On Sunday 20.11, the two of us who moved down to Keynsham back in the summer were doing our routine litter pick as a part of what the Keynsham Wombles do around the town. This is part of our strategy of getting involved with and supporting local grassroots projects as discussed here: Our strategy 7.11.22 and here: Starting local and then working outwards from there 1.10.22.
The patch we were litter picking on is a series of footpaths on the edge of town by the rugby and football clubs. We had two bags, one for recyclable items and the other for general rubbish. The pick took about fifty minutes and at the end, there were a few items in the recycling bag and the general rubbish bag was barely half full. The bulkiest items in the general rubbish bag were a few burst footballs left at the side of the football pitches. When we had finished the pick, we looked at each other in disbelief at how little we had collected compared to what we would have picked up on a walk of a similar length back in Thurrock where we used to live. This was the third litter pick we’ve done for the Keynsham Wombles and it’s been the same on all three occasions – a minimal amount of litter.
Where we used to live back in Thurrock in Stanford-le-Hope, has a demographic that’s fairly similar to that of Keynsham in terms of social class. Yet Stanford-le-Hope is blighted with litter while Keynsham is pretty clean by comparison. Keynsham is not perfect and it does have it’s problems yet there’s something about the place that makes it different from where we used to live. We’ve been scratching our heads to try and work out what that is and how it helps to create a sense of community and belonging.
This is not to knock Stanford-le-Hope because there are grassroots community groups grafting away to make the town a better place to live. One of the projects we were involved with was the resident run park in the town – Hardie Park. It’s a park that fifteen years ago was pretty much a no go area, blighted by anti-social behaviour and litter. Local residents, fed up with this state of affairs, took matters into their own hands, starting out with a few litter picks and working up from there to eventually take over running the park. Hardie Park is now a much loved community asset. It also suffers very little in the way of vandalism. The reason being that because it’s a resident run park, any vandalism would be seen as an attack on the community as a whole. Having to face the ire of the community acts as a deterrent to most of the local yobs.
The problem is that back in Thurrock, there was isn’t the density of community and grassroots groups that we have down here in Keynsham. Also – and this may be an important factor – the population in Thurrock, tends to be more transient. Where we used to live in Stanford-le-Hope, many people saw that as a stepping stone on the way to moving somewhere ‘better’ such as Billericay or Rayleigh. There was less of a sense of attachment and connection to a place than we have seen here in Keynsham. When people view a place as a stepping stone rather than somewhere they’d like to live for a long while, there’s less incentive for them to get involved in any community activities that would make it a better place to live.
‘Attachment and connection’ is the title of this piece for a very good reason. A lot of what Grassroots Alternatives is about is building a sense of community cohesion and solidarity. A key part of that is having a feeling of attachment and connection to where you live. That’s regardless of where people may have originally come from. Having that is the spur to wanting to get involved in community projects to make the town you live in a better place to live. What’s important is that this feeling of attachment and connection apples to the people in your community as well as the location you live in. It’s about building the bonds with each other that will turn to solidarity when the hard times hit, as they inevitably will.
It’s about working towards how we should be living. That’s living in a community where people have an attachment and connection to the town they live in and the people they live alongside. It’s about looking out for each other, building the bonds of solidarity and caring about the locality you live in. It’s about real connections in real life, not fake ones online. It’s the opposite of what the faceless corporations and the governments who do their bidding want for us which is living in an atomised, selfish society where people are actively encouraged to compete with and fear each other. There are many more of us than them though. Whatever they try to do, they’ll never eradicate people’s natural desire for a sense of attachment and connection to place and community.