Manchester Young Labour activist Kieran Roberts shares his personal reflections on the journey he has taken from ‘angry young man’ to a focused activist and organiser in the making:
I joined the Labour Party four years ago and, like everyone else who does at that age, you join because you’re angry and you want to make a difference. And then I went to my first CLP meeting… and then I was even angrier.
In Manchester Young Labour we wanted to give our members a better experience of being in the Labour Party than we had had. Community Organising was an obvious example as they could do the kind of thing that inspired them to join in the first place. Young people get involved in politics because they want to change lives, not the minutes of the last meeting, and that’s why I believe Movement for Change is so important.
After asking Movement for Change for help, we had a training event with Young Labour members in Manchester. We learned the basics about Community Organising, we all left fired up and by popular support everyone wanted to take action on lowering travel costs for young people in the city. We researched and planned a lot and it slowly seemed like an insurmountable task for us to take on – probably because it was – so after some discussions with Movement for Change (who gently reminded me that it’s a good idea to start with an action that’s achievable) we started visiting Blackley, an area where Labour activists don’t regularly campaign (because it’s very safe in electoral terms) but which is known for having high crime rates and lower than average incomes.
We held a lot of focused conversations, heard a lot of problems and what came up time and time again was that the kids in Blackley had nothing to do. What made it worse was we heard that if you live on one side of the road, you’d get beaten up if you went to play on the other side. As a result, the one playground that’s there already is out of bounds for many kids.
So now we’re taking action to negotiate for a play area and some goal posts in the middle of a currently empty green in the area. We’re building support in the community and, most importantly, we’ve built up relationships in the area to spread the word that we’re listening, taking action and now we’re working on specific solutions.
Blackley’s the kind of place with deeply rooted problems but this method of Organising works with ordinary people to find practical solutions to our problems, making Labour more relevant in the process. If you’re not already having a go in your branch, CLP, Young Labour group or wherever, it’s time to get organised!