Life is a marathon, not a sprint – and so is the world of filmmaking. On the back of the brilliant The Queen’s Gambit, whose journey from book to Netflix took a mere 30 years, I wrote a two-part piece for Lucy V. Hay’s excellent screenwriting website Bang2Write about 12 films which took a long time to get from idea to script to screen – and the lessons we creatives can learn from the writer’s journey on each. Here’s part one (ft. Arrival, Get Out, Jojo Rabbit, Carol, Superbad, The Theory of Everything) and here’s part two (ft. A Quiet Place, One Night in Miami, Saving Mr Banks, The King’s Speech, Thelma & Louise, Bohemian Rhapsody). I hope it’s a helpful-slash-inspiring read for fellow writers and creatives!
The speech I gave at Westminster City Council’s Full Council meeting tonight:
The tale of Westminster really is a tale of two cities.
The neighbourhoods that make up our borough rank among the least and most deprived in the whole of the UK (1), and Westminster is among the worst boroughs in London for pay and income inequality (2,3).
While in my ward, Churchill, an estimated 53% of children live in poverty and around a third are on free school meals – in Knightsbridge and Belgravia just next door, those figures drop to 9% and zero (2).
And inequality is literally a matter of life and death. Westminster has the biggest variation in life expectancy in the country (3): if you’re a man born in one of our least deprived areas, you’re likely to live on average 11.3 years longer than a man born in one of our most deprived areas; for a woman that difference is 7.9 years (1).
The COVID pandemic has not so much increased this inequality in Westminster as shone a light on it. We may all be in the war against the virus, but we are certainly not all experiencing the same war.
Some residents are lucky enough to be able to work safely from home – others have no choice to but to leave the house, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk. Some Westminster residents have extremely comfortable, spacious homes, perhaps with lovely gardens; others live in homes that are overcrowded or in a state of disrepair – with no access to outdoor space, no ability to self-isolate if they’re told to or no hope of being rehoused for years… While yet others sleep on our streets. Some families have the time, space and equipment for home schooling – others struggle because they don’t have any or all of the above. Some of us can afford the private mental health care to help us cope with this crisis – while too many others sit on waiting lists for too many weeks.
In short, the virus and resulting lockdowns are hitting the most vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged in our society the hardest of all (4). The statistics back it up: People who live in deprived areas have higher COVID diagnosis and death rates than those living in less deprived areas – and they are higher in those in our black, Asian and minority ethnic communities (5,6). The risk is also higher for disabled people: 59% of those who lost their lives to COVID in England and Wales between March and July last year were disabled (7).
We need to address the issues highlighted here not just during a crisis, but all year round. So tonight, I call on Westminster Council’s leaders to acknowledge the extent of inequality in our borough, and to pledge to take more specific steps to tackle it.[Read more…]
As always, I trust Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts to give the best life advice. And as we enter a year that is hopefully better than the annus horribilis we just went through, I’ll be trying to remind myself of Snoopy’s four testaments above. Something tells me they’ll be more useful than ever.
And: serious congratulations on getting through the year we just did. Forget writing The Next Great American (Or Indeed British) Novel, signing That Deal or getting Fit And Fabulous: I think that simply reaching the end of 2020 with our lives/relationships/marbles even vaguely intact is a triumph. A triumph, I tell you. So, well done us! We made it! And that’s all we needed to do.
My heart goes out to everyone who, like my family, lost loved ones in 2020. It was an incredible year for reminding us of what’s important in life, I think. And for recognising the privileges that so many of us have and yet often take for granted: things like our health, paid work, a safe home, family and friends who care for us. I’m especially grateful to those are out there helping the most vulnerable in our communities – whether as frontline workers, volunteers or simply people looking out for their neighbours. It may have been a devastating, bleak year in so many ways, but as well as highlighting the difficulties and inequalities in our society it also shone a light on the best of our humanity, too.
So here’s to 2021, and to looking after ourselves and each other as we face its challenges. I wish you all a happy, loving and successful year ahead – whatever that looks like for you <3.