John Harris

Journalist & Author

Help us map the world outside Westminster | John Harris

Building on my series of films, I’m looking for your views on the impact of political decisions on communities across Britain

With Britain facing its most dramatic social changes for decades, we want to take the country’s temperature – and we need your help. We’re aiming to sideline the generalities and cliches of Westminster, and investigate what’s actually happening in our cities, towns and villages.

For over a year now, I have been making films for the Guardian, with John Domokos, ostensibly about party politics, but more often than not focusing on the UK’s social fabric. From hard times in Cumbria, through the prospects for the “big society” in Stourbridge, and on to the forlorn state of affairs in South Shields, we’ve tried to highlight the gap between what passes for the national debate and nitty-gritty reality – something that has taken on even more urgency as the effects of the downturn linger on and the cuts start to bite.

We think we decisively began to portray the national condition in our film about the south Mancunian suburb of Altrincham, which touched on no end of really topical themes: inequality, long hours, the forlorn state of the built environment, the demise of town centres … you name it. Now, we want to maintain this theme, and really start to flesh out where Britain is going.

Plenty of these films have been guided and influenced by Guardian users – via comment threads, email and Twitter. Now, with your continuing help, we want to document the effects of austerity, but we’re also keen to map the effects of decisions taken by both business and government, and much more. We’re determined to look at social changes that mainstream politicians always seem to understand long after they’ve happened. So, if where you live is changing fast, or stuck in a rut – or, just to maintain a note of optimism, being taken somewhere different by the efforts of people on the ground – we want to know.

We need good stories to base the films around and voices who can tell us them – and we’ll make a point of presenting what they say to both local and national politicians. Later this week, we’ll begin the journey in my adopted hometown of Frome in Somerset – so any intelligence from there or thereabouts would be most welcome. That said, by way of an opening appeal, pointers from all over the UK are what we’re after. So, over to you …

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