Tuesday, 22 July 2008
Atkinson: The Hole in the Social Ozone Layer
Dr Atkinson is the Chief Executive of the Balsall Heath Forum which has been highly commended on transforming an inner city area away from crime, prostitution and litter. Dr Dick Atkinson started his presentation by stating that environmentalists have been commenting on the breakage of the ozone layer but he believed that this is an indication of our social breakage. Dick recalled his shock when Jamie Boulger was taken from a busy supermarket and tortured and killed by two young boys. Dick asks why has this happened in society? Is this because of poverty and people cannot afford to live a better life. He is not against local councils but believes that if folk were to take ownership of their own community then it would force people to work in the best way for their areas. The area of Balsall Heath had around 450 prostitutes working in the area. This was problematic for any woman who was walking the streets. The problem was tackled by groups of residents who took chairs to the corners of their streets. They then sat and took the registration numbers of all the kerb crawlers. It took four years for the streets to be cleared of these prostitution. Dick offered us the joke about when the Bishop of Birmingham was in the area and sat down outside next to a lady. This lady offered him his services at which the Bishop opened his coat to show his robes and mention that he was the Bishop of Birmingham, ‘kinky, she said, that will be double for you then’!
It was a rather passionate presentation but the sceptical side of me raises some questions from this. Prostitutes are not litter and so I wonder where they have been moved or removed to? Dick commented that he was often understood as the local vicar even though he was not. This raises the question where was the local vicar? Or where was the Mosque Imam? Are Mosque Imam’s willing to get their hands dirty in local issues? Or are the issues of their respective religious communities all they want to associate themselves with?
In the afternoon we visited the area of Balsall Heath where we saw many of the development projects that Dick spoke about.