Lockdown 1 So many days So many times During lockdown 1 I thought I’d lose my mind Aching head and aching legs Jumping up for P.E with Joe out of my bed Silent screams on homeschool days Fractions keeping me on my toes Hour long walks and panicked stares As we meet someone on the stairs But then the birdsong Loud and clear Louder now for all to hear Then the blue skies Finally clear Free of planes and smoke and fear Connections came and connections made Via Zoom, and letters And the packages we sent and made Humanity stirred with love and compassion Hope has formed for change with passion
Members of the Youth Connect South West team conducted some informal interviews with some of the young people they support in Bath, and asked them the following questions about racism, the climate crisis and Covid-19. Here’s what they had to say:
Do you think there is racism in Bath?
‘Yes – there is racism everywhere, no matter where you go. I’ve experienced this first-hand. I’ve been called a stupid Black whore on the bus, I filmed it, but the police did nothing.’
‘If you go to Bristol, you won’t see racism – it’s very multicultural. But in Bath, it’s very white. A typical white person will look at someone differently just because of their colour.’
‘I’ve seen someone be racist, because someone has disrespected them….so they’re being disrespectful back.’
‘I’ve got older Black siblings – I don’t think racism will ever end.’
‘A kid that was here earlier was called the N word.’
How would you tackle racism?
‘BLM made a very big impact. All these marches are happening, but people (in power) are using Covid as an excuse to not do anything about it.’
‘I think that people need to be educated more. Get people more involved in groups, to show we’re all the same.’
‘It starts from a young age when you start experiencing racism. They should teach more about racism in school, from year 1 upwards.’
‘Even when you have Black History month, you aren’t that informed. You don’t really hear about Martin Luther King. You might hear about slavery, but not about the person who abolished slavery.’
‘We should talk about the good and bad sides of history in school. You need representation.’
‘It’s the 21st Century, people should know it’s not ok to be racist.’
Climate Change – what is your view? Does it worry you? What should we do about it?
‘I think we need to do something about it, but I don’t know much about it.’
‘All of the big companies need to cut down a bit and stop using the sh*tty products they use.’
‘Get better transport for young people – remember the skyline that they were planning, get that to go ahead.’
‘We should reduce plastic.’
‘The scooters in Bath are good. They should be made more accessible for kids under 18’
Life in the pandemic – what should we do in Bath to tackle it?
‘I didn’t go out that much anyway. In the summer it was hard, as everyone wanted to go out.’
‘There’s not much we can do…’
‘It’s made everyone behind in school. Old people are blaming young people, but in the longer term the young people will be affected more.’
Schools shouldn’t have been opened. Different year groups should have been in on different days. They should have been told what to do, and then sent home to do it.
Are there any groups in Bath who are treated unfairly?
Young people – ‘they don’t need to hate on us, just because we’re young’
How can we improve this?
Bring communities back together, do actual community things. Play rangers and Fun Days – when everyone was together.
Even if it was Bingo with the young people and old people together.
‘I fear I may birth a son
And his black lungs
Will be burdened
For they cannot see
That he cannot breathe
I may have to bury him
Is this our genocide
I have my tubes tied
Or they take his life
To not birth’
My sister told me that when she birthed her son she was consumed by fear. Turning her TV and phone off, she could no longer watch the disregard and disposal of Black Lives. She said one child is enough. I feel that same fear.
After the massive upheaval of an international move, we found ourselves settling in the beautiful city of Bath. This was much to my surprise, as Bath whilst a lovely city to visit, had never seemed like a place I could see our family settling down. We were conscious of the lack of diversity and as an interracial couple with 2 mixed race children we felt, initially that Bristol would be a better fit for us. However, circumstances led us to Bath, which very quickly charmed and surprised us.
Moving countries had been really hard and I spent much of 2019 struggling with depression. Part of my journey out of that was realising just how important meaningful human connection is for my mental health and accepting just how hard it had been to leave close friends behind and start over again. I had consciously decided to really work on building deeper connections when the Covid19 Pandemic hit. It was a very challenging time, in a relatively new city, one that was not quite yet ‘home’.
During the months of lockdown in Bath I was certainly grateful to be in such a beautiful area with green spaces and mind clearing walks easily accessible, but I still didn’t see much of myself in the city or feel any real connection.
The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor shook my system so very deeply. As a black British woman, I had never experienced anything as emotionally traumatic in my lifetime. The global protests that followed, whilst crucial were also really triggering. Living in Bath, I felt very visible and not certain of how things would pan out here.
Then the people of Bath joined their voices. I was truly inspired and felt so supported by the number of people who attended the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in Green Park. I felt real support from people of all ages and races for the BLM cause. I also had never felt so vulnerable. The far right were angry and emboldened. It was a very scary time.
There is plenty of work to do, but I am encouraged by the support I have witnessed here in Bath for equality and racial justice. I’d like to see more opportunities for sharing, connecting and celebrating diversity and I would love it if Bath could build on what started in Green Park this summer with an annual event along the lines of Pride. It’s so important to create opportunities where we can celebrate our differences and share our humanity. How powerful would it be to have a positive celebration of diversity, here in the beautiful city of Bath!
In December 2019 I went to my GP for help. I had begun my second stint in the Freedom Programme run by Julian House and felt at a complete loss about how this was still happening to me. Years of my life lost to the whim of a bully. Over the months that followed, she mobilised, contacting domestic abuse agencies, mental health services, filling in forms and writing letters for court.
When Covid-19 stopped Freedom meetings, I continued to be supported by a domestic abuse worker from Southside and the mental health service by phone and received high intensity CBT for trauma from the NHS online. By April 2020, newspaper headlines exclaimed: Domestic abuse killings ‘more than double’ amid Covid-19 lockdown (The Guardian, 15 April 2020). It had only been three weeks.
My perpetrator no longer lives with me but he is always there. At every handover with my children, on every device, at school, at work, at home he is there with messages, remarks and cold shoulders designed to belittle and undermine me because he can’t use his hands to suffocate me anymore. When the radio announced another woman’s death over breakfast, my 10 year old said: ‘I know what Daddy does to you is domestic abuse as well’.
It took a month into lockdown for him to threaten me and for the first time I chose not to stand for it. We enter the second lockdown still going through court proceedings. He countered all my claims, accusing me of lying and abusing him instead. ‘They all do that’ said my domestic abuse supporter. To date, after over a dozen divorce hearings over 7 years, no Judge has yet believed me over him.
Unlike my English perpetrator, I have a Muslim name that tumbles awkwardly out of Judge’s mouth. I speak English like a native though it is my second language. I am a well educated professional white skinned woman with a good job, live in a house I own and volunteer. Yet I sometimes cannot afford food. Before lockdown I took leftovers of buffet lunches from work meetings home for my kid’s packed lunches but there are no buffets anymore. Ever present underneath my smiling zoom call face are worries about bills, court hearings where I have to represent myself because legal representation costs two months salary and my children who are also bullied but I can’t comfort because they were ordered to be taken away from me for part of every week by Magistrates who did not believe what the consequences of that would be for them, or me.
A have developed a fear of masks. I see them Everywhere I turn: Tributaries Of the River Tay that haunts my dreams Whenever I close my eyes. There are white ones, Black ones, Blue, pink, yellow and green ones. Ones in two colours Or bathed Riotous Chrysanthemums. They line the streets like mines. So, I dance on pavements: Cracks like gullies. They will swallow whole. A have developed a fear of masks. I see them Everywhere I turn.
ⅰ Family I have never liked my family. They are a smell That refuses to go away. Not my father, whose Disposition is shtum, His anger unspent The sore that stirs happiness still. Not my mother, whose Voice the shrill That finds fault in everything. Not my sister, whose Very existence Prickles with acetic thorns. Not my brother, whose Voice is as shrill As mother’s, his antithesis Antics that repel like deet. Now we are all cooped up Like sardines, to suffer The death that trudges The streets like ghoulish shadows. ⅱ Child A child is an addiction that panics and calms. Memories of everything that could go wrong. And of the protective arms you throw around them like a mother’s embrace. Of the fear that puts you on tenterhooks, that makes worry about dangers not there or make you see the worst of the ones that are there as the end they are more often not. The danger that now lurks outside our door with its sharp fangs bare. It is the worst fear of them all. The type that is more often the end. It is the type of fear that threatens to tear the heart out of the chest every time a child leaves the house. It is real. It is relentless. It is vile. Worse, it hits like a gush of hot air and suddenly, as the flushes that make sweat hot and cold. It makes etiolate and useless. It is the worst fear of every parent: the death of a child in the hands of a malevolent shadow, one you cannot see, hear or feel coming. ⅲ House Mates The pandemic opened my eyes wider than an owl’s. The fear that I have grown like a pregnancy did not come to pass. The fear of loneliness and despair. The fear of pulling my hair out and of blowing hot air out of my nostrils like a steam engine. Yes we could not leave the house. Yet in the same house we found comfort and safety: The camaraderie soldiers wear in the trenches. We cooked for each other. Ate together and shared Notes about our erstwhile self-centredness. That which drives a couch between the time to reflect And the time to think about someone else. We played Pictionary, Risk, and Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Pick-Up Sticks, Scrabble and Chess. We watched the television and shouted at the top of our voices, at the confusion politicians wore like now.
I am 23 years old and have lived on and off in Bath all my life (apart from my 3 years at University). For the past few years I have been involved in attending protests and some activism, mainly outside Bath but sometimes in the City. I attended the Climate Strikes and was very impressed by the display of unity, joyfulness that I saw there. It gave me a lot of hope.
The thing that I’d like to draw attention to is the racism and far right activity that I’ve seen first hand, from people shouting “white power” at the BLM demo in the centre in the summer to the Generation Identity stickers I spent weeks ripping down across Bath a few summers ago to the Yellow vest protests where far right agitators came into the City to spew their bile, I feel that racism is a massive issue that often gets ignored in this city.
I feel that we need to discuss this openly, and I was so impressed with the BLM demo I attended in Bath in the summer, despite the marring of it by the disgusting people shouting abuse.
Working as part of the team at a special school and a fundraiser I have seen a variety of different experiences of the pandemic.
Many young people and their families and carers are extremely vulnerable. The support which surrounds these families in more normal times helps try to keep everyone safe and well looked after. From speech and language therapy to wheelchair services, respite care and days out to after school clubs and physiotherapy, careers guidance to volunteering in the community, the pandemic has had a knock on effect.
The opportunities have hugely diminished for the young people, with many families struggling financially and emotionally, young people scared and parents terrified that their child may get ill. When you have a child who has been in and out of hospital their whole life, who is supported by medication or through a whole team helping manage behaviour and mental wellbeing, to have that taken away has a massive impact on everyone’s wellbeing.
Three Ways staff have worked tirelessly to create a safe and secure learning environment, constantly adapting to the new requirements and investing in protective equipment. Working to include those at home shielding or isolating and producing even the Christmas Panto and shows via video links. Equipment, food and messages have been sent home and visits from giant parrots, Micky and Minnie have lifted spirits. It has not been easy juggling staggered start and finish times, staff absence and keeping to small bubbles to protect everyone but the enthusiasm and care for the young people is evident and we will continue to offer the best possible education and support to all the students.
I’ve been a journalist in Bath for more than 30 years. Time and time again people have asked why the city doesn’t have a comprehensive what’s on – also why we don’t have a ‘clashing calendar’ for people registering an event to check that it doesn’t clash with someone else’s event. I believe a website that didn’t depend on advertising (therefore compromising its content) for those who work, live and play in Bath would be so useful and much appreciated. I’d also like to see a communal eating area where workers like myself could sit and eat lunch while chatting to others. This should be with a cover and tables to allow people to mingle in all weathers while enjoying their lunch (whether bought or made at home). Let’s encourage communication!