Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

Jan-Feb : STREET FOOD READ ONLINE
London edition (PDF 2.5MB) DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Scottish edition (PDF 2.45MB) DOWNLOAD ISSUE

RECENT TWEETS

Mat's column: Live, listen, learn

The Pavement at Byline – Mat Amp, Denise Collins, Nicola Baird, Ruby and Anne Cooper. © the Pavement The Pavement at Byline – Mat Amp, Denise Collins, Nicola Baird, Ruby and Anne Cooper. © the Pavement

When the Pavement was offered a chance to host a panel at this year’s Byline Festival, we thought it might be an opportunity to raise awareness about our magazine and the issues faced by the homeless community we represent, writes Mat Amp.

When the Pavement was offered a chance to host a panel at this year’s Byline Festival, we thought it might be an opportunity to raise awareness about our magazine and the issues faced by the homeless community we represent, writes Mat Amp.

It wouldn’t be surprising if you hadn’t yet heard of Byline, an annual festival that takes place across the August bank holiday weekend, as it was only launched in 2017. Organised by elements of the media as a forum for rational and reasonable debate, it all happens alongside the usual fun of the festival, which this year included bands such as Pussy Riot and the Vapours.

The atmosphere was genuinely inspiring and original. Byline’s own website describes the event, now in its second year, as a “riot of free speech protest against fake news and alternative facts.”

With a narcissist running the world (here’s looking at you King Dump and your 140 character grunts), a gathering like the Byline Festival has never been so desperately needed. There is of course always a danger when members of the chattering class gather to, well, chat, that in all the excitement of righting the world’s wrongs, the doing may get neglected.

So, it was encouraging that the festival’s organisers made a conscious effort to not just consult representatives of the homeless community but also to offer us a platform at the festival to engage the public, raising awareness of the issues that affect our community, and the work the magazine does.

Our panel featured four speakers – Ruby, Anne, Denise (graduates from our From the Ground Up project the Pavement co-runs with Groundswell) and myself, chaired by our editor Nicola. The venue consisted of 150 seats under an open-sided canopy across a charming wooden drawbridge amongst the trees where we spoke to a virtually full house. The driving rain provided an apt backdrop for an impassioned debate inspired by the panel's experience “in our own words”. It was a perfect setting for what turned out to be a thought-provoking and incredibly engaged debate.

The audience listened intently with a general desire to learn; their questions focused on how they could help homeless people, both in the short-term, and in the longterm by ending homelessness for good. At the same time the panel demonstrated that homeless people aren’t just smelly drug-addicted shoplifting mental patients with attitude problems (before anyone takes issue, that was a pretty accurate description of me less than four years ago).

The willingness of the panel to talk about emotive and shameful issues and the willingness of the audience to listen, seemed to foster an atmosphere of open, constructive dialogue. It stands in stark contrast to the tone used by many journalists and politicians who are busy utilising the media to blame, shame or despair of the homeless community.

Thanks to those organising the Byline Festival for having faith in us. We appreciated it. We really did.


BACK ISSUES