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HOPE not hate

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Stop fixing, start listening: first post-industrial communities conference

posted by: Safya Khan-Ruf | on: Tuesday, 28 March 2017, 20:51

Listening, not myth busting, is the best way to engage with post-industrial communities, HOPE not hate speakers said in Leeds, during a conference focusing on the challenges to revitalising impoverished communities.

This was the first conference organised by HOPE not hate that addressed the sharp inequalities felt by post-industrial areas.

“We need to understand the deep thread of powerlessness and of being ignored that is felt in these communities – as well as the belief that other people are being heard while they are not,” said John Denham, former Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

A Future For Post Industrial Communities? was co-hosted by HOPE not hate, the Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) and the Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) on the 23th and 24th March.

State of Being

The UK is one of the most centralised states in the world and many of the places that used to have heavy industry or mining hold little democratic control over their communities.

Academics at the conference described how these areas had been abandoned by mainstream politicians and the political process by the time UKIP and other far-right groups came knocking on people’s doors.

These de-industrialised areas now have increasing numbers of workers with no job security, working for very low pay.

“People have four or five jobs, on zero-hour contracts but they’re still scrimping at the supermarket,” described Jo McBride from Bradford and Newcastle Universities. “One of them told me: ‘I don’t get to put my kids to bed at night because I’m never there’.”

The art of listening was explained, as was tackling racism without alienating the listener.

Evie Manning, co-director of the Common Wealth Theatre, gives a preview of the play they’re creating with post-industrial communities.

Health is another issue where inequalities across the UK remain stark. Clare Bambra from the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University said this inequality was “a political matter and is not about a paternalistic behaviour change”.

Unlike Germany where the four-year life expectancy gap was bridged between the east and the west after the fall of the Berlin Wall, UK health inequality has increased. The life expectancy gap in Stockton-on-Tees is 17 years between areas with money and those without.

Oxfam reported last year that the UK was one of the most unequal countries in the developing world. The charity stated this inequality contributed to the results of the referendum.

“The referendum brought divisions within our country to a head, with many people expressing distrust and disconnection with political processes and voting for change in the hope that it would improve their economic position,” its report stated.

Listening, not acting

Engaging with communities instead of arriving with solutions was vital according to many of the conference speakers, which included those from the labour and trade union movements, community activists and academics. Many met for the first time in workshops which focused on listening, and not alienating those being addressed.

“We need to step back from Napoleonic forms of leadership, of defining reality and giving hope so as to give space for other people to define reality and make hope for themselves. For meaningful change, we need to let go of our need to always take initiative and instead... listen,” said Reverend Al Barrett from Hodge Hill Church Birmingham.

HOPE not hate speakers also described the importance of listening and demonstrating a willingness to engage with the other person.

Racist terms and ideas are rife in de-industrialised communities, but HOPE not hate speakers stressed engagement was all the more important because of these ideas. “Trump won because people thought – despite his terrifying policies – at least he’s listening. Truly listening means you have to suspend judgement; you have to really listen to what people are saying about who they are,” added Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central.

Racist or not?

While ethnic minorities do not cause the economic challenges facing de-industrialised communities, it is a powerful narrative adopted by certain groups. It presents a simple tale that divides the white and ethnic minority communities despite shared history.

A report published by Runnymede, a race and equality think tank, last week stated the Brexit split between white working class and ethnic minority voters was symptomatic of how anti-immigration sentiment was being used to divide working class communities.

“Indeed the white and ethnic minority working class are often set against each other, even though they share many interests, such as the need for jobs, equality and housing,” the report stated.

“Racism in our context is scapegoating, it’s become political, Farage and other people use it to take power,” said Stuart Hodkinson, critical urban geographer from the University of Leeds.

• Nick Lowles, founder of HOPE not Hate, describes immigration and the nuance of views in post-industrial communities.

Page said it was important to differentiate between people who hold racist views and those whose racism is part of their core identity.

“People have adopted the narratives pumped at them and they have this image of what migrants or what Muslims are. It’s our job and part of the active listening process to engage with them.”

Merthyr Together

HOPE not hate has been working to bring communities together and build dialogue for years.

Harriet Protheroe-Davis, a HOPE not hate community organiser in Merthyr Tydfil, described the community building exercises she’s been working on. This involved, among other things, recording a Christmas single with different schools and organising a football match with local Portuguese and Polish footballers playing against the Merthyr Tydfil team.

 Posted: 28 Mar 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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International Women’s Day 2017: Be Bold For Change

posted by: Jemma Levene | on: Monday, 27 March 2017, 14:33

Last March, we ran an immensely popular online campaign to celebrate individual women around the UK who were nominated as being community champions. This year we were thrilled when Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE invited us to run an event for women at the London Living Room in City Hall on the night of International Women’s Day. The evening combined inspiration, education and entertainment, as a hugely diverse crowd of women came together with us.

Jennette Arnold OBE AM with girls invited from local schools

There was a great relaxed atmosphere as the HOPE not hate team had a chance to chat with our guests

To acknowledge the International in IWD, we asked guests to bring socks and underwear to be sent to women in refugee camps in Syria. We heard that people working at City Hall got word of this, and went out at lunchtime to buy packs too – as you can see, people were very generous

Deputy Director Jemma Levene introduced the work of HOPE not hate, and had the opportunity to introduce all the diverse women who work for us

The HOPE not hate women

Some tailored HOPE not hate training on diversity got everyone thinking.

HOPE not hate volunteer Amy Clare runs a session for the younger attendees

Founder of Black African and Caribbean domestic violence shelter Sistah Space, Ngozi Fulani spoke movingly about her work, and was joined by a survivor of abuse, who moved many in the room to tears.

Reggae artist Stushie sang for us

The celebratory mood continued, as Ngozi and her dancers got everyone up dancing

At the end of the evening, everyone was given an ‘organiser’s party bag’, filled with leaflets and goodies, as well as an ice cream voucher, courtesy of our friends at Ben & Jerry’s. Women were asked to fill out a ‘pledge’, writing down what the evening had inspired them to do next, which we collected, recorded, and sent out to them in the post a week later, to remind them of their inspirational night at City Hall.

Photos: Zara Sumpton

 Posted: 27 Mar 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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Live Blog from Post-Industrial Communities conference

posted by: Safya Khan-Ruf | on: Friday, 24 March 2017, 12:18

Follow our reporter Safya Khan-Ruf as she live-blogs today from our conference at the University of Leeds, 'A Future for Post-Industrial Communities?'

100+ experts, community practitioners and politicians are coming together to help discuss solutions to the problems facing many de-industrialised communities today.

Live-blog link:

Hashtag: #postindconf

 Posted: 24 Mar 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments

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New Education team helps schools challenge prejudice and understand far-right signs and threats

posted by: Owen Jones | on: Friday, 3 March 2017, 18:01

Young people have more inclusive views than ever, but can still struggle with understanding prejudice and inequality; schools also need to understand the threat posed by the far right – part of the challenges being met by our new Education team.

Since the hate crime spike witnessed after last summer’s Referendum, HOPE not hate has witnessed an unprecedented demand to speak to young people in schools and their teachers about the challenges of racism and the need to promote more inclusive environments.

Starting with pilot testing last year, this year we’ve begun delivering workshops and talks to schools around the country – all free of charge, thanks to a generous grant.

Our research shows that young people have more inclusive views than ever, and embrace multiculturalism much for enthusiastically than previous generations. Which is great news. But our work is still cut out for us, and the anti-racism (and other -isms) message needs to up its game with young people.

Racism/sexism/homophobia are all ‘bad’ and young people know that. But aside from these core themes, do they really understand what prejudice means on a day-to-day level? Do they understand the use of lazy language, how inequality often starts from birth, and that there are other embedded historical structures in society that prevent genuine equality between genders, ethnic groups and other minorities struggling for holistic acceptance in today’s Britain?

Could they even (unwittingly) be contributing to these inequalities or prejudice without realising…?

These are the issues and lessons we debate in schools today and we’re keen to have those debates – with a certain degree of urgency, too.

First conference

During the Spring half-term a room full of education professionals met in central London from the across the country for the launch of our brand new education programme, looking to address those issues above, as well as hear our expertise on dealing with stereotypes and educating around the far right.

The group was presented with HOPE not hate’s vision for the project – a three-layered programme covering harmful language, far-right awareness and teacher training – as well as our plan of taking our skills from community organising right into the classroom, offering schools a very different experience to other charities in this sector.

It was wonderful to be able to tap into the huge amount of high-class experience in the room, to help us tailor the programmes and messaging to be as useful to schools as possible across the different educational key stages. This was followed by a fascinating debate about the differing nature the nature of the problems and threats faced around the country.

We are now proud to have an advisory board chaired by an Ofsted-rated educational specialist (and long-term HOPE not hate volunteer), which will help us keep up-to-date with what is occurring in British classrooms and ensure that we continue to tailor and improve our offerings to the educational sector.

Our future plans include “Train the Trainer” classes for teachers around the country and further developing our work with sport, to making it as engaging as we can for students with different learning styles.

Owen Jones is Head of Education at HOPE not hate

If you’re a teacher or educational specialist interested in learning more about our Education team’s work, please contact us: [email protected]

 Posted: 3 Mar 2017 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments