It looks like my race is definitely over for me this weekend as I am still coughing up my lungs but I do feel more human. So I thought I would talk about some projects I am helping with.
The big one I am involved with is the Wishawhill Wood Pumptrack, a catchy name I know.
This pumptrack has a lot of criticism for where it is. Not because it is damaging some area of scenic beauty, in fact, it is the complete opposite. It sits in an area which is, according to statistics, one of the most deprived areas in the EU and this causes a very funny attitude amongst British people. I will come back to that but first, why is this area deprived.
If you are old enough and live in the UK you might remember the shutdown of Ravenscraig. Our pumptrack lies besides its former grounds, on the grounds of an old primary school which was knocked down as the population went into decline.
Ravenscraig was one of 4 big steel mills in the UK, can you remember all the furore about Chinese steel from a year or two back? It was shut down in 1992 by a Tory government when they were going through their phase of taking manufacturing jobs out of the UK, that is turning out well for us isn’t it? It is also worth knowing it was the largest steel mill in Europe, can you guess what we did with the steel during those times?
When it closed it, directly and indirectly, removed 11,000 jobs. The two big towns around it that supplied the majority of the workforce had a population of around 50,000 people at that time. It is quite easy to guess what happened to the local economy then. That was 25 years ago and some places have just not been able to bounce back at all, we could blame short-sighted and greedy politicians, in fact, we should blame them, but what we need is a plan to turn the area around and guess what we are aiming to do that with bikes (and skateboards and scooters).
So, I said British people have a funny attitude to a pumptrack in a deprived area. One is that people complain that it will be dangerous to come here as the folks will all be hoodlums. The reverse seems to be true, these people have nothing and I mean that literally, they are therefore respecting the pumptrack as they now have something, it is theirs. Indeed the police are already seeing a small decline in anti-social behaviour.
The next point is tied in. In Britain we do not accept that poverty exists here, that is why middle-class white folks like to give aid to Africa but not at home. Poverty and starvation can exist a few thousand miles away but it cannot exist across the road. We refuse to admit that the problem exists and there are many voters who are firmly in agreement that they should be removing any welfare system that may help these people, as for them the problem does not exist.
I would just like to say I have been in shops where they sell eggs individually and not in half a dozen as people cannot afford that. Generally, at this point, someone will give the advice that they should work their way out of poverty but not say how if they live in an area with no work, cannot afford transport, cannot even afford food, tell me how they can do this? This attitude comes from an entitled position. Come help them? I can also hear you getting ready to me about addiction problems and I refer you to George Orwell who once quipped that the fasted way out of poverty (he said Manchester at the time but it was poverty he was alluding to) was a bottle of gin. It is not a cause but a temporary solution to the pain some people have to deal with on a daily basis.
This brings up another weird point. The point where people think that getting funding for our projects is easy as we are in a deprived area. They have this belief that bodies will just be throwing cash at us to help, I can tell that they are not and the cash we get can only work with volunteer helpers, we have spent two years working on helping this project start to work and during that time no one working on the project has taken a wage or had expenses paid as the money needs to stay in the project to provide help and hope.
I will return with more on what we are doing with the project in the future, we nicely have a first in the UK project about to happen with primary schools and I am still afraid it may not happen so I do not want to jinx it. If you fancy finding more we have a special blog about the project and we have a big event coming up.
Sorry for the politics, but not really and just in case you can’t tell I think Brexit is a crazy idea designed to con people into voting for rich people to escape the forthcoming EU tax avoidance laws.