Sharon Green and I went to Sunderland Poly to do English at the tail end of the 80s and then for a large part of our adult life lost touch with each other, not out of malice, just life. Facebook reconnected us and so we followed each other from afar, then Sharon announced she was leaving the platform so we swopped numbers, then WhatsApp voice messages, then finally we spoke and captured the conversation on my podcast.
During the lockdowns Sharon, confined, like the rest of us, to her locality, started to take photos of the doors she passed on her daily walks around London. When I suggested to Sharon that she might like to talk about her doors on the podcast, she laughed as it seemed like a silly thing, but actually the conversation we had was anything but.
Walking around London during the pandemic and after George Flloyd’s murder got Sharon thinking about what was going on behind closed doors; which children were safe, with access to support and technology, which were hungry, as Rashford’s campaign so clearly flagged up.
As an HR consultant the doors allowed her to focus her thinking about which doors are open and shut and to whom. Both Sharon and I got into Sunderland by the skin of our teeth and at the time, as a North Eastern Poly, there were many people who looked down on it as an undergraduate location. But for both of us it opened doors, to both of us to higher education and careers.
As my eldest son applies for student loans which will saddle him with decades of debt, I look back on my full grant, the housing benefit I got and I am so grateful. Without that state help even the doors of a poly would have been shut to me, there was just no my family could have afforded it and the idea of huge debt was just something which would not have been countenanced.
Being white has opened doors, going to a grammar school, every qualification I have gained has opened doors to the next, each job opening doors to the next which have all led to my ability to earn money and use my time in ways which support myself, my family, my interests and passions, well-being and income generation.
Where do you even begin if every door is shut to you?
We didn’t get to any fix-all answers in the conversation but three themes stood out as one of the ways to open doors for all:
- How could you grow these themes to open doors for yourself and the people whose doors are sticky, or rusty, or bolted shut but someone or something else?
What goes on behind closed doors? How do we open doors? What assumptions do we make? A simple conversation about Sharon’s photographs of doors takes us into community, connection, creativity and the big issues that as a world we are grappling with.