live with class: (forget status) have a conversation today, get to know people…

Featured Image: Let’s Love Our Community on The Disruptive Inequalities blog

How can we reconnect the aspirations of working class people who rent privately and in social housing with the aspirations of people who have mortgages, who have bought their homes? Because we need people to make meaningful relationships across class, age, ethnicities, genders that are not about buying, consuming, status but that are about being alive, living, working, experiencing life and the world.

After forty years of economic, cultural and social separation it is very difficult to do something like have a conversation with someone who isn’t in your social group, who only exists as a stereotype on social media.

It all begins in the neighbourhood. How about rejuvenating the neighbourhood?

Everyone who lives and works in a neighbourhood is part of a community wounded by the last forty years of class war, economic exclusion through agency, gig and gang labour forms of employment combined with exploitative rented housing in the private sector and insufficient social housing being built. The remedy isn’t yet another charity that fundraises for big CEO salaries while relying on the client group to volunteer. The remedy is to reinstitute a sense of progress and shared purpose.

Even though professional workers (just about) managed to keep up with the competitive precarity, increasing demands of their roles whether in public or privately owned companies or services, for many years they turned a blind eye to the impact that lack of connection between people who owned their homes and people who rented had made to the quality of lives and expectations of the whole community. We’ve all increasingly begun living online during this period so the chances to challenge stereotyping and marketing segmentation have been limited.

I think we need to rebuild connection with the people on our doorstep: and our neighbourhood. The neighbourhood isn’t just me and my messenger friends, it isn’t just the people in the groups I support, it’s not just the neighbours who live a very similar working life to me, it’s about learning about more people, understanding more people and their life experience instead of simply thinking we’re consumers, or shareholders, we’re not. We’re part of a diverse country that needs a proper accountable democracy.

It’s all our future that will help us all grow and pleasantly surprise us as to who we are and what we can do.

The problem is that we need to realise that in our neighbourhood, under our noses, in the same neighbourhood we live in were people who were being actively exploited in work, housing, access to services, so that they lost the ability and capacity to look after themselves and their families.

Gig and gang labour employment through agencies combined with the removal of all the supports working class families built for themselves, unions, community centres, playgrounds, schools just down the road from where they lived. It was a war against the working class developing representation and it’s time to broker a peace.

We need classic peace now where everyone feels that they matter, that their life is important. 

People need to work together across different backgrounds in the manner of other divided communities across the world: we just don’t realise how it’s crept up on us: our neighbourhoods have something essential missing: democracy, representation, connection and progress: we need to feel that everyone’s progressing that we’re all contributing to something that everyone can benefit from. 

Forty years ago I worked as community worker for Family First Trust, a Nottingham housing association set up and developed by one person: Ruth Johns, to help single parents and people who were on low incomes, providing homes, services in the neighbourhood to offset unemployment and decline. I’m proud that I was part of something that gave people back a sense of purpose, community and connection. We ran playschemes at two schools during the summer, Elliot Durham (now Nottingham Academy) and Ellis Guilford, now part of The Creative Education Trust.

We had a user group, a lunch club, hosted a community market, the Unemployed Football League were based in the community centre. We ran a newsletter, created jobs for local people, rented out rooms in our community centre to a range of local groups including Sociable Theatre a young people’s theatre group, Parents Anonymous, Mind, various yoga and self awareness groups. Next door was a pilot project run by a husband and wife team to support young people who needed support in the years after leaving care. 

I know what suffering and poverty were like then. I saw how Tenants and residents need to have a focus, a purpose to be able to relate to and understand the places they live in. 

When people feel welcomed, when they feel they have a stake in the area they live in age, condition and what they can do to make living there comfortable, energy efficient and pleasant.