Elijah, in last week’s Big Issue in the North.
….and he’s still waiting to be be chucked out of his house.
Last time I saw him he suffered three of what I can only assume were panic attacks in an hour. His face kind of crumples up into a heart-breaking mask of pain while they’re happening. They are terrifying to watch, so I can’t imagine how they must feel for him. It’s the stress that brings them on, he says.
Anyway I did my best to get Elijah’s story out there to a wider public but I’ve never struggled more with any story since going freelance. Two national papers took it and then spiked it (unless the second one used it over the last few days that is – now pretty doubtful). A national TV broadcaster was interested, and then wasn’t. Each time I had to tell Elijah, got his hopes up, and then he was let down. The problem is that it looks like me who’s done the stringing along and letting down.
A regional magazine has at least used it and now it looks like a current affairs radio show may also highlight his story. I am keeping everything crossed that they follow through with it. I don’t believe it can change anything for Elijah – since the ownership of his house has already legally transferred to Oldham Council under a Compulsory Purchase Order – but from his point of view, at least it will kick the authorities in the teeth with a little adverse publicity.
I hope he manages to enjoy his 90th, despite the dispicable way he’s being treated by the powers that be. Let’s just listen to his words again…..
I popped by to visit Elijah this morning, the WWII veteran who is being forced out of his home of 56 years to make way for cherry trees and grass.
There are plans to put flats on the site vacated by him and his neighbours at some undefined point in the future but for the moment, thanks to the recession, little rebuilding is taking place under this regeneraton scheme. I wanted to get a better selection of images as I’m hoping to place this story and to sell it as a package. Last time I didn’t get a wide enough range of portrait types and the lashing rain meant it was difficult to get the external shots – including outdoor portraits – I needed. There’s little that can be done about the weather but this is one difficulty I have with trying to do audio, words and images all at once for real work stories – each role involves so much attention, and to do them well, time, that it can be really easy to miss things. There’s a definite danger in this new multimedia journalism world of trying to be a jack of all trades and ending up a master of none.
Maureen and Terry Walsh are pensioners from Derker in Oldham. They’ve lived in their house almost all their married life but learned a few years ago that their terrace was going to be demolished under the government’s Housing Market Renewal scheme, which aims to tackle what ministers and some academics say are failing housing markets in areas of the North of England. The couple – not natural activists by any stretch of the imagination – were part of a group which challenged the Compulsory Purchase Order in the high court on various grounds where they believed mistakes had been made. They reached the end of the road in October when their case was rejected. They must now start looking for places to move to, but like many in their situation – especially those who have paid off their mortgages and are now retired and on a fixed income – they complain that low compensation payments will put them back in debt, or into social housing. This is a common complaint: why can’t we get a house for a house.