experiment from 2010 onwards when the Coalition happened.
Note to Brexit supporters: I do not blame immigrants for this, I blame the government.

The Jobcentre were now lowering the age of the youngest child as a condition that I should look for work. Two facts here contradicted each other. One was that I'd been looking for work since I became a lone parent anyway, that was why I did a degree, the second is that whilst doing my degree, I was paying for childcare, and when I wasn't paying for childcare, I was doing childcare. On the pittance that was Income Support and my student loan, which was less than today's student loan.

As a lone parent, I was being paid £70 per week to keep two children alive. They are not dead, and I was doing the childcare of two parents at once.

Our gaslighting landlord revenge evicted us for complaining about his poor property maintenance. 

My Dad had suddenly  passed away just before Christmas 2009.

My eldest was in his G.C.S.E. year, and was later diagnosed with depression.

My youngest son was also bullied at school, and the headteacher handled it very poorly. She is the evil Mary Poppins character illustrated here. 

All of these events could have been avoided in one way or another. 

In I, Daniel Blake, Dan makes a few errors, which is easy to do when the Jobcentre are on your back. 
One is that he makes wooden mobiles for Katie's daughter from some wood given to him from his previous employer - donated materials and handcrafted products that he could've started up a home business making crafts and selling. 
But he is working, when his doctor said he shouldn't work.

The same with his graffiti outside the Jobcentre - he declares it as art. It is not art, as he wasn't paid to do it, and he was arrested. Remember, that actual artists would be treated exactly the same way by the Jobcentre, and by the Arts Council alike.

What I thought would happen in the film was that he would move in with Katie and the kids to resolve the bedroom tax issue. 

I also thought at the end, when he finally got his appeal date, he would be successful, but for those that haven't seen it, I won't ruin the ending.

I hope to continue working on Cloudbusting in 2017. I do not expect any further financial problems, bureaucracy, loss of income, cuts to Working Tax Credits, or exploitation of any kind to interfere with it. 

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