Comment: People are increasingly prepared to fight for a better quality of life (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Comment: People are increasingly prepared to fight for a better quality of life
2:33pm Thursday 3rd May 2012 in Westmorland Gazette Comment
It can be very tempting to adopt the Homer Simpson principle "trying is the first step to failure", especially when times are tough. At the heart of this resignation is a feeling that there is a yawning gap between what people want and value and the decisions made by those in power at a local, as well as a national level.
However, I think there is a lot more belief right now in the power of the individual to effect change and a determination to come together around common causes – to not be just led by the usual ‘suspects’ and to not just rally around the ‘usual’ causes.
There is also a belief that we do know what is best for us, that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting our voices heard and as a response to the rhetorical gauntlet thrown down of ‘Big Society’ and ‘localism’.
Better still, there's a lot more optimism and positive energy out there than some would have us believe.
Look at the numbers and range of people who turned out recently to ask for a radiotherapy cancer treatment centre to be provided at Kendal's Westmorland General Hospital.
They were intent on making something happen – it was a collective demand for change.
It was much more than just a march.
It was an inspiring demonstration of the breadth and depth of community spirit and ambition - and for 'demonstration' read 'display', rather than 'protest'.
By way of what may seem an unrelated example, we ran an event just the evening before which displayed these qualities and attitudes in abundance.
It was a small event, our first Mintfeast, an auction of experiences hosted by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron. It is part of a campaign to find new and creative ways of raising funds for Mintfest, Kendal's international festival of street arts.
It was, however, intended to be much more than "just" a fundraiser.
It was a way for us to get the message out that the festival's future is not guaranteed and neither are the unique arts and cultural experiences on offer in this area.
It aimed to galvanise the support of local people and to give them a real stake in the festival, sharing in its successes and taking more responsibility for its future.
We're not yet expecting to see people marching on the streets with placards saying ‘Save Mintfest’. If they did people would likely think it was one of our more bizarre shows!
Mintfeast attracted a fantastic mix of people from right across the social spectrum and from much further afield then Kendal.
Apart from the money we raised, a whole host of things came out of that evening which, to me, are a measure of that optimism and ambition.
The displays of generosity were far-reaching and not just about money. Ideas and enthusiasm flowed freely from all quarters and the offers of time and shared networks and resources were overwhelming.
Even in times of economic pressures there was a resolve not to compromise on the quality of the festival and, by implication, the quality of life in the town and the surrounding area.
There was a real concern that what we lose now may never be recovered and would leave future generations with a much more serious deficit.
I believe these two events reveal the birth of a new civic vibrancy. People know what they want, have a collective vision for the area and feel the time is ripe (whether for positive or negative reasons) to play an active role in turning intention into reality.
Long may it continue.
- JULIE TAIT, a director of Kendal Arts International.