By Simon Bamford, Expert Citizen
Since having the opportunity of being involved in this project I’ve been considering poverty and hardship more often and more deeply than I usually do.
In my home city of Stoke on Trent this has certainly been a concern of mine for most of my existence. Poverty and hardship have never been far from my life and it’s influence at times a massive challenge.
The place has been in decline for 4 decades from my leaving school in 1981 up to today, that’s all my adult life.
Back in 81, as there is now, there was much unemployment and I guess I was lucky to find work at Silverdale Colliery.
Since then Stoke has lost all it’s major industries. The biggest type of employment, pot banks, even gave rise the the area being known as The Potteries, that’s how important the manufacture of ware was to the city, pits have gone too. All this decline has left us without long term secure employment opportunities. Safe jobs have gradually disappeared until they’ve become just memories. Most factories from the time are empty crumbling reminders, ghosts haunting this once great city, simply a thing of the past. Ruined former factories, shops and warehouses are common, buildings that do little to enhance our surroundings. The city and its people have struggled long and hard, health, wealth and quality of life have inevitably suffered, declining to a level that is easily seen by even the least observant eyes. In fact, it’s shoved right into the face of locals and visitors alike, I dread to think what people’s first impressions of Stoke are. I don’t think the term Wasteland is over the top.
That’s a shame because as recently as the 70s it seemed to be a vibrant future looking place. Of course, like any city in the world, it is not all gloom. The people have a strong spirit, good humour and there are many great places. I’m grateful I have good family and friends here, the folk are well known for their good humour and friendliness.
At the moment I’m collecting all my thoughts on the matter, not focusing on statistics. I’m sure I’ll have many to come and with the Coronavirus outbreak and subsiquent lock down I have plenty of opportunity to study statistics.
I’m anticipating my lived experience will be put to good use on this project. That will give me purpose and be of some comfort that it wasn’t all in vein. Being onboard the research team and gathering data will hopefully have some impact on turning the tide of this dreadful situation we have found ourselves in. It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to the journey with a new sense of opportunity and hope for the future.