A spoken word artist just slayed austerity in a searing, eight-minute video

The rhyming guide to austerity logo
Steve Topple

A spoken word artist has released his latest work to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the global financial crisis. It’s a stark look at the austerity that followed the financial collapse. He pulls no punches, but also wants us all to get involved.

Making waves

Potent Whisper (aka Georgie Stephanou) comes from a single-parent, working-class family on a council estate in south-west London. It’s those politics and social issues that shape Whisper’s work. From Grenfell Tower to the NHS via the 2017 general election, his work is authentic and radical. As The Canary previously reported, he has started a documentary series on the housing crisis. But now, Whisper has turned his attention to austerity. And in doing so, he has created one of the most accessible pieces of work on the subject.

A damning assessment

The Rhyming Guide to Austerity charts the rise of public sector cuts from the global financial crisis to the present day. But it also delves into the reasons why the public was sold austerity as the remedy to, what was, a private banking crisis.

Rainbow Collective, which is also working with Whisper on a series of documentaries, filmed and edited the video. The inspired animation is by Matt Bonner, who designed the Trump balloon. All this, coupled with Whisper’s lyrics, makes for an outstanding piece of spoken word.

What makes The Rhyming Guide to Austerity so powerful is that Whisper delivers his message in a way that everyone can understand. Austerity is sometimes sold as something complex; a policy that we should just ‘trust’ the government to deliver – as we need to ‘live within our means’. But Whisper breaks through the rhetoric, delivering his verdict on an agenda that has caused so much chaos. As he says in The Rhyming Guide to Austerity:
We dreamed of prosperity;
We needed a remedy
And our government decided that the answer was ‘austerity’.
In other words:
You remember all that tax
That you worked so hard to give them?
Well they used that money to pay the country’s debt
So our country had less money left
To fund the public system;
Plus they privatised services ’til there was nothing left
In other words:
They fed us shit
And us lot swallowed it…

But as Whisper shows in the video, the effects of austerity on society have been catastrophic. And the figures back this up.

Devastating effects

As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported, the previous Labour and Conservative-led governments cut £45bn off public spending between 2009/10 and 2016/17. This was, in theory, a £1,000 drop per person, per year in spending. And the IFS says this squeeze will continue until 2019/20:

IFS spending cuts

We all need to get involved

This is why The Rhyming Guide to Austerity is such a crucial piece of work. As Whisper told The Canary:

I often ask the young people I work with: if you were walking down the street and a frail old man wearing a suit tried to rob you, would you give him your money? Their answer is of course always no. So why do we let politicians and bankers rob us every single day of our lives?

When the British public realise that there is a reason for their poverty, that it is not their fault, that their daily suffering is chosen by politicians and the wealthy, that it is a decision that can be reversed… they will act to end it. ‘The Rhyming Guide to Austerity’ was designed to serve this purpose.

As part of this release we are inviting people to share their stories of austerity using the hashtag #AusterityAndMe.

It’s that which is perhaps Whisper’s most important message. We all need to be sharing our stories and getting involved. Because austerity was a political choice. But now’s the time we make our choice – and tell governments and institutions responsible for it that we’ve had enough.

Get Involved!

– Tell your austerity story using the hashtag #AusterityAndMe.

Read more arts reviews from The Canary.

Featured image via Potent Whisper/Matt Bonner

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Steve Topple