Above: Claude (Hopper) Hendrickson in his role as a health, youth worker and housing self build activist, then as a very young man at the heart of his sound system and with Jeremy Corbyn at the labour conference 2019
Some people you meet have the same skills you see in the top chief execs, the most talented musicians, dancers, sportspeople but they have realised that if noone steps off the golden ticket fast track and says ‘whoa, slow down here, what about the ….
the quality of local opportunity….’
If we don’t protect the common ground, the social and cultural infrastructure, the sense that we all have a history, a past, present and. future, then we all suffer. These localists who step off the fast track to work in the local see the point of life, of living, of human life in the day to day.
They can see that instead of government and parliamentary accountability we have elite establishment oversight of an economy that works by diminishing the value and contribution of some from the moment of birth while over valuing and overestimating the contribution of others, again from birth.
They can see that looking after your own family and friends isn’t nearly enough to solve the problems that slaveries, war, greed and selfishness have wreaked on our world.
They know that if you look carefully you can see the traces of the furthest reaches of the world and all the issues that we face in the local environment.
Localists are the ones who live here, grow here but connect to the regional, national and international situation and want to know, to understand, to help and contribute.
They’re people like Claude Hendrikson, like Rambert trained dancer Leeds choreographer Pauline Mayers and former Head Teacher Charmaine Bendell All are vibrant, individuals, alive to the value of life: that experience, history and reflection is always art because it can bring a sense of connectivity, purpose, promise and difference to everything they do.
That’s what DIY culture really is before anything becomes commodified for commissioners: a sense of making sure, shoring up the ground, so that as many individuals as possible can benefit. Like Michael Heseltine, recently interviewed by Russell Kane, who explained that the offer to sell council houses to sitting tenants was still part of the social contract established after the second world war because his intention had been to give local authorities 75% of the proceeds of the sale of council houses so that there was a reciprocity, a sense of structural social mobility supported by the state.
However, the pressure and temptation to privatise the whole local authority, health, utility and built environment meant that the social contract to social mobility in building more council housing was abandoned.
So now, forty years on there are lots of people who also couldn’t buy into the end of history/selfish gene way of re-imagining britain, people who thought that the benefits of ‘me and my’ and ‘who I am/what I have’ is the product of the effort of the whole community, the product of collective history, culture, economics as much as individual grit and genomics.
Above: Location of Leeds North East Region Labour Party
Claude Hendrickson was a second time Leeds and North East Delegate at speaking for the first time at the 2019 Labour Party conference in Brighton:
“I joined the party when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader because we need a new kind of politics in the UK. We need a housing revolution, conference: 100, 000, 200,000, whatever we need to be built. Conference, we realise that with homelessness over 60% of homeless people are ex military men and women and have served the country and could not cope with civvy life. The rest is made up of people with mental health issues and people running from domestic violence. With this housing revolution what was done in the 1950s needs to be done again.
We can build a better Britain.
I commend the government for joining council, housing associations and some private building companies to build houses but I think with this revolution we need to support projects like the community led housing initiatives co-housing projects.
I was involved with a community self build agency which has done some great work in Bristol working with ex military men building their own houses over the last ten years.
Reoffending. People coming out of prison can be trained to join workers already in the construction industry.
Above: Think Big Developments Community Interest company works with a community development awareness to refurbish and maintain housing stock in Nottingham
This movement can address the housing crisis conference: to build more houses we need more construction workers, construction training projects for young people: evenings, weekends to introduce them to the industry. Reoffending: people coming out of prison can also be trained to join the construction industry.
Finally, conference, our young men are killing each other on the streets every day since the year started. They are crying out for a way to build themselves out of the world that they are living in.
When you exclude from school, it’s the beginning from excluding from society. The housing revolution needs to include jobs, training and employment alongside enterprise for people building communities.
Below: how organisations might exclude difference: example given is of the way women of colour might be excluded:the same process applies to school exclusions
Claude tackles the big issues in a conversational way because he believes in the value of the local, it is true and real and universal.
When you work, think, live locally but reach out to the complexity of the world you bring the impossible scale of things down to earth, down to the particular sense of our lives, our livelihoods throughout our lives. What he means is how we need to build the people for the homes, how we don’t just need more houses with tenants but that we need the relationship of making and need and value to be reconnected.
“We’re not inspiring young people. It’s not happening nationally and it’s not happening in communities like Chapeltown. The inequalities are the same as when my mother came to england 1958.
I was born in 1960: like the working class after the second world war, the caribbeans and people from Kitts and St Nevis (Claude is the Vice Chair of The Chapeltown St Kitts and Nevis Association), like my parents, had fought for equality as a given and we need to realise that: for example: “Chapeltown is the spice of Leeds. There is a vibrancy here. There’s food shops, hairdressers, cooking and music, it’s all here. We bring that to the city. Whether the city values that and appreciates that is another question.”
Claude’s concern is that 30 years after rioting brought anger and violence to the streets, the ingredients for disruption in the future are still there.
The change Claude is working for will come from a wider social recognition that the qualities of success: capacity, skills, experience, achievement don’t just reside in one individual they arise over time in a community, through history, insight, struggle. We’ve got too used to thinking that answers are in charismatic leaders when we really need to acknowledge the community that grew those successful individuals.
We need to invest in our culture: a shared connection from then to now. It needs re-valuing, investing, representing to everyone: it’s the place where everything started and belongs as much to the young people as the older generation. We need to share it and develop new ways of making, living and being that encourage hope, health, humour and harmony.
I asked Claude what he thinks are the signofanopencity?
“A city of welcome that encourages me to reach as high as I possibly can, live long and prosper. That’s what I want for everyone”.