On Sunday just over 100 people from Bradford attended an inaugural conference at Bradford University aimed at finding a response to the government cuts.
This is my personal response to the day…
The shape of the day looked like this: Everyone started off together where we discussed the agenda and our hopes for the day. Then we broke into small groups focused around particular interests (elderly, those on benefits, trade unions, education, transport, the voluntary and community sector etc) to look at:
1) How the cuts are going to affect that sector / group of people.
2) Ideas about how to fight the situation.
The afternoon was then given over to coming back together to feed back these discussions, to ratify the name and purpose of the group and finally to firm up our next steps…
A taste of the day:
The experience of attending yesterday’s conference was 25% sobering and 75% inspiration. What became apparent very quickly from the discussion I attended (The Voluntary and Community sector group) was just how badly effected Bradford is going to be hit by these cuts… No it wasn’t ‘empirical’ – this was a straw poll of opinion from people who are active in voluntary and faith groups – but the overwhelming sense was that the effects of these cuts is going to be immensely damaging… Someone described it in mathematical terms as ‘the 80’s squared’. Many talked of fearing that their organisation would not be able to weather the upcoming storm. Its not an overstatement to feedback that at least 50% of the groups represented there are under threat of closure. There was fear as well that the public of Bradford just haven’t yet realised what is about to hit their community. Someone at one point said, “There’s a massive problem with the visibility of the situation. At the moment we’re dealing with a thousand pinpricks… What we have to do is change that so people see the situation as it is, one huge assault on everyone”
We heard how individual organisations are facing up to massive slashes in their budgets. The very organisations which another participant described as ‘the glue’ that holds our community together”. She went on to say ‘It doesn’t bear thinking about what the impact will be if this ‘glue’ disappears”… So overwhelmingly, the feeling in the room was that we can expect massive impacts for elderly people, people on benefits, people suffering with mental health issues, the youth, ethnic minorities… in fact to be honest, there isn’t a single group in our community that won’t be effected (other than perhaps the very rich)…
So yes, this was a very sobering morning…
BUT! It was also an incredibly inspiring event. The ideas that came up for campaigning against the cuts were great. The imagination in the room, the determination to stand shoulder to shoulder with public sector workers and students was inspiring. Who says we all believe in a ‘dog eat dog’ world that Cameron and Co want us to buy into. There are so many of us who do not feel that way, who believe in public services and the importance of society… And having experienced that, I can’t tell you how much stronger I feel today. To be surrounded by people who have not given in, who believe that while the problems are grave this fight can be won, was just huge. Come on!
And don’t think just because we were very much in agreement that we were all the same. One of the most important things for me yesterday was the huge range of people who turned up. This really is a coalition of people from so many different backgrounds. We had young people, older people, Asian people, white people black people, unemployed, employed and volunteers, women, men … and judging from the comments I heard different people making, we have a real cross section of political thought. There are those amongst us who want revolution. There are also those who just want to maintain the system as we have it and keep it intact… We are clearly a ‘broad church’ and I take great strength from this, because despite our differences we have found a real basis for agreement. And that’s an indication that our cause is genuinely important to the whole community of Bradford.
Finally, there was a fantastic electricity in the session I was in. A distinct feeling that a ‘line has been crossed’. A stubborn resilience that very firmly said ‘no to your cuts and no to your ideology of ‘crisis capitalism’. We’re not fooled and we’re not standing for it.
Well that’s the vibe I got anyway…
Decisions and Actions Taken:
The conference unanimously decided to:
Affiliate to the national Coalition of Resistance.
Participants at the conference signed up to the statement:
'We stand against the cuts, in solidarity with all the poor, disabled,
older and retired people, students, young people, women and working people affected.'
Things to do / What’s next:
Support the Bradford University Students Union march from the University at 3pm this Tuesday 30 November to a demonstration in the City Centre.
Hold a rally in Centenary Square on the 11th December to coincide with the demonstration planned on the same day in Leeds by the Leeds Coalition of Resistance.
Reconvene the conference on the 18th December 2010 to discuss and plan for future activities.
Tell Your Story:
Bradford Community Broadcasting http://www.bcbradio.co.uk –
wants to hear how the cuts are affecting the people in our community. To share and connect with your community contact the station
Email BCB 106.6fm at:
General Information: email@example.com
Media Releases: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep in touch:
On Facebook: ‘Like’ http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bradford-Peoples-Coalition-Against-Cuts/156154664428986
On Twitter: Follow @BfdPplCoalition