Photo courtesey of Fair Chance Derby

Fair Chance Derby lead protest of dolls

Derby, like many cities in the UK, has been struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, as well as the legacy of decades of disinvestment and an unequal system. This inequality manifests in a lot of different ways. Not only is Derby left out of the wealth flowing into the hands of the UK’s richest, who mostly live in the South East and London, but inequality within the city has a drastic impact on life experience – and life expectancy. There’s a 10-year gap between Derby’s richest and poorest areas. This is itself a deeply intersectional problem, with different communities in Derby being much more vulnerable to the crises and shocks we’ve seen over the last few years.

Photo courtesey of Fair Chance Derby
Photo courtesey of Fair Chance Derby

This is the context for the work Vanessa Boon and Rita Kappia have been doing under the banner of Fair Chance Derby. Over the last few weeks, they’ve been hosting craftivism sessions around Derby where locals can discuss their experiences of the cost-of-living crisis, what they think Derby needs, and what they want to change. Then, they turned these demands into dolls.

On June 24, the dolls and several activists assembled on the steps of Derby Town Hall to call for a fairer city, with the demands and experiences of those who had made them. As covered by the local paper, the dolls made an impact that really outweighed their small size.

So why do this instead of a petition, letter writing, or other more common forms of protest? As Vanessa Boon told Derbyshire Live, it provides a way for people not normally politically engaged to get involved and have their voice heard. But it’s also about bringing peoples’ stories and experiences to the fore.

According to Vanessa, local activists have tried “many different approaches to engage the public and the
Council – petition, public questions, chalking, pop-up stalls” and more, but got a very positive response to this event from curious council staff. She found the council’s Equality Officer said she loved the dolls and was warm to Vanessa’s suggestion of bringing them inside the council for a staff engagement event. They plan to show a film about the process and possibly hear from some of the people who made dolls. This would allow people to tell council staff directly about what they’ve experienced in the most authentic way possible, offering a much greater understanding of Derby’s inequality crisis and what people in the community need.

“Some hope to build upon! It’s amazing how disarming the creative approach can be, fostering a different, less defensive reaction. Hopefully we can encourage some good practices in this more receptive atmosphere.”

Vanessa Boone

Find out more about Fair Chance Derby, or check out more stories of lived experience collected by the Structural Inequalities Alliance.

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