‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others’ Nelson Mandela
It’s Mandela’s mighty call to action that resounds, to me at least, in Nia’s more succinct plea that “we just need to stop being c*#ts to each other”. Nia is addressing the crowd in between music performances at her event Oi Enuf!, a fundraiser supporting the victims of a family violence crime which happened less than two months ago. On a small stage, accompanied by a clutter of sound and lighting equipment, she compels us to spread the sentiment for mutual respect and love for one another.
Few would not be touched by the story of a mother of four murdered outside her solicitor’s office just after attending court over an Intervention Order on her ex-partner. Fiona Warzywoda was only 33 and her four children, aged 5 to 15, depend now on the kindness of a community of friends and strangers.
Yet, few strangers would be moved to take the action Nia and her sister did. Swiftly, they organised a line up of musicians and performers, found them a venue to perform in, turned the event into a fundraiser, and even created event merchandise to sell, with all proceeds going to a trust fund established for Fiona’s children.
Nia didn’t even know Fiona. Nia says she was just “sick of seeing it” all around her.
“We’re not talking in spaces where we have an impact on each other,” she says.
“We need to have the conversation.”
The atmosphere in the darkened backroom of The Reverence Hotel is friendly, even jovial, but retains a solemn undertone as everyone attending keeps in mind why they are here. The event has drawn a modest but expressive crowd, and they cluster around the room in their respective cliques.
Contemporary rock pop band 4Tress have just played an amazing set, and left the room buzzing. Over this din, Nia is explaining to me that she’s brought everyone together today because she wants to get people talking openly, honestly, and publicly about the “still very taboo” subject of family violence.
Passionately, she describes her horror at persistently coming across fear and awkwardness in others when trying to (or inevitably avoiding) talking about the issue.
“It’s not right that we can’t talk about it and have to pretend it’s not there,” she says.
As the next band sets up, I mention that the event has attracted a variety of bands and music styles, from the punk rock of Ruby Soho and Liquor Snatch to the spoken words and hip hop of Joelistics. It seems this was deliberate.
“I feel having a mix of bands is representative of the many voices out there,” Nia says.
From the musicians who have come to play tonight and then stick around afterwards, there’s a strong feeling of comradery and the sense that they are here, not to promote themselves, but to display the power of music.
Chatting with us, Bulk of Man band member Rinaldo Antico pipes up about how excited by the event he feels, particularly by Joelistics whose heavy focus on lyrics is what Rinaldo found most powerful for an event such as this.
Rinaldo also stressed the band’s eagerness to be a part of future events.
There are plans for more events such as these, Nia says, and she shouldn’t have too much trouble finding talent to get involved. The community support and interest she received for tonight was astounding, even to her.
“People put their hands up straight away to be a part of it. People I didn’t know.”
Just in the same way Nia and the Oi Enuf! organisers didn’t know Fiona. Strangers coming together to support strangers; it does happen…