Oldham gets a lot of bad press, including a massive misrepresentation from Nigel Farage this week claiming that many areas in Oldham are ‘no-go areas’. It just so happens that the venue for my author event was smack bang in the centre of one of these areas. Alexandra Park, a beautiful Victorian space in the heart of Oldham, is often pitched by racists as somewhere race war battles are in full force every day of the week.
I live nearby, yes, a white British working class person living in the middle of the supposed ‘no-go area’. I walked to the park, down a street where I grew up which is now multi-cultural. No one tried to prevent me from going to my cream tea in the ‘war zone’ park. I chatted to my friend for a while and then made my way unchallenged through what Farage would have us believe is the downfall of British culture to my destination.
Once there, rather than being deafened by the sound of clashing cultures, I passed families of different nationalities all playing nicely together. The conservatory has been wonderfully preserved and surrounding area is well maintained gardens. Quite beautiful.
The day, supported by Oldham Library services, went very well. In fact, it was as if it was a normal day in a normal town in England rather than a tense Sunday afternoon in a ‘divided society’. The food was delicious, we all had a good laugh at the bad reviews for Perfect Ten and then went home safely. No one barred our way or threatened us with violence or abuse. It was just a sunny Sunday afternoon in a Northern town.
I walked home through the park and reminisced on how lucky I am to live in Oldham and to have had the opportunity to talk about my book in a magical venue that as a child I used to imagine was inhabited by fairies. I have lived here all my life. I like it. On the way back my next door neighbour Nita Mistry stuck her head out of her bedroom window.
‘Did it go alight?’
I smiled at her.
‘Yes. Yes it did love, thanks.’
Divided we are not.