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Interview: Francesca and Raoul Martinez on Freedom

Run-Riot is thrilled to interview siblings extraordinaire Francesca and Raoul Martinez, ahead of their joint talk at the Queen's Park Book Festival 2019 on the subject of freedom. Raoul is a philosopher, artist, author and film-maker who penned the book 'Creating Freedom', a radical text designed to challenge traditional concepts of power and control. Francesca's talents lie in comedy, acting, writing and public speaking. She has appeared in the BBC show Extras, Question Time, toured internationally with her comedy show - and her first play will be staged at the National Theatre in 2020. Between them, they possess a portfolio career so impressive it would put any hard-working millennial to shame. We caught up with Francesca and Raoul to find out more about their individual approaches to freedom and which new avenues they're embarking down in 2019.

Kerenza Evans: Raoul and Francesca, where are you and what are you doing when you feel the most free?

Raoul Martinez: I feel most free while completely absorbed in the creative process, whether writing, editing or painting.

Francesca Martinez: I love the freedom of live performance, but perhaps I feel most free when lost in a book or knee-deep in writing!

Kerenza: Do you think the internet encourages or restricts our everyday freedom in the modern world?

Raoul: The internet has proven to be an effective tool for mass movements and campaigners, but at the same time it's the most powerful data-gathering and surveillance system the world has ever seen. Like any technology, the struggle is to decide who controls it and how it’s used.

Francesca: I agree. It's used in so many different ways for so many different purposes. It’s not one thing. It can limit our freedoms or enhance them.

Kerenza: Francesca, the word 'disabled' can be used as a sweeping generalisation to cover an array of different conditions. Do you feel that there is a lot of pressure on you to effectively speak for disabled people everywhere when asked about your cerebral palsy?

Francesca: I try not to do that. We all have things we can and can’t do. I only know what it’s like to be me, with my range of abilities. That said, there are some common experiences that many people with physical and mental disabilities are facing under this dehumanising austerity agenda, and it’s important to recognise these common experiences as we fight to resist what’s happening. I am proud to stand up against all human rights abuses and use my voice to highlight issues that go ignored or are silenced.

Kerenza: Raoul, you wrote the book 'Creating Freedom' which focuses upon different types of freedom and the limits placed upon them. What new challenges do we face in the 21st century?

Raoul: The most serious challenge is finding a way for our civilisation to make it to the 22nd century. Given the rapidly deteriorating ecological situation, that can no longer be taken for granted. Specifically, we face the challenge of increasing prosperity while transcending the growth imperative at the heart of capitalism. This will involve a level of cooperation, and a global sharing of resources, that has no precedent.

Kerenza: Do you consider the recent global victories for populist candidates to be representative of a desire to claim back freedom or to quash it for others?

Raoul: The recent victories for populists like Trump and Bolsonaro may well reflect an impulse for greater autonomy and freedom, but the candidates themselves represent something entirely different. The language of freedom is often used to conceal its opposite. Right-wing populism is authoritarian at heart, a promise to clamp down on freedom for the many in order to restore privileges to a particular few. Scapegoats, those beyond the in-group, are used to deflect attention away from the systemic reasons behind the very real constraints on many people’s freedoms.

Photo credit: @WENWales and Photographer Jon Poutney

Kerenza: Francesca, in previous interviews, you've mentioned the fact that both your parents were vegetarian but neither forced it upon you. You then became a vegetarian of your own free will. Do you think this is still the best approach or do you think we have a duty to encourage certain lifestyles (e.g. reducing meat consumption) for the sake of a planet?

Francesca: At this point, I think we need to advocate diets that are compatible with a sustainable future. Cutting down on meat and animal products is a central part of that. What we eat has become a matter of national and global security. That said, I think helping people understand the issue through education is always preferable to just laying down the law!

Kerenza: Growing up, did you find your parents allowed you both different freedoms according to your gender?

Raoul: I wasn’t conscious of it and still can’t identify any obvious ways that that was the case. We played sports together, were both given a lot of freedom to go out with friends, and both received a lot of encouragement.

Francesca: Our parents were very even handed, and gave us the freedom to pursue our passions. I don’t remember being treated differently. They were very independent-minded and always taught us to question, so there were no arbitary rules!

Kerenza: Francesca, what new topics are you keen to tackle in your comedy?

Francesca: Right now, I’m actually focusing on exploring topics through theatre and I would love to write a novel, one day. It's very liberating to not have to be funny all the time - though comedy will always be a part of what I do. My first play, which is being staged at the National Theatre next year, looks at the impact of austerity on people’s lives.

Kerenza: Do you plan to work on any collaborative projects together?

Raoul: I’m working on a documentary at the moment which Chess is helping to produce.

Francesca: And we always read each other’s work and provide extensive feedback, so we’re used to collaborating in that way! But, yes, I can see us working together more in the future. We're best mates so it's always a joy!


Francesca Martinez | Raoul Martinez

Queen's Park Book Festival
Talking Freedom
with Francesca and Raoul Martinez
at Queen's Park Community Tent
Sunday 30 June, 18:30

Raoul and Francesca talk to journalist Marina Cantacuzino about their work, lives and what freedom means to them at the Queen's Park Book Festival on June 30th 2019.


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