Survival Of the Kindest: Beyond Maps of Misery

In “The Road to Wigan Pier”, first published in 1937, George Orwell documents the bleak living conditions among the working-class communities in the industrial north of England prior to WWII.

Margery Sabin, in her book “The Truths of Experience: Orwell’s Nonfiction of the 1930s”,  notes:

“Orwell does not wish merely to enumerate evils and injustices, but to break through what he regards as middle-class oblivion, – Orwell’s corrective to such falsity comes first by immersion of his own body – a supreme measure of truth for Orwell – directly into the experience of misery.”

It remains an important work.

But in this week’s blog nearly 100 years on, Angela Fell, an associate with Nurture Development, and a resident of a neighbourhood in Wigan, takes us beyond “maps of misery” and into treasure hunts and community abundance. Without minimizing the very real challenges that many of her neighbours’ face on a daily basis, nor does she run them down.  In this remarkable interview, Angela shares how she and a number of her neighbours have been working to build connections and gift economy in over 100 streets around her house. It strikes me as I listen to the podcast hosted by my friend and social explorer Julian Abel on his excellent new podcast channel, Survival of the Kindest that seeing (or this case hearing) is believing. Angela makes vivid what Asset-Based Community Development means in practice in and for living communities.

Here’s what Angela and Julian had to say about the podcast when I told them how important I felt it was that we share it as a vlog post:

Angela Fell:

It was a joy to be invited into conversation with Julian. It’s a gift that’s carried on giving since we chatted, evoking more warm stories of Nan and Grandma sat on the sofa. For a good while I’ve been wondering, what is the function of the neighbourhood? To produce and generate health, wealth and care together I’d say. Much of what I’d felt to be true, in my bones, gathered from the wisdom of family and being reared by a neighbourhood revealed itself when the world was told to stay home. We saw pain, inequality and the joy of remembering how much we need each other. This conversation shares the story of my journey home.

Julian Abel:

Community building is a lovely phrase, but what does it mean? For people unfamiliar with community development, the practice of community building is something of a hidden world. It was a huge pleasure to welcome Angela Fell to the Survival of the Kindest podcast. Angela has community building in her bones and in her heart. She painted a beautiful picture that gradually came to life of what a warm-hearted community looks like, how people can look out for each other and how to add joy, wonder and inspiration to life. And Angela did this close to where she was brought up in Wigan. In its simplicity, she manages to convey community building as something we can all do, wherever we are, in whatever community we live in. Amongst the many words of wisdom that Angela spoke, among my favourites was the contrast between living in a community that measures a map of misery of concentrates on uncovering the community treasure map of gifts, strengths and beauty. I know what kind of community I’d prefer to live in.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Survival of the Kindest: Angela Fell – The Function of a Neighbourhood

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