Tuesday, 18 January 2011
I grew up in a village. And while I did eventually "run-away to the big city" as a grown-up - village life has informed my view of life and my politics immensely. When I was growing up, I knew my neighbours, I knew the shopkeepers and somehow, everything worked better with community.
Of course, Cardiff is not a village exactly. But neither is it a BIG city. (It's comparable in population to: Bradford, Coventry or Leicester) But it does have some village-like qualities - it is possible to walk down Queen Street and bump into friends. And this is also possible in some of the wards and villages that comprise Cardiff's suburbs. I think it's true of Roath, Whitchurch, Cathays and Canton and more besides; but not all areas have the necessary infrastructure to support this village-like community.
Actually, community in the 21st Century is not necessarily a geographical phenomenon; but a matter of what we do with our lives and who we cross paths with. Community happens in the pub, the market and the art-centre. I've seen it in the church (yes, really.) It's found outside the school gates and at the sport-ground and in the park. As such, Cardiff has some excellent centres where community can crystalize. We're truly blessed to have such a variety of theatres, art-centres, outdoor and indoor markets where people can meet, eat, drink, trade, tell-stories or share in the drama of a sporting event or performance. These are the things that give Cardiff a sense of community.
Unfortunately, not all of Cardiff is equally well served. While the centre of Cardiff is the right place for many of these venues, the outlying suburbs have fewer local shops, fewer eateries and very little infrastructure to support any community. It's a sad fact that big supermarkets, for all their convenience, do NOT help create much in the way of local identity or community. Those 'dormitory' housing estates where people don't know their neighbours have to work far harder to get any local life of their own.
So, if you want to find some community, get out there and meet some people. Go to see some live music, join a club, or say hello to the folk walking their dogs in the park. Say "hi" to the person that always serves you in the post-office. Go to the market, help-out with charity work or take an evening-class. I know it's not easy for everyone; but there is community out there if you can find it. And what's more it's waiting for your contribution too.
As for my politics, I don't really think about left or right. I believe in community. I think many of our social problems can be ameliorated by community. It may not eradicate crime or poverty; but it is a big help. So come on in, join the fun. Don't stay at home watching the TV; be a part of our city