Stephen Armstrong, the author of Road to Wigan Pier Revisited, gave a talk in Newcastle on Wednesday evening at an event organised by Children North East and the North East Child Poverty Commission. He had retraced Orwell’s steps 75 years on and found that, in many cases, life hadn’t improved for lots of people and, in some instances, had probably got worse.
The stories, whilst brilliantly told were, utlimately, very depressing and there appeared little to be optimistic about. The question and answer session following the talk provided lots of questions, but precious little in the way of answers to the many problems many people face today. And then, an audience member from Argentina spoke about her experience in that country and noted that, in absolute terms, poverty in Argentina looked a lot different (and a lot worse) than poverty in the UK. She used the word hope as well. I asked a question about potential ‘tipping points’, a lady next to me asked Stephen about his sense of collective action and then Sara Bryson from Children NE said that she had hope because she felt that there was lots of work being done in the region about this issue, there was a real sense that something might be happening but mainly, she had hope because she worked with children and young people and many of them still had hope.
In preparation for a conference that was held on child poverty in the North East last year, Children North East, along with Helix Arts and the Live Theatre supported a group of young people to produce a play about the experience of growing up in the region living in poverty. Hope’s Diary was the result of this idea. The 10 minute play was performed at the conference and was recently performed twice for MP’s at a Parliamentary Reception (called Hope in Parliament) hosted by Sharon Hodgson MP. Local coverage of the reception can be found here and is worth a look.
The play ends with the young people recounting what they expect to happen and what they hope will happen to them and their families in the future….
In the future…
I expect little change
I expect nothing
I expect my little sister not to get better
I expect greater stress
I expect to be wiser
I expect for no one to understand
I expect my mum won’t get a job
I don’t know what to expect
I expect to get kicked out
I expect to have a hard life
In the Future.
I hope for a better neighbourhood
I hope to have a nice garden
I hope for more money
I hope for a better house
I hope I don’t have to worry so much
I hope to go to university
I hope to become a history teacher
I hope to feel a sense of pride
I hope to win the lottery
I hope to go on holiday, anywhere
Hope’s Diary is currently being developed into an online resource called ‘A Day of Hope’, following a Culture Hack event in the region. Again, it’s worth a look to see how young people can be involved in the discussions about the impact of poverty and in prompting everyone, not just adults, to take the issue seriously.