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We’ve Always Supported Each Other: Mutual Aid in the UK

The Coronavirus pandemic has seen two very different responses in Britain: a failure of the state to respond to the needs of its people, and an explosion of local mutual aid networks to support communities from below.

When thinking about the difficult but powerful work of community solidarity, it is vital to include and prioritise marginalised, stigmatised and excluded communities.

This event takes the conversation on mutual aid beyond the current crisis, to engage with the perspectives of those often at the edge of society, for whom mutual aid is a necessary practice. Sex workers, migrants, people with experience of homelessness, LGBTQ+ people, prisoners and their families, and drug users have been doing the essential work of community care and collective support for decades. In this discussion we aim to prioritise these perspectives, what they demonstrate for wider movements, and how we can learn from them.

Speaking on this panel will be:

Juno Mac, a sex worker and activist with the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM) and co-author of Revolting Prostitutes; Juan Fernandez Ochoa, who works with the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) as the global coordinator of the Support Don’t Punish campaign, a decentralised social mobilisation initiative to end the “war on drugs” and promote harm reduction responses to drug [policy]-related challenges; Dania Thomas a first generation immigrant from Mumbai, law researcher and a Ubuntu Women Shelter trustee; Jodie Beck, a prison abolitionist and campaigner involved with the grassroots collective Our Empty Chair. It will be hosted by Tobi Adebajo (Purple Rain Collective, Femmes of Colour UK, Open Barbers), an anti-disciplinary creator whose practice draws from all the senses and relies upon meaningful collaboration to create work that centralises diasporic experiences whilst honouring the power of identity.


We can build a different world is a weekly panel series throughout September 2020 exploring abolition and mutual aid in the UK. This series is programmed by Elio Beale and organised as a collaboration between Decriminalised Futures, Abolitionist Futures and Verso, with support from Arika.

“Abolition is building the future from the present, in all of the ways we can” writes Ruthie Wilson Gilmore. The worlds we wish to live in already exist: we can see them in our minds, we can taste them on our tongues. Through mutual aid, solidarity, care and imagination we translate these dreams into vivid realities. Whether it be flamboyant acts of resistance or small, daily gestures of affection, our collective struggle builds our collective power. We can realise our hopes and visions and plans. We can remember where we’ve come from. We can build a different world.

This panel series brings together activists, organisers, academics, artists, thinkers, and speakers for a weekly discussion event exploring abolition and mutual aid in the UK. Our intention is to approach these sometimes difficult conversations with joy and warmth. We wish to celebrate our collective knowledge, indulge our curiosity, and to come together in a spirit of sharing and collaboration.

  • Speakers

    Juno Mac, Juan Fernandez Ochoa, Dania Thomas, Jodie Beck, Tobi Adebajo

  • Date

    September, 2020

  • Themes

    mutual aid, sex work, drugs, harm reduction, prison, migration, stigma, criminalisation, borders, racism, gender, capitalism


Below is a list of groups, readings, and resources mentioned during the panel.

SWARM Hardship Fund report
SWARM Coronavirus Guide
Information about Naloxone
Peter Krykant

Groups & Organisations:

Purple Rain Collective
The Dialtone Project
International Drug Policy Consortium
Support. Don’t Punish
Crew 2000
Lambeth Service User Council
Black Protest Legal Support
Our Empty Chair
Blue Bag Life
Cradle Community
Bent Bars
Ubuntu Women’s Shelter
The Unity Centre


Franz Fanon - The Wretched of the Earth
Juno Mac & Molly Smith - Revolting Prostitutes
Anna Tsing - The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins
Mari Matsuda


This panel does not currently have a transcript. We will be updating this section of the website with a completed transcript soon.