Discussion Forum
Hebden Bridge and Racism

From Elisa Partti
Sunday, 10 June 2007

I had a pleasure to stay in Hebden/Todmorden area for few months in 2005. I felt very welcome and safe even as a foreigner, but I did see the dark sides as well. Not personally but I definetely felt the atmosphere. Hebden is known to be very free, alternative thinking and friendly place but seems like young locals do not always agree with this reputation.

I also felt this very strong competition between Hebden and Tod, and for Hebden I must say that Todmorden was way more racist. There was a bigger Asian population which seemed to cause difficulties from both ways: some young Asian males were rude and misbehaving, causing racist attitudes. And this racism from locals made them act even worse. It's a neverending story..

It's not my place to say what is wrong in this community because I'm from Finland and I see things from a huge distance - but one thing that made me worry was something that happened in a pub one night.

I was sitting there with my drink when a young girl came to talk to me. She asked how old I was and where I'm from and we had a little chat. I was 22 at the time and told her I came here to work and see the northern parts of England. She was shocked and kept asking did I really fly all the way from Finland by myself. To me it wasn't a big deal but then she said she wouldn't even take a bus to Manchester alone, she was too scared. She had never been to London and she was older than I was.

That made me think there must be something wrong, two things actually. 1) What is the reason even the locals are too scared to travel around? 2) Does this fact make them too home-centered and even more racist because they have no chance to see anything else?

I met some great young people and we had a good time but let's face it: Most of them had never been out of England, don't speak any other language or know where Lithuania is. The best cure for racism is to learn and see other cultures and let go of your own home town for a while. World is bigger than just your local pub, your football team and your everyday life. And we people are all on the same side.

I'm not sure what my point is because I really don't have a solution. I live in eastern parts of Finland which was known to be very racist during 90's. We had a strong skin-head / nazi culture here among young people but all that faded away when Finland became more international, joined EU and started to be more known around the world (even though one young Todmordian asked me if Finland was in Norway..). Nowadays it's more trendy to be aware of what happens around the world, interrail, travel, maybe go to surf in Australia, anything! World is open for you.

From Oscar
Monday, 11 June 2007

Elisa, Thanks for your objective comments. They are very interesting. I hope the information below goes someway into explaining the issues you've raised.

The truth is that as a nation, and a town we have been failing our Young People for years. The young people of today are products of the society we, the nations so called responsible adults, have created.

In a recent comprehensive UNICEF global report the UK came BOTTOM of 21 industrialised nations for 'Child Well-being'.

The Children's Commissioner for England, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, said: "We are turning out a generation of young people who are unhappy, unhealthy, engaging in risky behaviour, who have poor relationships with their family and their peers, who have low expectations and don't feel safe."

We have had to go 'back to basics' with frameworks such as Every Child Matters, which define the very fundamentals of our young peoples requirements in order to achieve the very elementary tiers of Maslows hierarchy of needs.

We have a formal education system obsessed with tests, attendance and performance league tables. Social Education is under resourced, under valued and under funded; within Hebden Bridge it is not fit for purpose.

Locally we don't have a cohesive community, we have a town comprising a disproportionate number of self interest groups. Our local Young People do not have a voice and their town is changed without their consultation or consideration. For years, funds destined for youth projects been 'diverted' to other 'more worthwhile' projects, leaving a lack of local resources.

The above combination (with many other issues) leads to many of the negative comments on this forum. We must remember that the vast majority of our Young People are law abiding citizens with a positive life and bright future.

The good news is our mistakes are fixable; the bad news is, its going to take at least a generation!

See also:

Forum: Living in Hebden Bridge (April 2007)