Everyday Life in Salford
I am pleased to present the book of Everyday Life in Salford. Through this project, we have supported six people to be able to represent their own lives through photography, storytelling and info-graphics. The participants in the project and authors of the book – the two Janes, Christine, Glyn, Beth and Letitia – all have powerful individual stories to tell, which also document current issues in our society. It has been a humbling, inspiring and emotional project to be part of.
Each participant took photographs that reflected their sources of everyday support and also issues that caused them struggles or anxieties, and then shared the story behind their photographs in a supportive environment. As one participant said: “By just taking pictures that mean something to you, a meaningful story emerges”. Through these stories, we also considered shared themes and how these related to wider social issues that affected the whole community. In addition to this, the public policies that affected people’s everyday lives were identified and the group came up with ideas on how to represent these through infographics co-produced with our graphic designer Dan Farley. It has been a positive experience for everyone involved; Jane Fearns, who tragically lost her son last year, has said how the project has provided “a reason to get dressed and go out” while Glyn noted that “sometimes you only look at the negatives and don’t see the positives, but by going out and taking these pictures it reminds you of what’s good about your life”.
Public policy, the media and social science research can often reduce the complexity and individuality of people in order to make sense of our society – but this can lead to negative stereotypes that are rooted in misrepresentation and untruths. It can also neglect the context in which people are living in, individualising blame for the effect of structural inequalities and ignoring the particular life-histories of people. The worst results of this can be the stigmatisation of working class communities and unjust social policies that seem to largely gain public consent.
SARF has always aimed to support communities to share their lived experiences and connect this to issues of public policy. The work presented in Everyday Life in Salford does exactly that. As a result of workshops and discussions over a period of months, the book reveals some of the intricacies of the authors’ lives; these show how everyday life is multi-dimensional, complex and often connected to historical legacies that have an unavoidable relationship with the future, are extremely personalised and can in one moment, capture tragedy entangled with hope. We can see this through many stories from the book, but it is captured by Jane Fearns in one sentence: ‘even though I say one thing, the other thing contradicts that thing’.
This is why the book begins with each person’s story. It is important to recognise people’s individuality: their pain, worries and the different elements that bring life meaning. This is a starting point for a more understanding society. As Christine said, ‘you can be sat next to someone anywhere and you have got no idea what they go through in their life.’ We can all be too quick to judge people sometimes; being a little more thoughtful about other people is something that everyone could do more of in their daily lives.
Individual stories matter; yet through revealing the everyday it is also possible to collectively identify shared challenges and assets that can be drawn upon to effect policy change and support local community action. By understanding what the assets are in a community then we can all begin to support these. It is these daily and often invisible relationships and support structures that can be the most creative and lasting, while the most damaging social policies are ones that puts pressures on them.
While each person has their own particular stories, there are shared issues across our communities – both in terms of structures of support in the form of family, friends, access to services and being valued; and in the challenges that people are facing through welfare ‘reform’, poor physical and mental health, cuts to services and insecure work.
If we are to create a more equal society then more consideration needs to be paid to the practices and policies that lead to social harm and we must support local strengths in a way that can lead to improvements for our communities. Through paying closer attention to patterns of support and struggles that emerge from our everyday lives, we can support the policies, projects and actions that can make a lasting difference and impact on people’s daily lives in a positive way.
Jane Fearns hoped that the book: “will make people realise that they aren’t daft buggers – that they are normal, that there are other people who go through similar things”.
I hope we can achieve this; but I also hope that the book might make more people recognise the value of the lived experiences, histories and expertise of people who know what life is like getting by on a daily basis. Such an approach could be the basis for renewed democracy and social justice.
Download the book for free:
*This project has been supported through the Big Lottery’s Awards for All