In this guest article for Periscope Nottingham, Broxtowe Labour Party Youth Officer Sophia Buxton writes about her experiences as part of the group of local activists that have been putting the ideas of community organising into practice during the COVID crisis.
Solidarity is about having a positive presence in the community, and this is the principle that provides the foundation for the Broxtowe Labour Community Hub. The purpose of the Labour movement is to promote solidarity in society and the hub has allowed us to do this. Right from the start, it’s been used as a community space for a variety of activities, from drop-in coffee mornings to helping people fill out forms. The foodbank side of the hub began with a shelf of food outside for people to help themselves to but since the start of the pandemic, this has accelerated far beyond what any of us could’ve expected. During the COVID crisis, the scale of poverty has rapidly grown. 4.8 million households are struggling to make ends meet, 7 million have lost a significant part of their earnings, and the public campaign popularised by Marcus Rashford was needed to save millions of children the bare minimum of food needed for the summer.
Into that catastrophic situation, the hard work of some of the incredible activists in our constituency has made an enormously positive impact. What once was just a single shelf has now become a fully-fledged solidarity fuelled foodbank. Over the course of 14 weeks, 5000 people have been helped by 2200 food parcels, including 934 jacket potatoes, 226 recipe/baking bags and 32 breakfast bags. 50 activists have helped with the effort, joined by a range of local groups including schools, the fire brigade, GPs, unions and local businesses.
Being involved in Broxtowe Labour’s community effort has been really important to me because, having canvassed all around the constituency in the election, it’s palpable how much people so close to home are struggling. To me, seeing our actions impact people so directly and in such a tangible way encapsulates all of what the Labour movement should be doing. I’ve been involved in the Jacket Potato Night and packing food parcels and whilst it’s upsetting to see the sheer number of people who need help, it’s reassuring to know that we’re able to be there and to have a positive effect on their lives.
The Labour movement was built on the foundations of unity and collective strength and the hard work of our constituency epitomises this. The help we provide to our community isn’t charity but acts of solidarity, compassion and unity. It’s allowed us to reach out and engage with people who otherwise may not have interacted with any political parties. Through building up a presence in the community, we’re forming a long-lasting rapport with people that will hopefully translate into support at the polling station. From its creation, the Labour Party has been embedded in the ideas of solidarity and togetherness. The next election may be a while away, but these values cannot just exist in manifestos. They can help people in need at this time of crisis, and that’s exactly why this is the sort of community activism that the party should be doing.