logo Burngreave Messenger Issue 30 - April 2003

Angry voices
By Mark Lankshear

Over 100 people witnessed angry confrontations and bitter personal accusations at the ‘Voice of the People’ (VOTP) meeting on March 24th. Calls for respect and order allowed a few strong voices to be heard, speaking of the ‘poverty trap’ and lack of jobs and facilities, but the meeting drifted away with no clear conclusion.

Burngreave ‘Ghost Town’
Owen Wright, chairing the meeting, spoke of the aims of VOTP, to engage those not included and develop a portfolio of training, employment and projects. Speakers Christine Ramsey, Mehri Takhvar, Ruggy Johnson and VOTP spokesperson Ellisa Clarke said groups from ethnic minority communities consistently failed to get funding, despite the resources in the area; jobs and training still fail to get through and Burngreave remains a ‘ghost town’ with no social life for young people.

Ruggy spoke of police brutality and said the VOTP had an endorsement from January’s meeting at SADACCA to develop a voice for the wider community. Ellisa said that she had experienced ‘systematic exclusion’ as a New Deal Community Rep and talked of legal action.

Bully Tactics
After speakers had held the floor for over an hour, challenges from the floor to the legitimacy of the VOTP began to surface. Newly elected New Deal Community Rep. Aisha Special K slammed the organisers, accusing them of bully tactics, closed meetings and pursuing high salaries for themselves. She challenged Ellisa’s legitimacy, calling her ‘disrespectful and unprofessional’ and asked what she had done in her two years as a Community Rep. Special said it was ‘delivery time’ for New Deal and that people should give the new Community Reps a chance, ‘By suing New Deal we risk losing it.’

‘Leaders should listen’
Angry and confused exchanges erupted between speakers and members of the audience. Some stepped forward trying to restore order, but no one managed to prevent continuing outbursts, or avoid being drawn into personal conflicts. Voices from the floor spoke of how destructive disunity was, calling for leaders who would listen to people with respect and understanding and an end to ‘pulling each other down like crabs’.

Voices raised in anger overshadowed the outrage expressed at the failure of New Deal and services to allow the ‘vibrancy and life’ of Burngreave to shine through. Inspector Brennan produced wry laughs, saying the passion on display made this the best meeting he’d attended in five years, but in the end, as the meeting broke up amid claims it had been ‘hijacked’, no clear proposals for future action were made.


Cartoon: "Community Funding Knockout" (Two wrestlers fighting).