Ann Fisher, a longstanding member of Walthamstow Labour Party, describes how Movement for Change has given her (and a larger group of previously inactive members) a way to engage both with the Party and their local community.
I am a recently retired London primary school teacher and have long been a Labour Party member. I have never been confident enough to attend Labour Party meetings nor to talking to people on doorsteps during elections. However I am keen to play my part as a Labour Party member. So when our Movement for Change (M4C) organiser Kathryn Perera asked me to join a small group of similar members locally, I was very happy to attend.
Through meeting with each of us individually (1-2-1), Kathryn had identified us as all being interested in education. Since the initial meeting six of us plus Kathryn have met several times at my husband John’s and my house.
We began to hold 1-2-1 meetings with other members of the group in order to learn more about each other and find out where we have shared interests and concerns. Through that process, we discovered that education would not necessarily be the subject of our action. Through further discussions, it was suggested that our group should attend a Job Fair at the local college. We did this and combined talking to some local business people, listening to the issues of local residents and registering young people to vote as part of The Missing Millions voter registration campaign. Lots of people were happy to register to vote and we learned more about our local community in the process.
I felt, at last, I was doing something positive and linking with people I otherwise would not have met. It felt like we’d achieved a small step towards becoming more engaged in the political process. Everybody we approached responded eagerly and in a friendly manner. We hope to continue to work for The Missing Millions Campaign in the months ahead.
At first, our group was a little unsure as to where M4C was taking us as we were not asked to focus on activity straight away. But we stayed with it because we liked the idea of working within the local community, building up networks, so that people could identify and share their worries, which then might lead to joint action. A lot of people, in my experience, seem to feel alienated from party politics, thinking it has nothing to do with them. My experience with M4C has proven my belief that working with the local community on local issues which they have identified, can lead them to take part in political action and achieve change.
Next we are planning a listening campaign along our street, initially, to ask residents how they think our street can be improved e.g. less litter, more trees, less congestion, improved lighting and find out any other issues they have and want to act on with us. It is a gradual process, but one to which I am committed. There have also been other off-shoot actions from our group. For example, one of our initial members was a young man who had two degrees, but was unemployed. He felt there was a big issue around businesses not providing work experience to the unemployed. He is now working with Kathryn to link local businesses with local young people seeking work experience.
Before Movement for Change, I felt I couldn’t participate in the traditional role of a Labour Party member joining in meetings and electioneering. Being able to meet local people in 1-2-1s and small groups, in order to build towards community actions, has given me the opportunity to develop from an inactive party member to an active one.