After her parents bought her an electric guitar for her tenth birthday, Ruth started a band with her sister and best friend which led to her playing music around the country for the next ten years. She started a Manchester based record label – Fat Northerner Records – at the age of twenty, and started to subvert the music industry through pioneering a music movement, Un-Convention. Ruth has taken Un-Convention to 25 countries and produced over 80 editions of the event which brings people in the music infrastructure together across the world, to build new models and way of working - focussing on music as culture, rather than music as commerce.
Ruth is now CEO of In Place of War, a Manchester based organisation that enables grassroots change-makers in music, theatre and across the arts to transform a culture of violence and suffering into hope, opportunity and freedom. Ruth has led a diverse range of arts and peace-building initiatives across the globe, developing and implementing over a hundred cultural programmes in sites of conflict and disadvantage such as war zones, post war zones and areas of economic deprivation.
She works with several other cultural organisations and is an Artistic Advisor on the Futures Venture: Radical Independent Arts Fund, which awards radical artists funding for new work.
ACTING TO MAKE HUMAN RIGHTS
In Place of War works to support a network of young creative change-makers spanning 24 countries in conflict this network across three pillars: the creation of creative hubs; education and entrepreneurship and artistic collaboration. Ruth has pioneered the development of new creative hubs in a Congolese refugee camp; a prison in the war affected area of Uganda; with indigenous hip-hop artists in Uganda; on an island inhabited by single mothers in Lake Victoria; in Soweto, South Africa and in West Bank, Palestine. She has collected over £400,000 worth of music, studio, TV and film equipment to furnish new creative hubs.
This short video shows some of the people and places where In Place of War has worked with young people in their communities which have suffered from wars, gang cultures or political oppression. Living in the UK today, is it hard to imagine what it might be like to live in a war zone, but an estimated 420 million young people – around one in every five children in the world – do live like this. Can you imagine the risks, fears, dangers and disruption that would change your normal life if your area was in a war zone? What would be different? How do you think you would feel? What kind of things do you think you would miss, or be unable to do?
Some people believe that in such dangerous situations, music, theatre and other cultural activities are just not that important. If you had to try and persuade somebody about why the opportunity to make and experience art is really important – especially for young people – in such terrible situations, what arguments might you use? Can you make a list of ten different reasons? When you have done this, have a look at the, Why Art? section of this page. How many things on your list are also mentioned here? Are there any ideas that you had that are not on this page? What do you think about the other reasons on this page that were not on your list?
The impact of Covid-19 in the UK has affected all of us in 2020 and 2021. We have been required to restrict our behaviours in all sorts of ways, that in normal circumstances might be seen as impacting on our human rights. Can you describe some of the difficulties that you have experienced during the pandemic?
Remember, Covid-19 has affected the whole world, and poorer countries and areas that are war zones will already have been facing difficulties and far worse access to healthcare than most people in the UK. Watch this YouTube video (starting at 6:11) and try to write down some of the ways in which the communities where In Place of War works have been affected by Covid which are the same as you, and some which are different to you.
Is there a moment that inspired you to take action?
Who inspired you and why?
How do you make human rights a reality?
What in your human rights life makes you proud?
What do human rights mean to you?
What gives you hope now?
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
What does hope mean to you?
What piece of advice would you give?