THE MAKING OF AN ACTIVIST SONGSTRESS

By conference convener, Stephanie Mines.

Amongst activists, climate change draws out an innate desire to engage and connect with the human spirit. It aligns us with climate justice and arouses the creativity that is the mainstay of problem solving. This is where resilience can originate; in an upsurge of commitment to future generations. With this alchemy, there are no limitations.

Songstress, Eleanor Brown, has spent most of her thirty-three years following this kinesthetic thread. Defying standard life paths, refusing to work where it has no meaning, living as connected as she can, Eleanor is what Barbara Marx Hubbard calls “homo universalis;” someone who charts her own course. And just recently, Eleanor birthed a theme song for the Climate Change & Consciousness conference. It’s titled, The Time is Now.

Eleanor 4 1

“Before I understood anything about climate change,” Eleanor says, “I felt a connection to something larger than myself and a responsibility for it that I could not turn away from. It started with the realisation as a child, growing up in the ever expanding suburban Midlands not far from the heart of industrial Birmingham, that this world wasn’t destined to become a building site from which we humans simply take.”

Experience overseas in her late teens, volunteering for social action projects in poverty stricken countries, infused Eleanor with a deeply felt sense of social responsibility and desire for social justice.  And at about the same time, her love for the coast took her, like many Midlanders, across to Wales to study. This period ignited a personal epiphany.  “I was always interested in art forms that grew out of a connection with the Earth. But it wasn’t until after completing my MA on literary pilgrimage and land walking as healing, that I discovered Ecopsychology, Deep Ecology and the work of Joanna Macy et al. A whole new world opened up.”

Instead of pursuing academic writing about these matters, Eleanor decided to experience them in a tangible way and through re-connecting to the land. She went to Oregon to learn about permaculture and organic farming and, in the process of travelling in amazing landscapes, she fell in love with our incredible planet. “I discovered there was a way to live in balance with the Earth – learning from the plants, the cycles and indigenous wisdom keepers – that I have always known was inspiring. So back in the UK, I moved to live and work on an organic farm for a few years. These experiences drastically affected the music I was writing, which began to be very much informed by all of this.”

Ultimately, in the summer of 2016, Eleanor was led back to Wales to undertake a walking pilgrimage around the 900 miles of coast, which in part became a meditation on rising sea levels. You can read more about this walking journey and the music and activism that came from it, here.

Eleanor knows that there is no turning back from her commitment. “Now, whatever I do with my life, it has to be part of bringing change, even on a small scale. I cannot keep silent or go back to sleep.” She is excited to explore the collective inclusivity of CCC19. Writing The Time is Now was an act of whole-hearted service.  There is not yet funding to record the song, but Eleanor is not daunted by this. She was taken by the quote from John Muir that I shared with her, “The Earth hath no sorrow that the Earth cannot heal.” When you are guided by this kind of wisdom, matters of funding seem part of the unfolding mystery.

Like the rest of us, Eleanor spirals between helplessness and hopelessness as she faces the realities of climate change. But then she experiences a surge of belief when she knows that we can all make a difference, however big or small; we all have something to contribute. For Eleanor it is her voice and her music, with which she can connect people and orient them toward action or hope. Many of Eleanor’s songs have this function. This is what makes her art unselfish.  Even as the urgency increases, she knows the power of song to tip the scales, to unite. The Time is Now delivers a felt certainty of purpose and global community. Eleanor Brown is a messenger.  “I write songs,” she says, “that support us in rising together.”

Eleanor embeds herself within the environments she loves. She makes art where she wants to live and be; as part of the natural world and also in the context of community building, a rising up from the grassroots for climate justice and for climate action. In this way Eleanor is a model of daring. She is uncompromising in her values. She lives by her own rules. She is an artist who walks her talk. For all those who wish they could do this, Eleanor transmits the message; “Do it. See me. I am doing it and I am OK.”

Visit Eleanor’s Facebook page or her website to see images of a wild haired woman walking barefoot by the sea, singing in the fields, at community gatherings or in someone’s home. If you would like to contribute to the cost of recording the theme song to support the promotion and celebration of Climate Change & Consciousness, please email Stephanie at tara-approach@prodigy.net.

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