How have you been affected by the economic downturn and the austerity measures? Is it the cuts in local services that you used to rely on? Or the privatisation of support services that are so drastically affecting the elderly and disabled? Or perhaps it’s the decline of the once-great British high street.
These are just some of the issues that ordinary residents of the London borough of Barnet bring up in a new documentary by local film-maker Charles Honderick, A Tale of Two Barnets.
“This is real people talking about the issues that affect their lives,” Charles says. “It’s not like a lot of documentaries – I just turn on the camera and let them speak. People who are disenfranchised, the physically and mentally disabled, the elderly and children, and local business owners. It’s a really wide swath of the community we’ve given a voice, here.
“The film doesn’t offer a solution, it offers a platform for people to say what it’s like to live here. I think it’s got a broader appeal too, to anyone who lives in England.”
Charles grew up in Florida but spent much of his childhood in the borough visiting his mother’s family in Mill Hill, and now lives in Camden. He spent six months interviewing Barnet residents and council leaders and produced a powerful film which illustrates the challenges ordinary people face because of council policies.
“I interviewed a Catholic priest, the carers of disabled children, people who run facilities for disabled people, businesswomen. The word got around and people would come up and say, ‘There’s an issue that’s really annoying me, can you interview me about it?’ “They all had their individual bent but there were three main things that came up – parking, the effects [of the cuts] on the most vulnerable people in the borough, and the privatisation of council services. That was a really important issue to people, especially the carers. There have been really nasty cuts, they go hand in hand with people being disenfranchised.
“Of course cuts have to be made – we’re in a recession – but it’s affecting people’s lives. They’re not bad people, the councillors, they mean well and believe what they’re doing for the main part, but the real world doesn’t bear out their decisions. We’re human collateral.”
The film has received enormous support from the local community, individuals and organisations, been praised by legendary director Ken Loach, and the MP John McDonnell wants to show it at the House of Commons. “I said that would be fine!” Charles laughs.
A Tale of Two Barnets is at the Greek Cypriot Community Centre, Britannia Road, North Finchley on Wednesday, March 28 at 7pm, and at Larches House, Rectory Lane, Edgware on Tuesday, April 3 at 7.30pm. Details: www.ataleoftwobarnets.yolasite.com.