How people who have used Manchester Foodbank and the team there are pushing for change together

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Lauren Tunnicliffe, project manager of Manchester Central Foodbank, shares more about Can You Hear Me Now?, a listening campaign and creative participation project that is bringing people who have used the food bank together with the food bank team to push for longer term change. 

 “Changing the world is a big job, but this is a great place to start.”

During the recent US election the topics of voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of minority groups and poor voters were often at the forefront of the conversation. But US politics is not the only place where people who are experiencing poverty and destitution are prevented from being able to ask for what they need. From working at Manchester Central Foodbank we know that people here in Manchester without enough money are denied the autonomy and confidence to advocate for themselves in every aspect of their daily lives. On top of this, those creating anti-poverty strategies have historically been slow to catch on to the fact that they should be led by the voices and expertise of people they are supposed to be helping. We know now that in order to demand change and erase the need for food banks, we must be driven by those who have experienced that need.

Can You Hear Me Now? Is a listening campaign and creative participation project that we’ve been working on with Manchester based artist-led community organisation, Get It Done. Throughout the project we’ll be listening to the stories of people who come to our food bank, and learning about what would need to happen in their lives to make the need for food banks a thing of the past. 

Alongside this the wonderful artists at Get It Done have designed an exciting and inspiring activity pack, filled with creative activities that prompt the reader to think about ways they can care for themselves, their communities, and the world. We’ll be giving these packs out in our food parcels, and working with local schools and frontline organisations to help children and adults reimagine their communities and think about the change they want to see. We’ll be using our platform as a food bank to boost the voices of the people we have spoken to and who have created pieces of work using the activity packs, through exhibitions, online archiving, and targeted campaigning. 

Our hope is that we will be able to work with people who’ve used the food bank to co-create meaningful campaigns for change. We want the voices and stories of people experiencing poverty to inform both how we run our food bank, and how we fight for a system that works for everyone. Simultaneously we hope the activities in the packs will give people the opportunity to mindfully take a break from the pressures of everyday life, and think creatively about what they would change about the world.

Right now we’re fundraising to be able to put these activity packs together. We’ll be professionally printing the activity booklet, and providing the craft supplies to go with it. If you want to help make this project happen, you can donate either at our justgiving page, or by paying it forward, and buying one of our activity booklets, at a price that will cover the cost of putting another pack together for someone receiving a food parcel.

As with all things right now, the coronavirus crisis has added another layer of meaning, significance, and logistical difficulty to this project. You don’t need us to tell you that this is a scary and worrying time for people in poverty. People’s lives are more turbulent and unpredictable than ever, but sometimes it can take the systems in our normal lives breaking down for us to be able to build them up again. Right now, the world is going through changes on a scale that many of us won’t ever see again in our lifetimes, and we want to make sure these changes are driven by the people that they will affect the most.