Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A message from Tony Garnett

As you may know from my last post, I was recently fortunate enough (along with Alex 'Croydon' Quang) to meet Tony Garnett, the producer of the 1966 BBC television play Cathy Come Home.  I wanted to share the email conversation we had, in which he showed his support for Team v and called on young people like us to act now and make a difference.  Alex has organised an event in Croydon on Sunday 2nd December and has just announced that Tony Garnett is attending and will be interviewed live which is fantastic - if only Croydon wasn't so far from Derby I'd be there!  

I'm not very good at approaching people or asking for things so my first Team v campaign has definitely given me more confidence in doing so - in fact someone approached me about getting involved with a volunteering project today saying 'if you don't ask, you don't get' so it seems appropriate that I adopt that as my new Team v motto! As I said before I'm grateful to Alex for speaking up for both of us, it's great that someone of high profile like Tony Garnett is willing to take time to respond to mere volunteers like us and especially to travel across the country to attend a Team v event.  
At the end of the Team v programme I don't want to be thinking 'What if I'd...'.  I'd rather try and fail than not try at all.  Thanks to Tony Garnett, I feel a lot more prepared to try.  

My message to Tony Garnett 

Dear Tony, 

I attended the screening of Cathy Come Home at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts on 10th November and had the pleasure of meeting you briefly at the end of the talk to tell you about a campaign I am volunteering on alongside Alex Quang.  Supported by youth volunteering charity vInspired, we are part of Team v which is a network of over 100 volunteers aged 18-25 across England running 3 campaigns over 9 months.  

Our first campaign is raising awareness of youth homelessness.  We are encouraging people to sign Centrepoint's petition against housing benefit cuts for under 25 year olds, and speaking to young people about the organisations they can go to for support in our local area if they ever find themselves having problems with housing or at home.  My campaign in Derby will culminate on Saturday 1st December in an event/exhibition showcasing the stories and talents of young people who have been affected by youth homelessness, asking the public to look beyond the stereotype of homelessness and realise that it can happen to anyone.  We are running creative workshops with residents of YMCA Derbyshire and anything they produce - artwork, poetry, photography - will be at our exhibition at YMCA's Campus for Learning and Development.  

As part of this exhibition and our campaign I wondered whether you would be able to email me with a message of support for the campaign.  If you have time, it would be great if you could mention how/whether your view of homelessness in the UK changed when you were working on Cathy Come Home, and/or between 1966 and today.  I think you said that you had volunteered with Crisis at Christmas, so if you have spent any time working with young people (or any age, if not young people) affected by homelessness I would love to share this on our blog and at the exhibition.  I hope to encourage the general public to volunteer with organisations in Derby and nationally that support people who experience homelessness, so anything you wish to write about your own experience would help us to inspire others.   

I read Film with Television Studies at the University of Warwick, and we studied Cathy Come Home as a seminal piece of television history.  I remember speaking to my parents after I had seen it for the first time, and they both recalled how powerful it was when they and their parents saw it first broadcast in the 1960s.  Hearing you speak about the production was fascinating and the reaction of the audience at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts is testament to the fact that Cathy Come Home is as poignant and thought-provoking today as it was in 1966.  I am a strong believer in the power of the arts to create social debate, so it was truly inspiring to meet you having studied your work and heard about it from older generations of my family, and I appreciate the time you spent talking to us.    

Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope to hear from you soon.  

Kind regards, 
Lucy Dean
Team v Derby City 


Tony Garnett's response to me 

Dear Lucy,

I have written a note, which appears below. If it is not what you want, please let me know, with some notes, and I will rewrite it.
I am much encouraged that there are young people like you who refuse to walk on the other side, but go out of their way to campaign for those who have nowhere decent to call home.
I wish you luck with your campaign. Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do to assist you.
Yes, I do some work for Crisis, like so many others. I know it is sticking plaster when what we need is surgery, but it helps at a personal level and raises consciousness. Please tell everyone about the good work Crisis, with other charities, does. It welcomes participation from all over the country. I am sure they will send you more information if you ask them.
Good luck with your event on the 1st.

Best Wishes,
Tony Garnett

" By now the 1966 film "Cathy Come Home" should be just a matter of historical interest. The contemporary buzz around it is a shameful reproach to us all. How can one of the richest countries in the world be so uncaring that is deprives so many of its citizens one of the basics of life? How can we allow whole families to live in damp, cold, rat and cockroach infested overcrowding, with no indoor toilet or bathroom, where the children have nowhere even to do their homework?
The situation depicted in 1966 shocked the nation. But nothing was done. The policy of succeeding governments, including all three main parties, has made the problem worse than it was in 1966. How could we have allowed that? Next year it will be worse still. Will we allow that? 
My generation, through indifference and selfishness, has failed its more vulnerable fellow citizens.
It is up to you, the younger generation, to put the matter right, so that we may genuinely be one nation.
I praise you for your compassion and wish you luck."


It's up to us

I am really grateful for Tony's passionate and honest response.  For me the words 'It is up to you, the younger generation, to put the matter right' sum up exactly what Team v is all about - a group of young people taking action on social issues because we care.  

I only hope we can make a start in putting the matter right, and encourage others to do the same.  

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