Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

This week we talked about campaigning and movement building, including different approaches to campaigning and what issues Church Action on Poverty should campaign on.

We have been having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Join us on Zoom by clicking the link below, or call 0131 460 1196 and using the meeting ID: 193 697 232

Before we started out main discussion, our poet in digital residence, Matt Sowerby, shared the poem that he is working on inspired by the ‘You Can’t eat the view’ report from the End Hunger Cornwall conference last year. You can read the report here, and you can find more of Matt’s poetry here.

We started our discussion about campaigning by talking about the news Marcus Rashford has persuaded the free school meals vouchers scheme into the summer holidays. Holiday hunger is an issue that many people and organisations have been campaigning on for a long time, but it was a footballer that had the direct impact on government policy – so what can we learn from this? It was striking in the interviews that Rashford was speaking from his personal experience of having gone hungry as a child, and this was the powerful basis campaign. Rashford’s success was a clear sign that campaigns that might not have seemed winnable six months may actually be achievable.

Niall then talked about different types of campaign as well as various campaigns around poverty that other organisations are running at the moment. A lot of our campaigning in the past has been focussed on changing UK government policy, but there are other effective ways of campaigning too, such as influencing other institutions, raising public awareness and building a wider movement.

Andrew talked about the need for a societal change as well as change to government policy. Foodbanks and food poverty are becoming ‘normal’ in our society and we need people to realise that this isn’t normal and shouldn’t be normal. To make societal change we need grassroots up movements, not top-down campaigns.

There was also discussion about how there are many issues that are would not typically be the focus of a specifically anti-poverty campaign, but are indirectly connected. An example that came up a few times was mental health issues, which can often arise as a result of poverty. An anti-poverty campaign could focus on building a better environment in which fewer mental health problems arise.

In breakout rooms we had the opportunity to discuss different issues that we could focus a campaign on, as well as different approaches to campaigning. Stef’s group talked about rethinking the benefits system and social security, to shift attitudes away from the unhelpful idea that ‘those who pay more in, should get more out’. They also discussed how food poverty arises mot just from an inadequate benefit system, but also from in-work poverty. This is another possible focus for a campaign.

Wendy’s group talked about ways of campaigning and the importance of a grassroots approach and having a local as well as national focus, because local campaigns can often achieve things that wouldn’t be possible on the national level.

At these gatherings we love to have creative input, and this week were joined by Yo Tozer-Loft from Sheffield, who has been learning to play the guitar during lockdown as part of a local guitar group, and she kindly demonstrated her new skills with a song. The guitar group grew off the back of the ‘Foodbank Choir’, who sang at the End Hunger UK event in Sheffield Cathedral last year. You can listen to them here.

We have had a gathering every week during lockdown, and the response and involvement has been amazing. We plan to continue gatherings like this on Zoom, but in order to sustain them in the long term, from July onwards they will be monthly rather than weekly. Next week (23rd June) will be the last of the weekly gatherings, and it will chance to reflect and discuss what we have talked about and learnt in the gatherings so far. We really value your input, so do join us on Tuesday.

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