Socialist Party
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27 June 2012

Radio review

Life in a 'forgotten' area

Becci Heagney

A recent 'Thinking Allowed' programme on BBC Radio 4 interviewed Lisa McKenzie, a Nottingham University sociologist, on the alienation felt by working class people in St Ann's, a Nottingham council estate.

McKenzie has lived on the estate for the past 20 years. She carried out this research because she's "always been aware of inequality" and was worried about its effect on 'forgotten' areas such as St Ann's.

She described growing up in a family who were involved in strike action and protests in the 1980s. She had moved to St Ann's as a single mother with a mixed race child, something that wasn't 'accepted' in other parts of Nottingham.

St Ann's is one of Nottingham's most deprived areas. Rebuilt in 1968 in a slum clearance programme, these mainly grey concrete boxes have problems with damp. As McKenzie says: "it isn't very pretty". Estate residents describe themselves as 'sufferers' and say that 'others couldn't stand to live here for a day'.

Unemployment is over 9% and much higher among young people, particularly young black men. In riots last August, the police were attacked, the local police station was petrol bombed, and cars and bins set on fire, causing anger in the community. McKenzie says young people in St Ann's are almost constantly being 'stop-and-searched' by the police.

Studies done in the 1960s in the same area reported that most people talked about 'getting out', having faith in the idea of social mobility. Today a whole generation feels that they are 'being kept down' by the rich and that there is no way out for them.

Most young people in the area want to work but cannot find jobs. Some try to go into education but often give up because 'there are too many hoops to jump through'.

For decades, areas like this have been left to rot by the three main parties. As a result, McKenzie describes the desperation of people looking for answers and finding them in 'conspiracy theories' on the internet.

There is a crying need for a new mass workers' party and campaigns such as Youth Fight for Jobs for people living in areas like St Ann's to organise in and fight for decent jobs, homes and services.