Poverty 'Hear': Giving Poverty a Voice

In the lead up to October 17 this year, ATD Fourth World UK organised an exciting series of free cultural activities and events in London. The series of events, entitled ‘Poverty: Hear’ aimed to highlight the hard work and aspirations of people who are struggling to make ends meet in the UK and the organisations which support them. We also wanted to raise awareness about the work of ATD Fourth World and get more people to sign up for regular updates. It was a successful and fun weekend which involved live music from local bands, poetry, information, learning and activities for children. All events were free to enter and based in Camberwell, not far from the ATD FW London office.

The weekend kicked off with a live gig in the fantastic setting of St Giles Church, which is hundreds of years old and beautifully designed inside. It gave a unique and dramatic feel to the night which was headlined by a five-piece jazz ensemble from New Cross called Saltwater Samurai.    The band “take pride in defying convention; blending house beats and dub basslines with jazz inflected improvising and glitch.” The support acts Nomad Soul, Kevin Huxley and Machines for Making Clouds were also impressive with their contemporary sounds and strong vocal abilities. Nomad Soul is made up of four friends who have found and created their own unique sound. Influenced by ensembles such as the ‘Cinematic Orchestra’ and ‘Bonobo’, they had the crowd captivated. 

The turn out was good and the crowd appeared to be largely young students, many who had come to support the bands. Information about ATD Fourth World was on display along with the photo exhibition entitled ‘The Roles we Play’ by local artist Eva Sajovic, at the back of the church. This series of photos explores the roles played by those living in poverty within their families, communities and society at large and challenges negative stereotypes of poor people in the UK.

The following morning family members and friends of ATD Fourth World took part in ‘A people’s walking tour of Camberwell’. This was organised by local artist Melissa Bliss, who works with communities throughout Britain to create work that reflects their local area.

The aim was to visit significant places around Camberwell to highlight the history and culture of the area, particularly in relation to the lives of poor people, past and present. The walk began by visiting a social centre called ‘Ratstar’ located in a disused building. We learned about the activities and services this group of squatters provide the community for free including a second hand clothes shop, screen printing, bike mending workshop, yoga classes and more. We visited several other spots in Camberwell and heard stories and experiences from local people along the way.

Meanwhile the community event at the ATD Fourth World offices in Addington Square had begun. The organisation opened its doors to anyone and everyone who was interested in learning more about them as well as all family members and friends, old and new. Several new people joined up to receive regular updates, or came in to find out more. The day included life stories from people who are deprived in the UK, and the chance for people to leave their message for a world without poverty. At 17 minutes past each hour there was a short presentation or speech from a family member highlighting the importance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, what it means to them and the vision of ATD Fourth World. There was a room full of information brochures on local services and resources on issues such as childcare, housing and employment, providing links with other local NGOs and community services. As well as creative activities and games for the children there was a free lunch for anyone who wanted to pop in and share in the community day.

Following this, a spoken word evening took place in the House Café in Camberwell led by poet and novelist Leslie Tate, with interviews and comment on the often unrecognised role that people living with poverty play in their communities. Leslie Tate’s writing adapts elements of his life, living near London, teaching English to asylum seekers and university students. Several family members and staff of ATD Fourth World read out their own poems reflecting their stories and experiences. Leslie explored poems and prose about the search for meaning and self education and how writing can open up areas of understanding which complement the drive to find justice in the world. The ‘Roles we Play’ exhibition was also displayed in the cafe. This was a great way for ATD FW to make further links with the local community in Camberwell and use people’s creative abilities to help spread the vision of the organisation amongst members of the public.

Finally, the action packed weekend was brought to a close with a live gig in collaboration with Camden Calling, a social enterprise run collectively with homeless and ex-homeless people who put their problems aside to host live music events. The gig took place at The Joiners Arms in Camberwell and was packed with people interested in hearing the variety of talented artists. The evening started off on a mellow note with talented guitarist and vocalist Ben Is a Dark Horse, who has performed at festivals including The Big Chill and Notting Hill Carnival and finished with Dekay and The D'Mans- a live band accompanied by a Hip Hop act, who are currently working on their first album together. The other great artists were Rukas and Eastroad. The evening was a great success and a good opportunity for 2 inspirational grass roots organisations- Camden Calling and ATD Fourth World- to collaborate and raise awareness of the contribution of those living in poverty. As a whole the weekend was packed full of creativity and talent and was not only a lot of fun but raised awareness of deprivation in the UK, reminding us that if we keep working together and listen to those who are affected, we can achieve a world without poverty.