What follows is a collection of notes from Crystal's participation in the Changing Realities lobby day. This saw eight participants in the project come together with the research team and colleagues from Child Poverty Action Group to go to Westminster, to push for change and to meet MPs about why change to social security was so urgently needed.
It was so wonderful to meet in person some of the people I feel very close to through Changing Realities Zoom meetings and workshops. I felt like I was meeting old friends, with all the nerves and anticipation that entails. I was very much missing my children back home, I was keen to get stuck into the tasks for the event. My MP was unavailable to speak to me today, so I’m happy to write this report and arrived prepared. While I’ll touch on some organisational aspects of the day, I want to focus on how this opportunity has made participants feel and what Changing Realities hopes for us to get from this experience.
Our Parliament guide Nick gave us a public areas tour, part of which those of us with mobility issues missed as access for those unable to use the stairs involved a heck of a lot of walking and guides for our little
group of four. While the guides were helpful and friendly, the inaccessibility of an institution that all members of the public have a protected right to access was worthy of note. We did enjoy the delight of being shouted at to sit down while the Lord Chancellor carried a small
pule of papers wrapped in red ribbon up a corridor, before walking back down the corridor thus enabling us to stand again was such a British experience. It certainly brought to my mind at least attention to the fact that large swathes of government practices is a show, pomp and demonstration, to emphasise importance and stature and tradition but I worry takes away from the importance of the needs of the people and puts unnecessary energies into performing their roles. I’ve often times
thought parliamentary debates more closely resemble WWE matches than productive organisational communication. A performance of power, and entertainment to make them look important and us distracted. I’ll assume that if you’ve read this you’re interested to find out too. Perhaps you expect us to be fists raised shouting for change, and if you want to read our recommendations you can find some of them here.
I have every confidence that each participant who spoke to their MP did a fantastic job of getting their points across. But my interest is in how they felt about the day, not just Westminster but of the experience of coming together in London for those fortunate to be able to come. I know that I, a single mum of two on benefits, couldn't have had this experience without the opportunity being provided for by the team in collaboration with CPAG. I know that I loved the opportunity to be part of something bigger than me and was very excited to meet people I have worked with online
with since lockdown. So that was what I was keen to report on today – how it felt.
What would you like people to get from today?
I was able to ask this of Ruth and Jim of the Changing Realities research team. Lizzie and Bea of CPAG and Jean our zine queen. In large they all hoped that we’d have fun, get to meet each other from the project and have an opportunity to have a voice in Westminster with our MPs. Bea made a good point of this being an experience so few in our country, and others, get to experience, and Jim said he hoped for people to get a sense of solidarity and community within the group. Ruth summed things up nicely with her hoped that we’d “… enjoy the experience and the symbolism of us all coming to Westminster together as part of Changing Realities”.
What have you enjoyed about this experience?
I was able to ask this question of Kim, Faith, Brian, Tayyaba, Jamie, Chris and Vicky. The main response that everyone gave was the getting to meet people from the project in person. Faith put it nicely as “seeing their strengths and how far we’ve come”. Brian, like me was unable to talk to his MP but was to still be able to join in. Tayyaba and Chris both share that they felt heard by their MP. Chris sharing that her MP took her recommendations with a promise of providing more detailed answers. And Kim warmed my heart when she shared that she enjoyed having a voice, and she used it well, telling me her MP “…tried not to hear me but I didn’t back down”. And I am grateful for all the support from all participants of Changing Realities project including those unable to physically be with us in London, but whose contributions did not go unknown as we would not have had our recommendations to share with MPs, or letter on display, if not for the contributions of each and every Changing Realities participant.
I’d like to end my little report on what I personally hope people will get from reading what I’ve written. To the Changing Realities team and participants, I hope you all feel recognised and appreciated for all that
you do and that we have done to grow this project from its humble lockdown beginnings to a group that can command the attention of literal Members of Parliament and educate so many on the realities for families on low incomes through these unstable times. To the public and organisations who read this I hope you learn that we all have a voice and we can all work together for positive changes. And to possible future funders who read this I hope you learn that we’re powerful and skilled and deserving of funds to continue our work to change the realities of our struggle and those of the nation.