Communities surviving, striving, thriving? - A day of dialogue and action

At yesterday's conference at Goldsmith's we wrestled with powerful issues of poverty and exclusion. We heard from community artists using intelligence and imagination to bring people together to recreate our communities and living spaces through creative action. Emotion ran high as we were moved and enraged by stories of poverty and exclusion side by side with prosperity in our borough. The We Care Food Bank in New Cross sees 1000 people every month - “feeding a thousand people is a military operation” (founder, Ray Woolford) “Exclusion is a choice”, disability rights activist and lecturer Ciara Doyle challenged us to remember that “exclusion is a choice” – political and social choices exclude disabled people, and our language can exclude:  “we're not vulnerable – we're excluded!”. Our panel discussions frequently returned to the injustice of poverty in the borough. Professor Marjorie Mayo called for us all - community activists, organisatons, and academics - to work together to produce knowledge to campaign for social change, and to be prepared to challenge injustice strategically together. Andy Turner, grassroots activist and community development worker, echoed this with a call “ to develop the skills to debate and still keep people in the room”. We need to have the hard conversations – we were shocked and shamed by the stories we heard yesterday. As Marj Mayo said, quoting Primo Levi: “If not now, When?”


VAL's Tony Nickson chairing a panel discussion at the conference at Goldsmith's University.