Friday, August 20, 2010

Big Society: early casualties

This month’s Queen’s Park Summer Festival may have been the last. The hugely popular annual event is organised by Queen’s Park Forum, an elected body of residents that has played a unique role in improving the quality of life for local people.

The Forum was created in 2003 by the Paddington Development Trust (PDT), whose activities I have photographed since it started in 1997. But despite all the talk of the ‘Big Society’ from David Cameron, funding for the trust and the organisations it supports is being drastically cut back. The fact that grassroots projects are under threat suggests that the new government is rather more interested in the ‘rolling back the state’ element of its ‘Big Society’ big idea than in the valuable work being done by the voluntary sector. Not a great surprise, but still disappointing.

I’ve been photographing Paddington for more than thirty years. It has been a privilege and a pleasure, allowing me to experience and record in great detail the impact of community initiatives in a constantly evolving area of inner London, and I don’t intend to stop any time soon – whatever the new regime has in store.

There’s more about the early days of community photography, and the context in which it (and PDT) developed in North Paddington from the 1970s onwards, in a recent article I wrote for the British Journal of Photography.

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