As I mentioned in the last article, Christian Weaver is a newly qualified barrister, involved in practical activity to make things better for more people, more of the time. (His grandad was a powerful force in Nottingham’s history for standing up for equalities and was at the packed NTU debate that Christian and Akil Hunte of the New Black Student Society organised, recently (see Clive Foster’s blog post)
How to change hateful crimes and random micro aggressions such as the example Akil offered, -he had a bag and was running for the bus and someone shouted,’stop him, he’s a robber!’ (Sacha Atherton of Premier Parents Employment Consultancy talks of being with a professional friend on a bus who couldn’t find her ticket, she was instantly identified as a serial ‘ticket dodger’ (untrue) ejected, was taken to the police station allegedly and then released without charge)
Teju Cole, the author of 2011 novel Open City (see James Wood’s brilliant review in the New Yorker), has campaigned for years to move away from the notion of a privileged saviour who can save the underclass that their privilege has created. The distinguished panel and the packed room attested to a feeling that instead of charity and acting on behalf of privilege, we all need to understand, empathise and share our privilege and knowledge to confront injustice whenever and wherever it manifests itself. Like Teju Cole in Open City, to possess alienation and make something beautiful out of it?
I asked Christian Weaver about being a barrister:
“The best thing about being a qualified barrister is the amount you are exposed to and learn each day.
Whilst not yet practising, I’m currently working for two human rights organisations helping advise members of the public on numerous human rights issues. Through working in these roles I have been surprised at how much still needs to be done to ensure the rights of all citizens are upheld. Whilst great progress has been made, there are still issues, many of which disproportionately affect those from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, young people and those with mental health difficulties.
The fact that I have the opportunity to play my part in making a difference is what keeps me enjoying what I do. For years I felt powerless to challenge the negativity I saw on the news each day. I now feel that I am in a position where I can start making a positive difference”
What’s the best thing about Nottingham?
“For me, the best thing about living in Nottingham is its relative small size (compared to London etc)
Above: Time Out’s brilliant container map of London with an 8.6 population contains the equivalent of 20 medium UK cities: Bradford, Leicester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, York, Glasgow, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Southampton, Plymouth, Wakefield, Sunderland, Brighton, Nottingham, Coventry, Leighton and Birmingham.
“and its ‘community feel’. People are friendly in the city, (although it comes 89th out of 159 locations in Nottingham Post’s review of Rightmove’s survey) and when walking through the city centre, most Nottingham locals will bump in to somebody else they know throughout the course of their journey. Whilst we may take this for granted as Nottingham residents, it’s a luxury not afforded in many larger cities. Nottingham also has an ‘activism’ about it. Both presently and historically, Nottingham’s residents have stood up to challenge injustice. This is a beautiful thing about our city. Additionally, most of Nottingham is also easily accessible via public transport. You can reach most areas of the city within a 30 minute bus ride from the city centre. This is another luxury definitely not afforded in other cities!”
What do you think are the signs of an opencity?
For me, the signsofanopencity are, first and foremost, a city where those from different backgrounds and cultures co-exist and get along. Whilst Nottingham has its problems, on the whole Nottingham does well in this regard.
Walking down Clumber Street in the city centre is a prime example.
Above: Clumber St 1960, 1988 and now….we are consumers, no longer just shoppers!
Another signofanopencity is one where, to those not from the city, it feels welcoming. I feel Nottingham does this relatively well, too. In my experience, I have observed that Nottingham enjoys a reputation for being a ‘safe city’. Having recently been a student, I can also confirm that it is seen as a city with excellent nightlife, and many students from other universities want to visit!
Above: Nottingham University welcoming students to the Portland building, Goose Fair and the regular summer Nottingham by the Sea event in the Market Square
Finally, another signofanopencity is the accessibility of politicians to members of the public. It is important that residents feel ‘open’ to express their opinion on how the city can be run if the city is truly ‘open’….
Nottingham, I think, is as open as we want it to be. The extraordinary thing about it is that the light is shone by the people who live here.