A week ago, both me and my colleague walked up the Hope Street through a little alley way sandwiched between the Caldmore Village School and Caldmore Community Garden. The sun was high, the weather was warm and the alleyway was busy with parents and kids holding hands on the last school run of the week. My colleague made a walk at 2.50pm and I followed the same trail at approximately 3pm.
We then both attended an Area Meeting about street drinkers during which we could not quite establish a nationality of the drinkers, neither whether they understood local customs or rubbish collection times. We thought they probably lived in certain multi occupied households and found comfort in outdoor socialising but we could not tell that with certainty either. In the end we agreed that some mediation in relevant community languages won’t go amiss. No rocket science, you may say, but pretty groundbreaking for seeing the benefits of mediation in times of austerity.
We then met (on a very rainy day) and coincidentally, the conversation turned to that Friday. Apart from the great weather I recalled that everyone was smiling. There were at least as many Asian kids as Slovakian, Roma and Polish. The alleyway is very narrow and kids were turning their heads eyeing up their mates, hoping to stay behind a bit longer and play outside the gates. I wondered: “Do they ever get invited to each other houses? Have they tried each other’s food? How beautifully has the Garden been restored in the hands of the Polish born Anna. What an impressive attendance at the May Polish picnic organised by the European Welfare Association documented in the refurbished Garden Hall.
My colleague, who has a well known, self-deprecating cynical streak smiled at my ‘naivety’ and described the walk as a series of examples of a ‘dysfunctional area’. Nothing more than a hotspot for fly tipping, drug paraphernalia and discarded cans of East European beverages. Simply a place where street workers in tight jeans and thick mascara get their ‘breakfast’ pint of milk at around 3.30pm.
Are our views ‘professionally distorted’ or do we hold two perspectives that need to find a common ground? Only time will tell if the neighbourhood mediation approach help us start ‘fixing the area’. We know that similar mediation projects are increasingly used by London boroughs and UK CEE Mediation Consultancy is one of the agencies specialising in neighbourhood conflict. There are Midlands organisations, such as Nash Dom, who have done similar work in Stoke on Trent as well as supplementary schools, for example, the Slovak/Czech Club in Birmingham and European Welfare Association in Walsall that support families. If you have any experience in this area please comment and recommend.