The Inside the Council column with Coun Roisin Cavanagh

Councillor Roisin Cavanagh.
Councillor Roisin Cavanagh.

When we talk about social activism, what do we mean and what‘s its purpose? Some would say that all social activism tries to bring about deep and important changes in society.

Others that it provides a space to tell the world what you think – to align yourself with a cause or a value system. Some would say their social activism is around providing practical solutions to issues experienced by people or communities.

Social activity: Mytholmroyd Arts Festival.

Social activity: Mytholmroyd Arts Festival.

Many would say they engage in social activism through an in-built desire to ‘belong’ and to be part of a chosen family or friendship group of like-minded people. The truth is social activism comes in many different forms and is carried out for lots of different reasons. Extinction Rebellion demonstrate techniques of mass mobilisation and peaceful assembly to drive home the message about the unavoidable importance of addressing climate change.

Protestors demonstrated for weeks in places around Calderdale around the proroguing of parliament.

Groups spring up continuously to protest around community resources, trying to secure different buildings or assets for the benefit of the community. Labour activists spend weekends knocking on doors asking people about issues and challenges within the local community.

In my Ward, community members set up events or meet ups such as the Wednesday ‘chatty cafe’ in the Luddendenfoot Community Association, or the Midgely Thursday coffee morning or the Grange Dene Friday morning healthy coffee group for local people to come a have a cuppa and a chat. The Luddendenfoot parents and toddler group provides a safe place for children to play and meet other children and for parents to meet other parents. The residents of Elphaborough run weekly social activities for other residents providing company and addressing social isolation. The organisers of Mytholmroyd Arts Festival bring workshops and exhibitions for everyone in the area and beyond to enjoy. The Flood Wardens, community volunteers, are ready to spring into action if needed.

These examples (of which there are many more) are less obvious, but really important forms of social activism.

The least likely social activists of the lot are Councillors. Some of us may join or show support for the bigger ‘protests’ of the day, or the local community initiatives but for many of us our ongoing social activism is probably of the less loud and definitely less ‘cool’ variety.

We work behind the scenes to ensure that light bulbs on a street are replaced making the street safer for people at night. We work to ensure that a vulnerable adult gets the health and social care support they need.

We try and get a speed limit reduced so that residents feel safer crossing the road with their children. We work with partners and communities to try and reduce fly-tipping and littering.

Social activism in all its forms, if focusing on positive solutions for our communities and societal change should be celebrated. In Calderdale more than anywhere it is alive and kicking and we should be proud!