With Orange Wednesdays at the cinema calling, a politics talk in Amory Moot may not sound like the most riveting way to spend your pre-TP afternoon. However, I was recently persuaded by a friend (who conveniently sits on the Politics society committee) that Pippa Bartolotti’s lecture would prove me wrong. Unconvinced, I trudged up to campus in the rain with very low expectations of the evening ahead, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. Pippa is an extraordinary woman, engaging and funny while still very knowledgeable on her topics.
Born into humble origins in a fishing village in Cornwall Pippa cites her rural upbringing as the inspiration to go to Art College, and then to become a fashion designer in London. If this wasn’t enough she was also CEO of her own company and did business consultancy for the Welsh government. However it is the phase of her life that followed that is the most fascinating; having worked for decades and now finding herself with no domestic commitments, Pippa decided that it was now the time for her to “take a gap year for every decade she had spent in work”.
Far from ‘finding herself’ at a full moon party in Thailand, Pippa’s gap years included a period living in Cuba - where she got swept up with the socialismo lifestyle - before backpacking around India and finally driving a convoy of humanitarian aid across Europe to Gaza. During her trip she travelled through Syria and Mubarak governed Egypt, two countries she now realises will never be as they were back then again.
Of course leading such an engaging and adventurous life does not come without controversy: Pippa was arrested by Israeli security whilst trying to enter Bethlehem and visit Palestinians on the west bank (a video on YouTube is available of her breaking into Tel Aviv airport). But as William Hazlitt famously wrote, “When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest”.
It was on her return to the UK that she became engaged in politics, mainly through her history as a philanthropist, and she decided that the Green Party was the best suit for her; she is currently the head of the Welsh Green Party.
Well after hearing her speak one of my housemates was so enthralled by Pippa that for the next week every time we asked her advice on a situation her response would always be “What would Pippa do?” To help you girls who missed the talk I conducted a short interview with Pippa, so we can all know what she really would do...
KB. Could you briefly describe for us your experience working within the fashion industry?
PB. It’s like show biz without the ‘resting’. Four collections a year, working all night, travelling often to Paris and European cities, the smell of fabric and the driving creative urge to do better every time. Perhaps my greatest success was to walk down Oxford Street one morning in 1976 to find a different creation of mine in every shop window.
KB. What distinguishes the Green Party within politics today.
PB. I believe we are distinguished from other parties for showing the wisdom and courage to seek and promote ways of living which work in concert with the ecosystem, rather than in conflict with it for the sake of gain, as is our current inclination. Greens have a tradition of not compromising principle for power, and old-fashioned honesty. A Green world would be driven by sustainable energy sources, a keener sense of community, and a real will to improve life and living for all.
KB. What advice do you have to women looking at a career in politics?
PB. Politics is a tough call. But if you really believe in what you are doing, it can be fantastic. Whilst you must always be on top of your subject, it is just as important to know your enemy well. Green politicians find out that there are many who will stop at nothing to discredit them. We are not business as usual; we care deeply about the generations to come; we have no paymasters. My advice would be to put ethics and morality above toeing someone else’s line.
KB. Who is the most inspirational person you have met?
PB. For me, inspiration comes from the work of Martin Luther King… But obviously I have never met him! His words – both written and spoken – are truly inspirational. This was a man who believed utterly in his cause, was articulate in expressing his hopes and dreams; a man who carried the simple aspirations of millions upon his shoulders and a man who above all spoke common, understandable, sense.
KB. What is your favourite book?
PB. The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. There is more wisdom, truth and clarity in this pre Confucian book than in any other I have ever read. Written by someone who truly cared about society, nature, and the art of good government. It is the route to a way of life, which we all surely seek to attain.
KB. You are a very well travelled woman, however young females today are bombarded with the notion of safety when travelling. Do you have any advice regarding this issue?
PB. Dress modestly, behave with dignity, and keep a copy of your passport details, visas and other relevant documents. Also put important telephone numbers down on paper – such as the British Consulate in the countries you are visiting. Leave copies of your passport, insurance, travel plans back home. Remember you may have to manage without your mobile – if you get arrested or the phone gets stolen, you have only your wits – so sharpen them up before you travel by being well informed of local customs and traditions.
Photo Credits: swanseagreenparty.wordpress.com, pippabartolotti.blogspot.com