by Christo Wallers

This could be editorial, but it is also my piece for the first issue of The Gift. This idea has been gradually growing and mutating like the best organic vegetable, and I am picking it early, before it is truly ripe, but because I am impatient and cant wait any longer. In fact, the first issue was supposed to come out right smack in the middle of Christma s shopping, a free booklet to remind people that gift and ca$h can and should be mutually exclusive. So instead it is coming out now. This is already artifice because I am writing this at 12midnight on 26 November 2002, so that I have time to spend compiling the rest of the information and pictures. However so far much of this is irrelevant. Newcastle and Gateshead are desperate to be City of Economic Investment 2008, and so it is perhaps a good moment to make a few arguments about what culture and creativity is for, what it can stand for, and how and where it exists and fits into our city and our lives. This small publication is intended to be for independent, do/did-it-yourself, creative projects, events and ideas. One main reason is to review tiny things that happen that maybe people didnt know about because the people who put on the event had no money to publicise. Another is to draw pictures as gifts from the person who draws to the people who see, to write things about our life and place that critically analyse, to encourage debate about how weird and skew wiff our whole world and expected way of life is, but most of all to be something that exists outside of money a pastime or a hobby thats value is not in pounds or euros. I seem to have left my sense of humour behind, but hopefully that will return in following issues. The event that finally triggered off the decision to go ahead and make this booklet happened in September, the month when all the stars come (m)aligned, at the end of the summer and beginning of the autumn. I went to Amsterdam on the ferry to FUNTASTIC, a 5day dropout centre/ playgroup in the Thomas Van Aquino church, a large squat on Rijnstraat in South Amsterdam. In the squat, over five days, we hung about talking about what to do to cope with or how to express concerns about contemporary society. All sorts of things happened of their own accord in answer to these questions. There was a corner in the church for a comic club, an area for painting and decorating materials for a party, there were various electronic things to make a sound park, a table with a questionnaire about the percentage of different emotions you had felt over the summer, people hacked up the paving stones outside the church to make a garden and flower arranged on a bike wheel, we built a cinema and screened a load of our own films, there was a corner to draw and scratch directly onto film, there was a free shop for swapping clothes, there was a receipt roll in a typewriter for writing thoughts and messages, a radio programme was transmitted. An album was recorded onto old tapes and bootlegged, a table was set up with stuff people had made before the event small publications, stickers, flyers, photos etc. A table of content. An area became a kitchen and bar, people played records, rode bicycles and raced on children's tricycles and got excited about interventions in the city. People were Latvian, Finnish, American, French, English, German, Dutch, Australian. I know that when you go on holiday you forget you have a life before that holiday, but it felt a lot like we had all stumbled on how to be fulfilled and the answer was through creating, talking, playing, eating, drinking not through buying or competing. Failure was not entertained. No one did any better than anyone else. I got back to Newcastle and the Baltic, and there was the Oyvind Fahlstrom exhibition. It was gloomy inside, and barriers were up infront of the works, but everything there looked like it had been put there to confirm all the feelings from Amsterdam. FUNTASTIC was being proved by Fahlstrom. One in a squat, the other in the embodiment of municipal culture, sponsored by Dickinson Dees, who sought only their logo in the exhibition. I think it was so great that Fahlstrom show was on. Just for the amount of information, so exhaustively researched, representing an alternative image of the agendas that control but hide behind the fabric of our society. To point out the failures and hypocrisies of capitalism. So I have been wondering how this all relates to Newcastle, and basically the most important thing to do is make it as easy, comfortable and fun to do independent creative projects that exist for their own sake that exist as gifts to everyone, because their value has been reclaimed from money to something far more important. So a review is essential, to ensure this type of activity lives longer than just the night it was on. Independent culture represents a political stance: a decision to opt for something other than what is pushed at us everyday. By participating in independent culture, we are in a way thwarting what is expected of us, subverting norms, challenging ideas of success, fulfilment and happiness, proving there is an alternative, and that we are still sane. We should make a lot more time in our day for drawing, making and thinking, which I think is something that tends to be disc ouraged as unproductive. I think this booklet is intended then to encourage unproductivity. We should make unproducts. Lets be as unproductive as possible.