Like many internationalist liberals, I have found the last couple of weeks desperately depressing. The tone of the debate has been divisive, and the outcome even more so. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that many more of my fellow citizens than I imagined held the views that shaped the outcome.
Then we hear of an increase in the abuse of immigrants (and many who are actually not immigrants, simply people with an accent or differing ethnicity), and we mourn for the tolerant, vibrant place that Britain should be.
Last weekend I escaped into the festival like atmosphere of the ‘Sea of Hull‘ event. If anyone has not yet seen the mass invasion of blue people in the press over the weekend, Sea of Hull was the latest installation by American photographer Spencer Tunick. He specialises in mass nude installations, and was commissioned by the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull to create something special for Hull, UK City of Culture 2017.
Not for the faint hearted, participation involved stripping in front of total strangers, and coating oneself in body paint. This is then followed by three hours of following instructions from the artist on the cold streets of Hull.
The compensations were marvellous. Friendships were forged and the community spirit was uplifting. We were all genuinely sorry to part and email addresses and Facebook ‘adds’ were exchanged.
There were four different shades of blue, and some friendly banter was exchanged between members of the different colour groups. But then a penny dropped amongst my group: five minutes earlier, the divisions didn’t exist! And of course, underneath the paint we were all the same, or should I say all different – and yet here we were, classifying each other in boxes of our own making. Chatting later in an Italian restaurant, we realised that stripped of clothing and jewellery made us realise how much more we have in common than the things which divide us.
The whole experience made me feel hopeful that in these sad time, our humanity will win through in the end.