Sunday 28 November 2010

Let's Make 29th April Local Heroes Day

I guess there are plenty of other people who, like me, really couldn't care less about next April's wedding of William Windsor and Kate Middleton. I suspect that even those who express their enthusiasm for the couple's nuptials are more fascinated by the celebrity of the groom than they are moved by feelings of reverence for the royals.

But here's a thing: how much difference do us republicans really think they can make by complaining that it's all nonsense? Yes, it is bizarre that the nation has been granted a bank holiday, a day-off, the kind of absence from work that businesses vehemently complain about when it involves strike action, for nothing more than the wedding of a upper-class young man and his upper middle class girlfriend. It is just as preposterous that this is happening for no other reason than his biological accident of the groom's birth into staggering privilege. But in all honesty, how much of an impact do we hope to make by simply responding in a curmudgeonly manner?

Don't get me wrong: I share the view that an obsession with the Windsors speaks volumes for the immaturity of our 'advanced' democracy and for the way that fame and notoriety, driven by the media's need for cheap, disposable 'news', has elbowed aside genuine achievement and distinction. So here's a though: how do we offer an alternative that celebrates individuals from working class communities, people whose contributions are usually ignored by the national fixation with the supposedly 'beautiful people'?

Rather than grumbling about the ridiculous pomposity and excess of the royal wedding day, let's make that day - 29 April 2011 - our 'Local Heroes Day'.

I bet we all know people who we think are amazing. I can immediately identify the person who regularly checks in on housebound pensioners because the council's social services help is so erratic; someone who gives long hours to helping people navigate the complexities of dealing with the UK Borders Agency; or even the friend who cooks and delivers free food to people who have just come out of hospital (and brought round some of the best chana masala I've ever tasted when I came out of the Royal London). Then there's my friend Vivian and the fantastic literary events she organises, or the campaigners who have struggled long and hard to make sure that Queen's Market in Upton Park remains open. Without people like these, life would be poorer, bleaker and far less interesting.

I'm not suggesting something like the ludicrous Pride of Britain awards, with its royal patronage, corporate sponsorship and z-list celebs. On 'Local Heroes Day', all we really need to do is make a point of going out of our way to thank the people we think matter to our communities.

We don't do it enough - and it's a far, far better use of a bank holiday than ranting at the TV or finding ways to desperately avoid the royal wedding coverage.

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