Book reviews, Comments, Culture, In Focus

The Britain that is kept hidden

Corrine Jones survived the burning of Grenfell Tower but a family of five on the same 17th floor did not.

 

The Britain Corinne Jones. Photo by Jenny Lewis

Sean Sheehan

 

Corrine and her family of four were put in a single hotel room and, after a week of this she went down to Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council offices and refused to leave before being moved to a hotel with two interconnected rooms.

Months went by before non-hotel temporary accommodation was offered and, at the time when her photograph was taken for “Invisible Britain”, she was still waiting for a permanent home.

“We are still at war”, says Corrine. Those responsible for the cost-cutting refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, making it a fire hazard, should go to jail, she says. She feels insulted knowing that the borough is the richest of its kind in Europe.

When Marie McCormack was first made redundant in Glasgow she retreated into herself and hardly left the house. Eight years ago and pregnant at the time, she became part of a group determined to fight poverty. She now works at Bridging the Gap, running a kitchen and baking bread in a block of flats in the Gorbals: “It’s about sharing, working together and getting people involved.”

Marie McCormack. Photo by Margaret Mitchell

Marie hopes her daughter, Olivia, will have a better life and that she will carry on the things she does: “to have compassion for people and just fight for people’s rights, for justice and for hope”.

Dan Kilifin lives in west Belfast and one day, with a friend, the idea of using waste land to create an allotment was born. Now it’s a small farm that gives its produce to those in need within the community. It helps unemployed volunteers to gain skills they need for work and invites people going through a rough spell to join in with activities – like night classes to learn the Irish language, a walking club, fishing and football clubs – and take their minds off stressful difficulties.

Dan is hopeful that other communities around Belfast will be inspired to create similar projects – “because, let’s face it, if we sat waiting for the government to help us, we’d all still be waiting”.

Corrine, Marie and Dan are just three of the individuals whose photographs and stories make up “Invisible Britain: portraits of hope and resilience”. It is a book full of warmth and solidarity, showing how the marginalized have voices that will not be silenced. Most of all, they have resilience in the face of hardship and deprivation.

Dan Kilifin. Photo by James McCourt

Some of the tales are heartbreaking, like Sé Oba-Smith who tells of his cousin who committed suicide at the age of 26, others are heart-warming. Kevin Horne, arrested at the Battle of Orgreave during the miners’ strike in 1984, continues to agitate for an inquiry into an organized act of extreme violence by the police. Eventually, he knows, the truth will come out.

“Invisible Britain: portraits of hope and resilience”, edited by Paul Sng, is published by Policy Press 

(Photos provided by the publisher)

 

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