I’ve been reflecting on poverty this week. On Sunday I was at a music gig at Golden Smog micro-pub in Stockton. It was organised by the amazing landlord John Christie, as part of a national weekend of music events called “We Shall Overcome”. It’s aim was to make a political statement about the human cost of the current government’s funding cuts and welfare reforms, alongside raising funds for charity.
When I ran a women and young people’s charity, I saw first-hand the hidden poverty that exists in some of our communities. We gave out food to people who were destitute and without money. Our foodbank workers heard horrendous stories day after day, about helpless situations caused in part by the government cuts and welfare reforms. Elderly women sharing neighbours baths, children going without food, middle aged men deciding between heating or eating. People call it “Austerity”. I call it an atrocity.
I don’t think what’s happening is fair or just. For years Britain’s banking institutions (and those with a lot of money) gambled with hard working people’s money. They made reckless decisions and eventually it all came crashing down around them. The banks crashed and they lost billions and billions of pounds. Our government at the time had to come to the rescue (because it was mostly our money in them) and borrowed about £500billion to save them. Now a few years on, the bankers are back at work doing what they’ve always done, but it’s hard working people and those most vulnerable who are left paying the price. We’re losing tax credits, libraries, youth centres, pension payments, social workers, elderly care services, police officers, street wardens, sure start workers, children’s services and play schemes, just to pay a debt we didn’t create.
There are a whole load of people who think this is wrong. They don’t think it is right that everyday Brits should loose out and so “We shall Overcome” was one of the many activities and actions organised over the last few years to raise awareness about the issue of Austerity.
250 events took place all across the UK. Several thousand musicians performed. Thousands and thousands of people came along. The event in Stockton was blinding, with poets, musicians, singers and comedians all lining up to offer their creative talent for free in aid of this brilliant cause. I was astounded at the talent I saw. A few of the highlights were Leah Maria, a young girl who had a voice as good as any X factor finalist, Josie Wallace, a quartet of Stand-up, a few brilliant bands, The poet Duggy Verill who had us all in hysterics with his base Boro humour and a solo guitarist called Mary Webb who’s hauntingly good voice had us all in awe.
In total, £1100 plus food and clothing was raised and as we sang together with pint in hand, we made our statement, saying to those most vulnerable, you’re not alone, we won’t turn away, we’re with you; this isn’t over, we shall overcome!