Loose Lips

Political Turmoil in Skopje


Political Turmoil in Skopje

Our resident Frederick Sugden (aka Medallion Man), wrote an article earlier this year, briefly documenting some of the political scenes we experienced on our travels.

April 2016 was really special; our travels took us to two locations undergoing fundamental political change. Most notably, we visited Macedonia, whereby Skopje’s corrupt elites are being painfully exposed. When communism ended, as Yugoslavia split, the area’s extremism was replicated at the opposite end of the political spectrum – the country soon became governed by a right-wing government who preach religious and inclusive patriotic ethics, but who act as if they are in control of a city of lego! Subsequently, Skopje's infrastructure has become far more focused around presidential statues, than any roads and hospitals. This is combined with a real lack of international mobility, especially to the UK – even attempting to get a work visa involves a huge amount of travelling and bureaucracy… the cost of which equates to Skopje’s average monthly salary!!

When there, a sense of people feeling ‘trapped’ within the Balkans, or specifically within Macedonia, was really present.   As is always the historical precedent though, the people of Macedonia have started to rise up. After recent scandals involving fake dismissals and awful election rigging, city-wide protests have broken out on a daily basis. On our first night there, we walked straight into the middle of it and it was immediately obvious that major change is not far away. It may sound optimistic, but when there is such sway against centralised power, the government’s efforts to stay in control can most likely only be short-term. The most amazing thing was the lack of violence and the positive effect that the outrage was having on the area. Nowhere was this more present than at the nights we played at, where the revolutionary spirit was taken to the dance floor – on the penultimate night of the trip, I played in Bitola and watched Phase IV by Jeff Mills incite one of the best reactions I think I’ll ever see a tune get!! Screams, heads banging on walls, and people collapsing to the floor…I guess I only have the corrupt regime to thank for that! 

If this wasn't refreshing enough, we then travelled to Rennes in France, playing alongside the NVNA collective. Having been in the city for less than a day, we once again ended up in the thick of the political action. One of the local city buildings had been taken over by protestors, and has quickly become a centre for daily punk gigs, lectures and illegal behaviour! The differences between the style of rebellion here and in Macedonia were vast but they shared the same core humanist values. Travelling to play music in locations where the population's pulse and energy is higher than ever is something we will never forget. Long may it continue and we encourage everyone to go and learn more about, and support, these people's emancipation. 

By Medallion Man.