So, I have spent everyday of the last week siting in a room surrounded by pictures of elephants greeting people who presumably arrived to talk about elephants, meet Fran and myself, and discuss art, literature and elephants.
I confess it has been a slow week despite extensive broadcasting of our fundraising efforts over the internet, posters around town, and at the venue. My thanks to World Elephant Day for their efforts in helping to promote the event. Perhaps I was a little amateurish, lacking the sales finesse which is probably required to promote such an event. Maybe I thought, to those people who are interested in elephants, the event would sell itself.
We had some success. I was able to talk to a number of people who expressed a love for elephants. However, the general tone I came across was quite fatalistic and defeatist.
‘Elephants! They’ve got no chance’
‘The elephants are the least of our problems’
It’s as though people recognise and acknowledge their plight, but in the face of overwhelming climate change, population explosion, and species extinction perhaps think its better to hold onto their cash?? I am speculating. I met people who said they had no money to spare, but others who were clearly financially buoyant.
I think there is a cynicism about charitable giving in the UK now (although I don’t doubt people’s generosity)
‘huh, charities’ was one response.
We have ‘chuggers’ (charity muggers!) who stand in the street asking people for money – to sign up to regular giving. We have a charitable tax system which allows even private schools to claim charitable status. We have a foreign aid system which generates passionate disagreement among people over the scale of giving when there is so much need and austerity at home. There is a general suspicion that little of international aid efforts actually reaches its intended target. And we have a public sense that big charities have become voracious businesses in the rush for funds in the face of increasing competition for the dwindling pound. We have been bombarded by a media which projects an image of forceful corporate charities chasing vulnerable old ladies for their last pennies, and selling on their details to other subsidiaries.
Some asked me if I was raising money for elephants in this country! British elephants first! I guess.
Still, I got to raise awareness about elephants to some. I met a pianist who told me he is ambivalent, tinkling the ivories not sounding the same with plastic coated alternatives. I met several people who sponsor elephants in Africa. I even met someone who is frightened of elephants in her own country and thinks it is right they should be beaten! A very mixed cross-section of people.
In summary, I think it was worthwhile. I talked about elephants, I promoted my book, despite only selling one! and showed Fran’s art. I will learn. Next year I shall come back more prepared, and perhaps my book might be a little more established – some more reviews, a bit more ‘presence’. Lets hope the elephants are still there.