It has long been understood that freedom is inextricably linked to the availability of sufficient personal economic and social resources. Financial domination and oppression can be equally as damaging as political domination and are frequently interlinked. These issues are, of course, tied in with the traditional radical concerns with greater equality and inclusion in society. So this short post is about a great women-led enterprise supporting its local community.
I discovered the Dove Workshop in Banwen near Neath in Wales when I attended an Open University degree ceremony in Cardiff during spring 2013. What stuck in my memory about the event was the strongly independent stance of the OU in Wales – (‘we only see strivers!!)’ during a time when vilification of the unemployed had become a persistent and vocal theme of the Coalition Government!! As described on their website, the primary role of the Dove Workshop is to help and support those members of the community seeking education or training. But it does more than this, extending its activities to include a community café, child care provision, garden centre, music concerts and much more. Such activities continue to be a crucial part in areas still looking to move forward nearly 30 years after the industrial devastation of the 1980s. The Dove itself emerged from the wreckage of the era following the 1984-85 miners strike. No society could have comfortably coped with the sheer scale and rapidity of change inflicted on it by an ideologically driven Government and it was the women from the local Miners’ Support Group who clearly saw the need for a social enterprise to help save their community. The result was an innovative organization working in partnership with universities, colleges, community groups, trade unions and many more.
The Dove demonstrated that the characterisation of the mining and steel working communities being averse to change was, and still is, a malevolent and invidious piece of right wing propaganda. It continues to provide crucial services in an area, like so many others in Wales, Scotland and the North of England, which still struggles with chronic underinvestment and the failed economic model under Conservative, Coalition and New Labour governments. There is a book about the Dove’s pioneering activities by Mair Francis and a YouTube profile.