Declaration 2017 opened with a screening of Ken Loach's newest hard-hitting film I, Daniel Blake, followed by a powerful discussion. The film depicts a man struggling for humanity, his rights as a citizen diminishing and his voice ignored. Through an unlikely friendship, it explores issues of mental health, social housing, welfare, child poverty, inequality, as well as demonisation of the poor and the sick – in other words, human rights. If you haven't seen it, you should.

After the screening, an eclectic panel led the discussion, which was chaired by Tamara Van Strijthem of Take One Action, who co-presented the event. The panel featured: I, Daniel Blake screenwriter, Paul Laverty; strategic programme manager for mental health at NHS Lothian, Linda Irvine; CommonSpace columnist and community worker, Jimmy Stirling; The Poverty Alliance director, Peter Kelly; and NHS Health Scotland chair, David Crichton.

The audience was not forthcoming with questions to kick off the discussion and the atmosphere suggested that everyone was weighed down by the impact and emotion of the film. It was left to the panel to open the discussion and Linda Irvine seemed to reflect the audience’s sombre mood with her admission that she was ‘feeling ashamed’. Peter Kelly, taking the view that ‘things can be different’, called for welfare reform, encouraging us to make the personal political. 

A discussion of the ‘polarisation of wealth’ and its effects on the most disadvantaged areas in the UK brought up the fact that the UK is the fifth richest country in the world. Doesn’t that feel hard to swallow? David Crichton went further to point out that the ‘gross inequalities’ the film underlines ‘materialise in schools, nurseries and workplaces’, not just when dealing with the DWP. Jimmy Stirling verified this by recounting some of his life experience, including being ‘penalised for working in the past’ when he went to make a claim after an injury.

Paul Laverty made an important observation, highlighted the role of Maximus, the US company in charge of assessing work capability for the DWP, the issue that Blake faces in the film. Why is it that a foreign private company, not accountable to our government, that we have no investment in, is making essentially life or death decisions for citizens of the UK? Time and again, the concept of ownership appeared to be at the heart of the debate, with talk of nationalisation of organisations and the need for more jobs that are dignified and fulfilling – practical, pragmatic and positive steps that would make a change.

‘It is our responsibility and moral obligation to change the whole narrative’, stated Paul Laverty towards the end of the discussion. The penultimate question from the audience, ‘What can we do?’, was answered with the proposal to volunteer in foodbanks and get involved in other intermediary organisations. These actions will not fix the issues, but the help they provide is invaluable and ripples across communities. 

At the start of the discussion, Linda Irvine had said: ‘Art takes you to places you have never been before’, inviting us to reframe, challenge and test our own assumptions. I, Daniel Blake is a film which gives a voice to many people who are not usually heard. So watch it, discuss it and share it. 

And as Ken Loach said in his letter to the audience at the Declaration screening: ‘Good wishes and solidarity’. 

by Rosalind Roux

 

I, Daniel Blake continues to be distributed in cinemas and community venues throughout the UK. So far, over 500 community screenings have been supported. Upcoming screenings are listed at www.idanielblake.co.uk, so follow the link to find out when it is showing near you. 

Declaration 2017 opened with a screening of Ken Loach's newest hard-hitting film I, Daniel Blake, followed by a panel discussion. The film depicts a man struggling for humanity, his rights as a citizen diminishing and his voice ignored. Through an unlikely friendship, the film explores issues of mental health, social housing, welfare, child poverty, inequality, as well as demonisation of the poor and the sick – in other words, human rights. If you haven't seen it, you should.

After the film, an eclectic panel led the discussion, which was chaired by Tamara Van Strijthem of Take One Action, who co-presented the event. The panel featured: I, Daniel Blake screenwriter, Paul Laverty; NHS Lothian’s strategic programme manager for mental health, Linda Irvine; CommonSpace columnist and community worker, Jimmy Stirling; The Poverty Alliance director, Peter Kelly; and NHS Health Scotland chair, David Crichton.

The audience was not forthcoming with questions to kick off the discussion and the atmosphere suggested that everyone was weighed down by the impact and emotion of the film. It was left to the panel to open the discussion and Linda Irvine seemed to reflect the audience’s sombre mood with her admission that she was ‘feeling ashamed’. Peter Kelly, taking the view that ‘things can be different’, called for welfare reform, encouraging us to make the personal political.

A discussion of the ‘polarisation of wealth’ and its effects on the most disadvantaged areas in the UK brought up the fact that the UK is the fifth richest country in the world. Doesn’t that feel hard to swallow? David Crichton went further to point out that the ‘gross inequalities’ the film underlines ‘materialise in schools, nurseries and workplaces’, not just when dealing with the DWP. Jimmy Stirling verified this by recounting some of his life experience, including being ‘penalisedfor working in the past’ when he went to make a claim after an injury.

Paul Laverty made an important observation, highlighted the role of Maximus, the US company in charge of assessing work capability for the DWP, the issue that Blake faces in the film. Why is it that a foreign private company, not accountable to our government, that we have no investment in, is making essentially life or death decisions for citizens of the UK? Time and again, the concept of ownership appeared to be at the heart of the debate, with talk of nationalisation of organisations and the need for more jobs that are dignified and fulfilling – practical, pragmatic and positive steps that would make a change.

‘It is our responsibility and moral obligation to change the whole narrative’, stated Paul Laverty towards the end of the discussion. The penultimate question from the audience, ‘What can we do?’, was answered with the proposal to volunteer in foodbanks and get involved in other intermediary organisations. These actions will not fix the issues, but the help they provide is invaluable and ripples across communities.

At the start of the discussion, Linda Irvine had said: ‘Art takes you to places you have never been before’, inviting us to reframe, challenge and test our own assumptions. I, Daniel Blake is a film which gives a voice to many people who are not usually heard.  So watch it, discuss it and share it.

And as Ken Loach said in his letter to the audience at the Declaration screening: ‘Good wishes and solidarity’.