Is it fair to share? By Cally Phillips

A long time ago... 
 This month I reach my half century so of course I’ve been doing a lot of looking back and contexualising (making sense of it all still eludes me!)  I’ve just remembered that my crie de coeur from my earliest days was ‘it isn’t fair.’  This phrase was employed frequently, when I fell over (which I did a lot of as a young child until they gave me ‘built up’ shoes) or didn’t ‘win’ at football and most ridiculously when my big brother refused to give me the only pair of boxing gloves we had between us prior to the big ‘fight.’ I didn’t have the reach to hit him and if he hit me with gloves it was slightly less painful. He worked it out logically. I was less interested in pain and more concerned it ‘wasn’t fair.’ Of course for my family the cry got old rather quickly and was regularly met with variations on the ‘who told you life was fair?’ ‘life isn’t fair’ variety. I finally have to accept the truth of that, but I hope I’ll never stop believing that it should be!

I'm flying now... 
Scroll forward about thirty years and I watched a programme on TV that changed my life (and more importantly my chocolate buying habits) for ever. I can’t remember the details of the original programme but in 2010 an updated Panorama documentary covered the same ground and showed that little has changed.  You can find out more about this here. I’ve linked this to my personal site because it’s in five parts and as they say ‘it may contain images that upset you’ (if it doesn’t you probably don’t have much of a concept of fair and will have already stopped reading this blog complaining that it’s got nothing to do with writing or epublishing.  Oh ye of little faith. I’ll come to that. But I’m getting on these days so I’m allowed a bit of digression and winding up and missing the point aren’t I? Indulge me, for a bit longer, please.

That whole chocolate and slavery thing was my first introduction to Fairtrade. And over the past ten years or so I’ve done what I can do add my ‘fair’ to the sum of fair. I buy Fairtrade goods as much as I can, and because I’m a writer not just a consumer I advocate about it as much as I can as well. Previously I’ve written plays, run ‘live’ festivals and made my work available to all and sundry to perform during Fairtrade fortnights. But this year I’m going one better. This year is the big one. 

Because fiction can be fair too... 
So from 25th February to 8th March via my advocacy publishing imprint Guerrilla Midgie Press I’m running the TOP TEN FLASH FICTION FAIRTRADEFESTIVAL. (Go alliteration!) It’s an awareness raising event as well as giving folk the opportunity to get creative about important issues of Fairtrade. To back it up I’m publishing volume 1 of my FAIR TRADE FICTION  which will be available cross platform for the special price of 99p during Fairtrade Fortnight.  I hope to have volume 2 ready for World Fair Trade Day in May. I hope you’ll engage with the festival and it’d be neat if you bought the ebook too. (Think of it as in lieu of a birthday card! It’s only fair for a writer to get their books bought on their birthday isn’t it?)

For me, Fairtrade is not just about helping poor people in developing countries. It’s a way of life. It’s certainly part of my writing life. Currently I’m working on its relations to farming in the ‘developed’ world – milk and pigs and all that kind of thing. Farmers for Fair Trade was fashion a couple of years ago, but like making poverty history, these things come and go – but some of us are still there believing in the concept and doing what we can in the post fashion era. And being a writer I can’t help but think about what fairly traded writing would be.  So many of our ‘indie’ gripes would be resolved if (and only if?) we lived in a world where fairness was more important to the trading relationship than ‘freeness.’  A fellow contributor here Dan Holloway said to me recently regarding the ‘between free and fair’ debate I was having in my head that even raising this question is part of the capitalist discourse and one needs to find another way round it. I agree. I’m not an anti-capitalist. I’m a non-capitalist. Like Gandhi and his peaceful resistance I see the appeal of going beyond picking up my ball (or picking myself up) while shouting ‘it’s not fair’ and looking at life from a totally different angle. I hope that in 50 years of living I’ve matured somewhat.  I no longer seek to be confrontational. I aim for finding an honest and fair way to make a difference. Or at least to live differently because I know that my influence in the world is less than the Guerrilla Midgie imprint I invented last year.  In conclusion:  for me the words free and fair have ethical not economic value and that’s how I’ll move on into the next half century.


Older and maybe wiser? 
My birthday is on the 14th by the way.  I get three for the price of one because it’s also Valentines Day and my Wedding Anniversary.) And will be the day that at 25 I thought would mark my retirement but now becomes the date I take ‘delivery’ of the publishing company which is my birthday present.  As of Feb 1st I’ve embarked on 50 days of celebration so that those of you who only know me as that thorn in the side who refuses to celebrate Christmas can rest assured that I’m not the miserable sod you all think. I’ll be looking at creative ways to celebrate so if you want to be at the party to end all parties, I suggest you LIKE me on Facebook and sign up to my Blog.  Or catch up with me on Goodreads. It’s all free after all!  And may be fair! I’m planning to give up reclusivity for 50 days and get virtually ‘out there’ to meet fellow readers and writers and talk books (and other things!)


And just to remind you that entries close soon for participation in that other online BIG festival of the year – the Edinburgh eBook festival. You have to submit by 1st March. Details are available on the site HERE.


Dennis Hamley said…
Lovely post, Cally. Had me laughing and thinking in equal measure. I've just bought Fair Trade Fiction after reading the 'Look Inside' bit, which was great. And I'll engage with the festival too. Only 50? Get some service in, Cally, as we used to say in the RAF,
Jan Needle said…
same from me with knobs on, cally. you're a wondrous wee wumman and a canny one, clearly. st valentine, birthday and wedding anniversary all in one. mony a mickle maks a muckle, hen. my only birthday claim to fame is that it's the day after charles dickens (who also comes from portsmouth) and two days before bertolt brecht. i'll raise a virtual glass to you, and expect one back. love n busses frae the deep south.
CallyPhillips said…
Which makes you pretty old Jan? Oh, not the same year? Means it's Feb 8th and you will become an integral part of my 50 days of celebration. As will Dickens. And Brecht. The dates are fair stacking up. I feel a list coming on.
CallyPhillips said…
And Dennis, thanks. That takes sales to 5 this month. Only 45 to go to reach target 50!
Dan Holloway said…
Ah, wonderful stuff. I was having a conversation at the weekend that came up serendipitously on Facebook when people were discussing Kindles and paper books, and I noticed in my ticker that someone had said "but what about the trees" which drew me in, pointing out the rather dire carbon footprint associated with ereaders, but then into making the more specific point of why the publishing industry refuses in any way to get involved in larger ethical debates - food has long led the way (as it has done in championing local and independent - not always successfully I'm often pointing out - local produce stores often pay their staff lower than living wage and offer very poor terms, taking advantage of all the exemptions from working conditions legislation available to them - but nonetheless doing a valuable job in talking), and even the loathesome fashion industry that loves to pump pre-teens full of body dysmorphia is starting to take a stance both on the sourcing of products (or not sourcing) from sweat shops, on using sustainable materials, even, slowly, on the models it uses. Yet the publishing industry remains stony silent other than the occasional comment about ereaders and carbon (which comes from consumers not the industry). It seems to me that as self-publishers we have the freedom to be leading the way on this. And yet... I am part of many communities that are involved with ebooks and yet whenever I so much as mention that reasons for not using Amazon might be **** all to do with whether Kdp select will up your post-giveaway sales and everything to do with their shameful tax record, the response ranges from the electronic equivalent of an awkward, anxious, for goodness' sake shut up look across the room to a straightforward slapdown - it's all, I'm told, about the visibility of our books as authors and the lack of alternative to Amazon. Now, I'll confess completely to my hypocrisy - I've only just gotten around to unpublishing my ebooks on Amazon. On the other hand, back in 2010 when I started eight cuts gallery press I refused to asign our books ISBNs, specifically so they could not be sold on Amazon. Back then as well I was told I was crackers, that I was doing a gross disservice to my authors (all of whom were with me on it). I would never say everyone should put ethics before economics - though I would encourage it (whilst recognising that my ethics and theirs may well vary considerably). But I do think the assumption that because we make culture the primary good that should be in our minds is our own benefit is very strange, esepcially as in this context "we" will usually be speaking from positions of privilege in many ways. Everything we do is political; everything we do has a position in relation to ethics. That we "need" a "living" affects these two statements not one jot. Thanks for raising the subject, Cally.
If we can have plenty of Fair Trade Chocolate, I'm coming.
glitter noir said…
Terrific. But you were only kidding, right, about not liking Christmas? Otherwise, I'll have to dedicate my next Xmas thriller to you--April Yule. :)
CallyPhillips said…
No Kidding Reb. Haven't celebrated Xmas in 30 years or more. No need.
Not even for the chocolate...?! With you on the Fairtrade, though - happy February.

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