Hebden Bridge is a beautiful rural town; it's idyllic and attractive to tourists who are imperative to the thriving economy, and it is home to some of the kindest, most incredible people i've ever had the pleasure to know.
It is my home town of which I am proud to still be connected to, through which I have maintained close friendships with people for over 35 years. I hold fond memories of being brought up in Hebden Bridge.
Like most rural, ex-mill towns over the last 30 years, the place has changed, in some ways beyond recognition. Its beauty masks its beasts. The expectations that people have of the town don't chime with everyday life in other towns, particularly those affected by austerity. Hebden Bridge is a bubble. For many it's a nice bubble, but a bubble all the same.
Young people's experiences in Hebden Bridge are possibly the very few things that haven't changed. There's a lack of opportunity, aspiration and mis-direction festering among any young person over the age of 11 who socialises on the park. There is nothing for them to do - no positive activities, no healthy role models in the blurred lines of adults & children spending their Friday evenings together; you could walk on to Hebden Park and think its 1994.
Unfortunately many of the people I grew up with became addicted to heroin in their teen years. Many have died, many didn't, most are still using and in chronic poor health. In a town with an abundance of financial and creative wealth, this is an utter tragedy, and it's a failing on us all. These socio-economic problems are everybody's problems. If we preside over our values of being part of a great community who supports one another in times of need then this issue belongs to us all. We all have a duty to the next generation.
Reach4ward is about creating opportunities and accessibility to all that Hebden Bridge has to offer. Through participation in events or by volunteering, we are tackling isolation and loneliness and bridging gaps within the community to make life more just and fair for all. We are campaigning for youth provision for local young people. We are shouting from the roof tops that just because you live in Hebden Bridge does not mean you're not struggling; there are many single parents struggling to find work, and many who feel marginalised by the ignorance of others. We are campaigning for inclusion, for accountability, and for the future.
That is what social justice is and that is what we're about.