by Claire Brown - central team member - communications
We can find meaning and insight in the most unexpected and beautiful places, and this weekend the Local Welcome team found a special connection with the film Pride.
It’s 1984. The miners are on strike, and gay and lesbian activists are demanding their rights. We find two very different communities being forced to fight for their way of life against the machinations of Government, the media and public opinion.
Young gay activist Mark Ashton sees commonality with the miners’ cause and establishes LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) to raise money for struggling mining communities. After a few false starts, LGSM develop an alliance with the Welsh village of Onllwyn, a relationship that will eventually lead to historic leaps forward for both the Labour and LGBTQ movements.
Pride is keenly observed, sharply written and downright hilarious, but the reason why the team here are such huge fans is because it also happens to encapsulate our Vision pretty perfectly. If you’re not already familiar with it, here it is:
“Diverse, resilient, and powerful communities, acting together for the common good.”
Let’s breakdown what we mean by ‘diverse’, ‘resilient’ and ‘powerful’ with our friends from Pride in mind.
The diversity you’ll find on a Local Welcome table goes way beyond ‘refugee’ and ‘local person’. We bring together people from many different countries, cultures and faiths, young people and old people, able bodied and disabled people, LGBTQ and straight people. On our tables there is always difference but there is always commonality, and we find it through our food ritual. In Pride, national treasures Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton give us an acting masterclass in a scene epitomising how powerful food and ritual can be in bridging our differences. Enjoy!
We understand resilience in three ways; emotional, financial and environmental. To explain, we can go back to our mining friends in Pride. Emotional resilience is the ability to deal with problems in life, it is a our ‘bounce-back-ability’, it is much easier to bounce back when we have a stable home life and friends we can count on - the Welsh miners had this in droves thanks to the strong bonds created with their colleagues in the pit and being surrounded by their extended family in the village. Refugees who find themselves in an unfamiliar country with few friends and family or sometimes none at all often struggle with their emotional resilience as they’ve lost this support network - Local Welcome meals are a way for them to build new friendships and connections to see them through the difficult times ahead.
Financial resilience is the ability not only to provide the basics for oneself and one’s family - a home, food, utilities etc - but also to thrive by being able to put away money and cope with any unexpected expenses without going into debt. Before the strike, our miners were thriving in this way, yet as the strike continued, so their financial resilience dwindled, the strain of this impacting on their relationships and therefore on their emotional resilience and capacity for hope as time went on.
Environmental resilience is about place, living within in a resilient area is inextricably linked to an individual’s ability to succeed. Again, we can see this in Pride - in the 1980s mining communities large and small were often just that, mining communities, with very little other work available. Once the pit closures began, areas that had once thrived through coal began to struggle, then to wilt away completely, some of them never to recover and even decades later continue to be blighted by unemployment and poverty.
What does this teach us? That resilience is three-fold with each strand dependent upon the others. We might be personally emotionally and financially resilient, but if our environment isn’t, well then the first two may be at risk. This is why Local Welcome is so focused on bringing communities together.
If we want change, we need power. Technology has allowed us to view the world and its problems in detail like never before and it is easy to believe we are powerless in the face of global events we feel we have no hope of control over.
But if power is something we don’t have through wealth, position or influence, it is something we can build through people. LGSM were one, small organisation working out of a gay bookshop in London, the village of Onllwyn was just a speck on the map of Wales, yet they came together to create an allegiance so powerful, it was worth making a film about it 30 years later.
Local Welcome meals bring people together, and our digital tools will allow us to do this at scale. All that chopping, grating and mixing, all those conversations, all those new friendships, all those connections - we may be cooking rostis, but we’re building power.
All we have to worry about now, is who is going to play us in the film…