Perhaps not as pretty as the frozen water meadow at Wadenhoe or as wild as the river at Glenluce (two of the more memorable), but revelatory nevertheless.
On Wednesday last week I was selected as a candidate to contest Bunhill ward in May’s local election. I know the area well but I have never set off to walk the boundary before. And so today, I did.
What an extraordinary corner of the planet it is.
On the grand scale we are home to Moorfields, global player in ophthalmic medicine. We have LSO St Luke’s, familiar to listeners of Radio 3’s Lunchtime Concerts. To the south we have Bunhill Fields, where lie the mortal remains of some of our greatest voices of dissent, William Blake, John Bunyan and Daniel Defoe. And of course, to the west we have The Charterhouse, within whose walls the history of England has been made, on more than one occasion.
But of course, “the grand scale” tells only one story. Walking around a place with new purpose lends it new eyes. Here in the south of Islington where we abutt the City, Shoreditch, Brick Lane and the river, it really does feel as though much of human life is here.
Yes, we are mostly white, and yes we are mostly male. We are mostly in good health and in Islington, only Clerkenwell and Highbury East wards score lower than us in the Index of Multiple Deprivation. Most of us here are “ok”.
But that is by no means the whole story. Yes, we have obscene wealth, and yes we have the obscenity of poverty which is it’s consequence. A ward councillor, in a minority party is not going to be able to do much about that. But as I walked around with new purpose and new eyes I saw shabby, neglected social housing. I saw stupid and dangerous road layouts. Ridiculous, expensive and unnecessary “street furniture” which costs money and takes up space where trees could be.
Whatever the outcome in May, these next few months of campaigning, knocking on doors and talking to people in Bunhill and the wider borough will do me the power of good. Whether it will do anybody else any good..... well, that will be decided by secret ballot in May.
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