‘Poverty Safari’ Cover image. Darren McGarvey’s thought provoking and urgent, Orwell Prize winning book

l was delighted to be asked to contribute an image to the cover of Darren McGarvey’s debut book ‘Poverty Safari‘. The book published by independent publisher Luath Press in November 2017, tackles some of the most urgent issues facing the UK; – overcoming an invisible divide between poorer and more affluent communities, bringing marginalised and isolated voices into a dialogue for empowerment and change, and how we can realign our priorities to bring people together. Although apportioning blame to the all too common failures and neglect of ‘the system’, perhaps the overarching message here is of the need to ignore the ‘tit for tat’ political blame game, that falls short of delivering required adjustments to society. In finding a voice that can confront and unsettle, McGarvey steps away from the familiar documenting of deprivation, putting the emphasis on understanding lived lives, the human struggle, and our own actions, preconceptions and lifestyles. Written from McGarvey’s own experiences, the book confronts the realities and challenges of life within these urban environments with dignity, ‘tell it how it is’ story telling, and a sense of his own life’s battles and trajectory. The author’s honesty and understanding of social conditions at play throughout his experiences of upbringing and society are expressed with both brutal realisations and quality observational wit. Realising, and explaining the anger, by many who have experienced ‘poverty’, that kicks back in search of who to blame; the book exposes gaps in understanding, with which aspirations, and an area’s empowerment are at times reinterpreted or overlooked by broken community resources, and agendas belonging to facilitators rather than the people they are meant to be helping. In calling for dialogue and scrutiny of one’s own values and opinions, McGarvey lays bare the potential for personal responsibility and behavioural change to be integral to a fairer society. In 2018 the book was republished with a wider circulation by Picador books, and Darren McGarvey received the acclaimed Orwell Prize for political writing, a testament to the book’s integrity and poignancy. My image was part of a series from the last days of Glasgow’s Red Road Flats, capturing the high rises which had come to symbolise the stressful and dangerous situation their remaining residents lived in.

Cover to Darren McGarveys book Poverty Safari, Luath Press 2017 (Design, Tom Bee)
Image from Red Road Flats series, Glasgow 2010
Image from Red Road Flats series, Glasgow 2011

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