People's stories of the Kingsmead Estate Two of the most unpleasant aspects of Britain are the cult of celebrity and social inequality. The media highlights celebrities. It concentrates on their clothes, their appearance and their sexual behaviour. Ordinary persons are not considered important. Voices from the Mead, by contrast, has collected the views of over twenty ordinary residents of the Kingsmead Estate, Hackney.They include low-paid workers, unemployed people, and elderly persons managing on the state pension. They would not get a mention on TV but they provide insights about life on an estate, which has had more than its share of problems. Celebrities tend to be wealthy, that is they contribute to a very unequal society. London alone has 170,000 millionaires in a country, which has a multitude, who lack an adequate income. Over half a million people own a second home while many citizens rent damp, crowded conditions or are in bed and breakfast rooms. Often the rich are praised for their wealth, even if they inherited it, and the poor are blamed for their poverty.
Voices from the Mead gives space to the voices of those at the wrong end of an unequal nation and reveals that frequently they possess values and qualities, which the affluent would, do well to emulate. What are these qualities? First, a readiness to perceive goodness in the midst of difficulties. One man complained of the wildness and vandalism of young people on the estate. Yet, after rising early for the fish market, he rejoices in the beauty of Kingsmead in the night, all the light and colour. All the lights shining from the balcony to the middle of the yard. It looks lovely.The estate has got better.These are moving and poetic words. Second, persistence. Several reveal how they endured years of hardship before life improved. One women, left temporary accommodation to move, with her family, to a flat in Kingsmead. She said of the area,It was all burnt out cars, burnt out flats. I cried every night. She persisted, made the effort to get to know people. She concluded,It grew on you.We came to love it in the end. We had really nice neighbours. Third, a sense of collectivity. Nearly all the contributors mention activities organised by local people.
They have helped at and being helped by youth clubs, community associations and groups, meetings for the over 50's, the credit union, the outings, and the advice and friendship at the Kabin Project. Local action cannot remove inequality. That requires radical reform by a socialist government-which does not exist at present. But neighbourhood action of the kind that flourishes in Kingsmead can do something to alleviate the adverse effects of a society dominated by the greedy individualism of the free market. Moreover, the qualities displayed by many residents are those, which are the basis of a truly good society.