Hello everyone. I was kindly asked if I would do a short blog with my reflections on my first year with the APLE Collective.
I joined APLE approximately 11 months ago as a representative of the Poverty Truth Community based in Glasgow. I’ve got to say it’s been a roller-coaster of a year in one way or another. My first introduction to everyone at the APLE Collective was at their first face-to-face meeting after Covid, which was held in Stoke-on-Trent. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, luckily I knew some folks who attended On Road Media meetings with me who were also in Stoke-on-Trent so I didn’t feel completely alone. At this meeting the group discussed the way ahead for APLE and outlined the work to be done during APLE week in June and during the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty in October.
The group made me feel very welcome and I didn’t feel scared or over-awed to take part in the discussions. One of my memories of that first meeting was the meal we had together on the 2nd Night there. We all had gone to a lovely curry house in Stoke and I must say the food was fantastic. I had not long been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and I was having trouble swallowing various foods, especially bread. I remember looking at my lone chicken curry sauce with no rice and looking at everyone tucking in to large, gorgeous looking naan breads filled with cheese, thinking to myself that’s not fair – I want some. Now that I’ve successfully had an operation to remove the cancer I’ve been nagging Katy to have a return meeting in Stoke-on-Trent. Stoke is a lovely city but my ulterior motive is to go back that Curry House, have a proper curry and my own portion of that cheesy naan bread.
Highlights and Events:
Two of the highlights of my first year as an APLE member has been the meeting we had in the ATD building in Frimhurst in Surrey. The second highlight was fairly recent when myself and other APLE members met with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty (APPG) in Portcullis House, London to discuss the ‘Digital Divide’.
I’ll go over why these two events meant so much to me. The meeting in Frimhurst was where I felt I was really bonding with the rest of APLE and I left that meeting feeling I had made some really good friendships. I drove down and I took the opportunity to take down one of my electric guitars and one of my memories, just for the sheer enjoyment, was inflicting my terrible guitar playing on the rest of APLE sitting in the beautiful sunshine in the lovely gardens of ATD House.
The event in Portcullis House stood out for me as I felt it showed the power of APLE as a campaigning group, speaking words of truth and power to the decision makers in these islands of the UK and telling them the realities of living in Poverty and how the Digital Divide affects people on low incomes in their daily lives. There was a powerful opening statement from Amanda from AT, outlining what the Digital Divide was. There was also a powerful submission from Chris who is based in Cornwall. He highlighted to those present the realities of living in a very rural area where he had to rely on apps telling him the times of arrival of his local bus and train services. However, these apps didn’t account for trains and buses being late, or not even turning up, which led to missed GP and hospital appointments and missed connections. Also the run out of the ultra-fast fibre optic broadband was very slow in rural areas, having a knock-on effect on business and schools and colleges.
In conclusion, what can I say about my first year as an APLE Member. Well, everyone has made me feel welcome. I’ve taken part in very worthwhile research with the Ada Lovelace Foundation, which has been working with the APLE Collective. I’ve got to visit the seat of power in the UK in the midst of the Liz Truss debacle and saw first hand the chaos in the House of Commons (one of the highlights of the Day was seeing Michael Gove in Portcullis House looking like the cat that got the cream – I wonder why?). But most of all, I’ve made some really good friends, met people who have inspired me and filled me with determination that the fight against poverty goes on and that we need to grit our teeth and fight the good fight for everyone’s sake. Friends who have their own daily fight against poverty but are willing to give of their time, strength and determination to help others experiencing poverty.
During my time with APLE I’ve felt that we’re more than a brother and sisterhood fighting for equality and recognition of the harm poverty is doing to individuals and families – no I’ve felt that the APLE collective, to me, has become more of a family. There have been times with Zoom meetings when the thought of taking part in another online event has made my heart sink. But I genuinely look forward to the APLE zoom meetings as I’m nor just meeting with colleagues and fellow campaigners – no, I’m meeting with friends and family.
One final word, I’d like to thank everyone at the APLE Collective for all their support during my fight with cancer. Knowing I had their support and words of comfort meant a lot to me. The organisers of the face-to-face meetings went the extra mile to accommodate my requirements, nothing was a bother to them and they really went out of their way to make my travel and stay around the country as comfortable as possible. So, thank you APLE from the bottom of my heart.
So onwards and upwards to 2023. The fight against poverty is more important now than ever before and working with the APLE Collective I’m more confident than I’ve ever been that the voices of those experiencing poverty and living on low wages will be heard by those in power. Have a great Christmas and Holiday Period and may 2023 be kind and prosperous to each and every one of us.