After the referendum: how would we respond to refugees in Marlborough?

Written by Jo Carroll.

We are all settling after the upheaval of the referendum.  I overheard both elation and despair in the aisles of Waitrose.  Now, it seems, we are all holding our breaths to see what happens next.

But one of the most alarming, immediate, consequences was the rise in overt racism.  Which couldn't happen here, of course ... Could it?

However, if we think of racism as reflecting deep divisions, a construct of 'them and us', then maybe we need to think twice.

We live in a town with an ageing population, reflected in the ever-increasing growth in retirement properties.  There are few opportunities for those of us drawing our pensions to enjoy ourselves, and share our views of the world, with the young and energetic.

So young people congregate in the Priory Gardens while we shuffle into the Polly Tea Rooms - and I know this is stereotyping, but how often do our paths cross in any meaningful way?

The reality of the high price of housing reinforces other divisions:  between those of us who can live comfortably and those who struggle to make ends meet.  There are big houses in Back Lane and families crammed into small houses in Rabley Wood and the Mead.  How many opportunities are there for us to sit down together and talk about the joys and challenge of the town?

While the College has much to contribute, I have heard much grumbling about their owning property in the High Street and the pedestrian lights on the way into the town.

As for the road closure requested by the Jazz Festival Committee - I have rarely heard such entrenched views on both sides.

So how will we respond if refugees arrive here?  Traumatised families struggling to make sense of past experiences and build a new life that must feel very strange if they land here.

I am sure that many of us will make them welcome.  But can we really be sure that no one will spit at them, tell them to go home, shout out that we don't want their like in our market town?

Which makes it all the more important that we work unceasingly to include everyone - young, old, rich, poor, local people and new arrivals - in the vibrant life of the town.


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