Desperation Bingo // Creative Electric

It is brave to incorporate a game of chance like bingo within a show that has a serious message, but Creative Electric manage it well with a pair of camp, confident hosts. Eyes down, dabbers ready... The audience is playing, but there are also three 'contestants' who respond to each called number with a fact about themselves based on that number. It might be something that happened when they were that age, or something they bought for that amount of money, or the number of years they've been taking medication to treat their anxiety.

The audience can win prizes in the first two rounds, even as the information we learn about the contestants' characters gets more personal and more desperate. By the third round, it is clear that the point is to rage at the deadly impacts of the current government's austerity policies in the UK. A case here in Leith is mentioned, in which a local man died by suicide and the coroner said the trigger had been the decision of the Department of Work and Pensions to rule him fit for work, in spite of contrary assessments by his GP and psychologists.

Unlike Kaleider's Money, seen in Edinburgh in 2015, which asked the audience to agree on how to spend a pot of money, Desperation Bingo culminates in the opportunity for one audience member to win £82. The prize is the weekly benefits of the final contestant's mother, which she is at risk of losing now that her Disability Living Allowance has been replaced by an opportunity to apply for Personal Independence Payments. Last night the audience member declined, and it would be interesting to know whether anyone has ever, with an actor shouting 'You are Iain Duncan Smith; you are the Tory government', dared take the money.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis: 

Desperation Bingo - Creative Electric

The Money | Kaleider - British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2015

What Is Austerity? - The Economist 

GP's Report Was Ignored During Assessment - Pulse

Life and Death Under Austerity - Mosaic

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

The Samaritans - How to Get Help

Split Britches // Care Café


Come and share tea, cake, conversation and feeling cared for – all whilst cutting out paper. This was the intriguing invitation offered by Care Café at Normal? The concept was created by Lois Weaver of Split Britches with the aim of fostering an ‘attitude of care in an uncaring world’ and allowing people to ‘gather their wits, thoughts and comrades in action’. The idea is to converse open heartedly whilst engaged in some practical activity that may also have an activist purpose, such as making badges or posters. With hands engaged, tongues and ideas may more easily be loosened into meaningful, caring conversation.

In a low key, low lit space filled with tables spread with gingham cloths, I headed for a group who had just called for a new participant and was quickly thrust into the realms of coupledom with companions of four different nationalities. I had held forth about my amateur theories on the deeper purpose of relationships for some time before discovering that one of our party was a professional couples therapist – but it quickly led into surprisingly personal and even metaphysical waters that made us all feel very bonded. Suddenly we were friends. At another table, we started making badges and discussing our lack of craft skills, then seamlessly moved on to talk about family, differences between siblings and daughters caring for elderly parents. When two new people joined us, we quickly got into the emotional triggers forcancer and the significance of sacred geometry. Now that is what I call meaningful conversation – especially when we took it right back to family love and nurturing through the generations.

Which returns to the bigger question of care in society. Care is a two way process and giving care can be as rewarding as receiving - but in Britain we have had a government that is modelling lack of care as acceptable action. Little wonder if we feel the world is uncaring when ideological austerity is systematically withdrawing resources for the care of sick, disabled and vulnerable people and undermining pensions policy. Uncertainty about the availability of income and professional care in later years leaves an ageing population feeling insecure about their future and hence disempowered.

Caring has traditionally been predominantly the province of women, associated with femininity. When society places the work of care at the bottom rung of value, reflected by low pay, zero hours contracts and diminishing resources, then a Care Café can certainly be seen as a political statement. Interesting that it has emerged from the world of arts and creativity as did Ken Loach’s powerful and influential film, I, Daniel Blake. My experience of Care Café was not only fulfilling and thought provoking but also magical and empowering. Every neighbourhood should have one. (FW)

- Faith Warn


Care Café community -

Split Britches -

Life and films of Ken Loach -

The Impact of Austerity (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) -

Ageing Populations (RSA) -