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INTERVIEW: Brenda Heslop of Our Streets Are Numbered

July 20, 2017 11:00 am

To read Jade Gadd’s review of Our Streets Are Numbered, click here

Interview by Jade Gadd. 

Features 2

- What inspired you to write about the numbered streets?

It was a natural follow-on from our previous work – ‘No Redemption Songs’, about the 1984/5 Miner’s Strike. We knew what had happened then and were curious to know what the current situation was in the ex-mining areas. Our work had been in Easington Colliery, E. Durham and Horden was just a mile away. We were asked by Professor Rachel Pain of Durham University Geography Dept to join her on a project looking at social housing issues in the Numbered Streets in Horden, and the precarious situation there concerning private landlords and in particular the actions of the Housing Association.

- What did you learn through researching for this performance?

The government policies concerning housing are set against the working class and below, the everyday working people. They don’t care for people, only money in the form of austerity cuts and sell-offs. In spite of this there are many people who do care and there is much good work and heart invested in these streets. I learned that love and good will is still the strongest force to make the world go around. Anything else just doesn’t work.

- Have you had many residents of the numbered streets view the performance?

Yes, we performed the show with the films at Horden Catholic Club in the Numbered Streets. We made it free so everyone could come; we had a full house.

- What did they think?

They loved it and felt proud to be in songs and on the screen. It gave them a voice, it held a mirror up in front of them and they liked what they saw. They felt like it mattered and that someone had bothered to find out the things that everyone else usually ignores.

- Which part do you find most potent?

The love. A recognition of humanity in all its guises. There is a lovely feeling that builds up to the last song and film that wraps its arms around you and keeps you warm

- At what age do you feel people should be educated about the numbered streets?

School age onwards. You are never too young or too old to learn what can happen when nobody cares enough. In a world where the media seem biased against ordinary people, it’s even more important for this information to get across and tell how people really are.

- How would you realistically make changes to help the current residents?

It wouldn’t take much to make a huge difference. A lot of the damage has been done with the selling off of the houses by Accent Housing Association. Landlords and Housing Associations should be made to repair and keep all the properties up to a decent liveable level. A vetting system should be in force, not voluntary as it is now. This would raise the level and value of all properties and would curtail the level of anti-social behaviour that is quickly escalating at the moment. At present it is only managed decline of the colliery streets.

- When did you first begin song-writing?

I’ve always loved reading and writing my thoughts down. I began writing seriously in the late 1980’s, quite a long time ago, trying to understand and communicate with the world around me.

- When did you first learn to sing?

I never actually ‘learned’ to sing, never had lessons, but I’ve watched and listened to many excellent singers in the folk world and beyond and just generally soaked it up.

- Why do you think it’s important to teach people about what has gone when it can’t be changed?

The ‘powers that be’ constantly tweak and change history from what actually happened to a form that suits their agendas. It is important to inform everyone of the real story so that they can learn from it and be empowered by it, instead of being controlled and kept in comparative ignorance. If you understand why and how things were in the past, you can better understand what is going on now, and how to deal with it.

- If you could give one message to our readers what would it be?

Be kind to each other, it makes such a difference to be treated well, instead of badly.

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