Jo Harrington was born in the Black Country of Great Britain in 1972. Her childhood was spent largely climbing trees, playing football and pretending that a large stick was a light-sabre, whilst getting chased off Tattooine (technically an open-cast mining site over the road).
Her dream, from earliest memory, was to become an author and she was devastated to reach the age of ten without becoming published, as the author of 'The Munch Bunch' had been only nine and Jo couldn't work out how she'd managed to not equal that. It was explained to her that things like becoming an author of books you could actually buy in the shops didn't happen very easily, so she became realistic about it. Editorship of the High School magazine progressed into first work experience, then a part-time job at local free newspapers.
The journalists there talked her into going to University, but the thought was so alien that she only applied to Wolverhampton, as 'you can trust them to talk properly there'. Three years later, she emerged from the Dudley Campus with a BA (Hons) in History with Philosophy and got a job at the Psychic Research Foundation. The director there informed her that he'd sent out a sigil for help with the administration and general conference organising, which was answered a few days later by her CV turning up.
Expansion of the PRF meant that it eventually moved to London, but Jo didn't fancy following them. She disappeared into the darkness of two terrible jobs at Bell Fruit Services, in Willenhall. Her skint as a CD Clerk has left her with a lot of information about how best to care for and clean your CD collection; while her months as collector and collection manager has scarred her with a lifelong hatred of all things book-keeping and financial record-keeping.
Jo appeared like a traumatised refugee back at the University of Wolverhampton, this time as a member of staff. Within days of starting work at the Registry, she had been talked into undertaking her postgraduate degree, a Masters in History, from which she graduated in 2005. She is currently the Regional Administrator of Aimhigher West Midlands, a government funded initiative geared towards persuading people just like herself that university is something that they can do too.
Her MA dissertation has been published by Flying Witch Publications, entitled 'Towards an Academic Study of British Wicca: An Investigation into its Origins'. A Wiccan, of many years standing, Jo is a moderator of Witchgrove, copy editor of Spiritual Journeys and is due to join Luna Goddess as a teacher and writes for "Friends of the Heroes" under the pen name Matilda Mother. She's occasionally accused of being a High Priestess.
Jo first became interested in the work of Amnesty International as a young teenager. The Miners' Strike had taught her that authorities and the media cannot always be trusted, while her favourite band, U2, were simultaneously teaching the virtues of Amnesty International. She still has a vague recollection of Bono's voice in a live concert calling out 'the work of Amnesty International' and Jo feeling like a very proud adolescent because she was now a member! She supposes other teenagers buy scarves and t-shirts to prove to their pop idols how much they love them. However, Jo goes and joins the cause! Jo first joined them officially, when she was about 14 or 15 years old and with only a few lapses here and there, she's been a member ever since.
She answered an advert in the Amnesty magazine for Urgent Cases volunteers, calling for anyone with access to e-mail or a fax machine. She sends an average of four e-mails or faxes per week now. When Jo first started receiving the Urgent Actions cases, she used to drop everything to answer it immediately, even if that inconvenienced her own life. After a while of running around like a mad bint, it occurred to her that much more thought went into letters which she did when she had a little more time to do them. She never leaves it more than a couple of days, but now the President of Burundi or the Turkish authorities, or whoever, generally receive a letter pointing out precisely which international law they are breaking and when they signed to say they accepted that law, rather than a hurried FREE SUCH AND SUCH NOW! Participating in Urgent Actions quietens that demon inside her which tells her she's helpless and her voice counts for nothing. Jo has gained a lot of personal confidence from doing the Urgent Actions, so it's not all altruistic! The sense of personal satisfaction when the person at the other end is shown to be safe now... It's worth it.
Also, so this is written somewhere, when Jo dies, don't bother with the flowers. If you feel you really MUST put something on her grave, grab a stone from somewhere outside the crem and put that down. Instead, any money that you were willing to spend on flowers, please donate to Amnesty International. Helping the tortured, the wrongly imprisoned, the oppressed, the hurt and the terrified would be a greater thing to do in her memory than producing a bunch of chyrsanthemums.
- £25 covers the cost of a telegram sent directly to a place of detention where ill treatment is known to be taking place.
- £50 covers the cost of sending an Urgent Action case enabling up to 200 people to take effective immediate action (well... 199 if this is done after Jo dies, obviously, unless you're willing to take her place)
- £150 pays for Amnesty to send vital telegrams about a prisoner suffering ill-treatment directly to a government official or place of detention (necessary when telephone lines are unreliable)
Would you like to read more about Jo Harrington? Please read the interview on the Witchgrove website.