A new project aims to put “the forgotten people of Britain at its heart”. But it needs your help to get off the ground.
The “frontline of nationwide resistance”
As The Canary previously reported, filmmaker Paul Sng co-directed a documentary in 2015 called Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain. The film visited broken down, neglected, and boarded up parts of England in the run-up to the 2015 general election. As Sng explains in a statement seen by The Canary:
what we were seeing wasn’t ‘Broken Britain’, but rather the frontline of nationwide resistance to the breakdown of the places they live.
Now, Sng is editing Invisible Britain: Portraits. This photography book will share 40 untold stories and portraits of people across the UK; stories of hope and hopelessness from people who have really suffered as a result of austerity, deindustrialisation and cuts to public services. These people feel that the media misrepresents them and that politicians fail to represent them. So the aim of the book, says Sng, is to allow them to “tell their stories in their own voices”.
There is now a campaign to raise funds to make the book:
The forgotten people are rising
Speaking to The Canary about the impact that neglected communities had on 2016’s Brexit vote, Sng said:
Marginalised communities are rarely heard from in the media, and it took the Brexit vote for politicians to take notice of the anger and frustration in areas that voted predominantly to leave the EU. In some respects, the EU referendum was also a referendum on the poor state of public services, the lack of affordable housing, and a protest vote against the government. The accusation that the people who voted to leave the EU were thick and ignorant misses the point; politicians were lax in their duty by not paying attention to marginalised communities across Britain.
But the failure of politicians to serve these communities has actually fed into a more active kind of politics:
Many of the people who feature in Invisible Britain are grassroots campaigners who work outside of Westminster or local politics. They do their politics on the streets and have been very effective in their work to resist austerity and cuts to public services.
The Labour Party, meanwhile, will need to work very hard to win back their trust:
New Labour took for granted the working class vote in many areas; whole swathes of the country that had been neglected for decades. Even with the resurgence of the left under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour still has its work cut out to convince people in these areas to vote for a Labour government, or indeed vote full stop.
Ambitious plans for the future
In a statement seen by The Canary, Sng said:
Negative and stereotyping narratives which misrepresent residents of council estates, benefit claimants, migrants, refugees and other minority groups, often encourage the public to adopt detrimental opinions about those people. This stigmatisation makes it easier for politicians to make decisions that can damage those communities. Invisible Britain will explore the impact of austerity and cuts to public services and show the reality of modern Britain from the perspective of those who often feel disenfranchised by the state or misrepresented in the media.
And Invisible Britain: Portraits is just the beginning. The plan is also for the project to be “the first step towards creating a platform that will showcase a diverse range of creative projects by individuals and communities”, which would include “workshops on the creative arts, a mentorship scheme and practical support and advice regarding creative opportunities”.
The British Journal of Photography‘s Colin Pantall, meanwhile, has described how Invisible Britain will put “social justice to the forefront by directly confronting the cruelties of Austerity Rule and putting the forgotten people of Britain at its heart”.
The book will indeed be a valuable tool for citizens and politicians alike to understand Britain’s marginalised communities better. And with that increased understanding, we could be witnessing the start of a new, more inclusive form of politics.
– See The Canary‘s report on Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle; a 2017 documentary from Paul Sng about the political failures that have led to Britain’s chronic shortage of social housing. Also see our original report on Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain.
Featured image via Vicky_©_PhotobyAndrew_Jackson_original and Martin Hunt Kellingley Colliery One of the last deep coal miners in the UK by Jon Tonks
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