WHO WOULD YOU BE AT THE PARTY?
This is the question I grappled with throughout my latest project for Greenpeace UK. If you haven’t seen or heard it yet, we were lucky enough to reimagine the classic Fleetwood Mac song Don’t Stop for a new generation. Don’t panic, it’s not your typical charity single. Despite Gal Gadot’s best efforts to put any credible artists or celebrities off purpose-driven-songs for the rest of time, we assembled a dream team for this project.
The late, great Christine McVie liked the idea enough to give us the track just before she passed. Grammy-winning producer Fraser T. Smith reworked the song into something modern and exciting. Fresh off the back of his 5-star debut album, lauded rapper Avelino penned some searing climate-inspired lyrics. Instrumentation came from the jazz talent development organisation Tomorrow’s Warriors and the chorus was performed by House Gospel Choir. So, the song was never in any danger of veering down cheese-fest-lane.
The track was then brought to life visually with a short film, exec-produced by Steve McQueen and directed by Samona Olanipekun. In the film, a hedonistic party spins out of control. Revellers overindulge. They down champagne. They gouge on canapés. They smear themselves in oily chocolate. Or chocolatey oil. One partygoer even goes as far as stubbing out his cigar on an ice sculpture of the planet. On the nose? Probably. Needed? Yes. Meanwhile, the waitstaff try to keep up with demand, the kitchen sinks overflow, a pan catches fire, the sprinklers rain down. Do the partygoers help? No. Instead, they bully and belittle the waitstaff and their efforts to keep the party going.
As soon as I saw Samona’s treatment, I knew the out-of-control-party was the perfect metaphor. Not just because of Boris Johnson’s #partygate (a literal party of leaders that happened whilst people died alone in hospitals) but because it made me feel uncomfortable. It felt close to home. It made me reflect on my own life and decisions. And it felt like the perfect way to expose the grotesque behaviour of oil companies enjoying record-breaking profits, whilst the world is suffering some its worst ever droughts, wildfires, floods, typhoons, and landslides.
But it was vitally important that the film wasn’t all doom and gloom. At its heart Don’t Stop is a story of hope. A call to arms. A tale of unity. At the end of the film, the partygoers (all except one) snap out of their trance. They realise the urgency of the situation unfolding and wake up to the possibility of a greener, fairer, better tomorrow. And an epilogue at the end serves as a final rallying cry, a positive and emotional plea from one generation to another. So, whilst the film does hold up an uncomfortable mirror at points, it offers a way out of this mess. Together.
So, who would I be at the party? Well, I’m certainly guilty of excess. I’ve worked in advertising for over ten years, so I’m probably (partly) responsible for the excess of others too. The irony of being waited on by young people at the sound, post and edit house whilst crafting the film was not lost on me. The irony of launching the song at Glastonbury was also not lost on me. But I like to think I’d be the lady in the red dress. A middle-story-snapper. For years I lived a life of ignorant bliss, of wild, carefree excess, and then I had a hard awakening. Now, I live life differently. I’ve made lots of small changes. And some bigger ones. I turn down briefs that don’t align with my own values. I dedicate as much time as I can to writing environmental books for children, hoping it’ll inspire a new wave of climate activists, or at least turn some of their eco-anxiety into action. And I focus as much energy as I can into projects that I feel could change attitudes or spark genuine action. So, I guess my closing question is – who would you be at the party? And who will you be when the bubble finally bursts?