Inspired by Our Past, Looking Forward to Our Future

Kate’s latest column for the Shields Gazette 

Last Saturday morning I was privileged to speak at the fifth Folk of Jarrow Rebel Town Festival.

It was a huge honour because it allowed us to commemorate and celebrate the significant role our proud town of Jarrow and the wider North East region has played in the history of Britain’s industrial relations over the past 200 years.

The past eighteen months have undoubtedly been incredibly difficult for us all during the coronavirus pandemic.

I sincerely hope that with restrictions easing, this is just the beginning of more successful and enjoyable community events to come.

Numerous lockdowns, months and months of restrictions, long periods of self-isolation, many losing their jobs through no fault of their own, having to teach our children at home, and the pressure and the impact on so many people’s mental health has left many struggling to cope.

The pandemic has forced us to adapt our lives, to make sacrifices, and we have seen our resilience tested to the full – as a country, as businesses, as communities, and, of course, as individuals.

 It has been an incredibly hard in so many ways. But it has also been a time that has brought to light the strength and spirit of local communities in each and every part of the country.

Neighbours have gone out of their way to show kindness and generosity to each other by doing simple things from picking up groceries for someone who is having to self-isolate; so they don’t go without. Our communities have really stepped up to the plate.

 We have looked out for each other even more so in recent times. We have taken care of the most vulnerable across our communities and will continue to do so.

The people of South Tyneside are famously renowned for their resilience and community spirit.

Next week will see children go back to school after the summer break and MPs also return to Parliament.

We can only do this thanks to our wonderful NHS staff and volunteers who continue to inject hope into our lives as they work tirelessly to continue to deliver the successful vaccine programme.

We must put that spirit of community at the heart of the recovery.

Sadly, here in the North East, like elsewhere, we have food banks, which is scandalous in this day and age, and are a damning indictment on this government.

However, that is not to take anything away from each and every one of those wonderful people who devote so much time and effort to help out in our Food Banks and the most vulnerable people in our society.

Sadly, this is an area which has a history of high unemployment, poverty and struggle, but what the people in this area are is they are resilient and proud of their history, community and working-class solidarity.

We are still fighting for fairness to this very day.
We continue to demand fair wages not poverty pay, a welfare state not the workhouse, thriving schools and hospitals instead of services brought to their knees by Tory austerity and privatisation, steady work in place of zero hours contracts, and a properly funded NHS.

We must commemorate and celebrate the sacrifices of those from our past, but the best tribute we can pay each and every one of them is to be inspired and use their memory to fight harder against the current battles against inequality, and for fairness.

An NHS starved of funds, schools left struggling, students put off university by sky fees, and a destructive Tory austerity ideology – by their choosing, ruining all that is good.

We must be inspired by our past and look to the examples of the Jarrow Crusaders and the Seven Men of Jarrow to drive us on as we fight against inequality and unfairness in today’s society.