By John Battle
Five years under the guidance of Tom Chigbo and Becky Howcroft, our paid organisers, Leeds Citizens is growing in strength and depth as a way forward developing a new, deeper and more hopeful politics of real change in our turbulent times. The recent city-wide assembly held at the Roscoe Church in Chapeltown was well attended and included six new groups signing up as members. The Citizens movement, now expanding into towns and cities all over the UK, is registered as an independent campaigning charity working to bring groups together to train new leadership and to tackle social and economic injustice by actions bringing about real change. The method is to bring groups together to develop skills of attentive listening through ‘face to face’ (one to one) conversations to share stories of experiences and to develop and agree on common agendas as action for change. Organised listening campaigns led to an initial focus on the need for more support for young and old with mental health challenges, the need to press employers for a real living wage and for good work opportunities for young people in the city. Already as a result of training and working together and applying appropriate pressure we have secured more resources to pay mental health specialists in pilot clinics in Leeds. Now, together, it has been agreed to intensify the focus on pressing for more support in reality for those with mental health challenges. A strong and widely representative ” Mental Health Working Group” has been set up and is meeting regularly. All members of the institution are being encouraged to carry out local “listening campaigns” to build up an evidence base and foster new leadership to speak up. The number of members is now sufficiently city wide to move to more intensive local ” cluster action” focussing on our neighbourhood needs. Citizens does not rely on grant-giving and grant stopping funds! Members pay a levy appropriate to their means to ensure Citizens is totally independent on its own resources and sustainable for the long haul. It is open to all faith communities and none, to schools, educational and community bodies. Already a few of our parishes are members in their own right. Our Catholic Diocese of Leeds is a founder member. Catholic Care has joined. The plan is to develop Citizens in Kirklees and Bradford in the coming year.
Perhaps your parish could think about joining? Contact Leeds Citizens at: www.citizensuk.org/leeds