It seems to be the norm that British politics takes over all other news but let’s not forget that over the last three weeks there have been two serious terror attacks in the UK. 

Terror affects us all!  I grew up in London in the 70s and 80s when the IRA bombing campaign was in full swing.  My parents’ block of flats was bombed because an MP had their London home there.  Thankfully, no one was hurt.  In fact, as so many in Manchester and London have shown, it often brings people together.  The residents association in my parents’ flat became a hive of activity with neighbours talking to each other in a way they never had before.

Our elections, terrorism and Brexit point to less talking and understanding throughout our country – between remainers and Brexiteers, North and South, Muslim and Christian, rich and poor.  Our country is becoming more polarised and at the fringes it spills over into hatred, violence and terrorism.

When we discuss terrorism, we often describe an ‘act of war’.  It is a defined, violent and single act whether perpetrated by a terrorist or an army, but peace is built by a thousand acts. A kind word, a community festival or a diplomatic effort.  All of them attempts by people to understand each other.  They rarely make the news but they are the foundations of our families, friendships, communities and countries. 

By learning to understand each other, we build our society on bonds that are far more difficult to break than our formal laws.  

The work done by charities, youth and community workers to bring communities together, help them understand each other and make friends is part of the bedrock of our stable society. 

Is the polarisation partly a result of cuts to these services? When the economy tanked in 2008, the country has responded by slowly cutting back on these sorts of ‘non-essential’ activities.  Surely, we should have done the opposite.

At Creative Youth Network, we still do this – with limited funding and means. Our Welcome Wednesdays group supports newly arrive asylum seekers to learn English, meet new friends and understand British culture.  We run city wide gigs, events and even hustings, bringing together young people from across the city. 

Whether it is young people seen as gangsters from St Paul’s or ‘chavs’ from South Bristol – our aim is to challenge these stereotypes not through rhetoric or new policies but by small acts of friendship and understanding – helping to build peace in the West of England at least.