All The World On A One Way Street is a documentary project which looks closely at the people of Copley Road and the Nether Hall region in general.

Photography: Warren Draper

As many of you will be aware, we chose to build our studio-cum-gallery-cum-workshop -cum-think-tank-cum-venue-cum-laboratory on the corner of Copley Road and Broxholme Lane. If you haven’t visited Doncopolitan HQ yet, you should really find the time to drop in. It is one of the most creative and inspiring places in Doncaster – or the world for that matter. We didn’t choose to settle on Copley Road for financial reasons (OK, it was a little bit for financial reasons). We came here because, at the time, the Copley Road Project was one of the most exciting things happening in Donny. The Project has changed a lot over the last few years, but then so has Copley Road.

Not long ago it seemed like every other shop on Copley Road was empty. The Nether Hall region had been through a long period of economic decline. What had once been a thriving over-spill from the heyday of Doncaster Markets was a sad, dirty shadow of its former self. But in recent years the region has seen a real upturn. The vacant shops are being filled and the streets are alive with people. All kinds of wonderful, beautiful, colourful, powerful, painful, sorrowful, soulful, joyful people.

This regeneration isn’t the result of top-down planning or the injection of millions of pounds of UK or European grants. It has come from the hard-work of the people and businesses who live and work in the area. It doesn’t take a genius to see that many of these new businesses have been created by ‘new arrivals’ – people who have migrated to Doncaster to build a new life. This shouldn’t be a surprising fact in itself, migrants have always helped shape the local economy. Doncaster would never have been the productive area it was without the influx of Polish, Welsh and Geordies who spent their lives down the pit.The role of migrants in the regeneration of Nether Hall is made surprising by the fact that Doncaster was a key Brexit Town.

This article isn’t about taking sides over Brexit. I have written elsewhere of my disgust in the attitudes of some, left and the right, leavers and remainers, after the referendum:

We have learned anything from this referendum it is that the powerful and the political on both sides of the debate have nothing but contempt for everyday people. By ‘everyday’ I mean the people I spend every day with; the former – and formerly loved – ‘working class’ people of the regions which, once upon a time, made up the  Labour heartlands. I live in Doncaster, where 69% of voters ticked the ‘Leave’ box.

Neighbours and work colleagues I’ve spoken were all hungry for more information. Rather than focusing on the immigration debate – which made up 90% of the vox pops in the media (a propaganda strategy used to reinforce classism for the last 50 years) – the majority of people voiced concern for the immediate welfare of their friends and family and many spoke about their fears for an uncertain future… the kind of thing which should be at the heart of every political decision.

People were truly torn and many felt that they were making a decision between a rock and a hard place… it is not as if we’re exactly thriving under the EU, despite the £millions of EU funding which has been pumped into the region. None of this was reflected in the media or in the attitudes of politicos… both left and right.

(For the full article, the first in a series of three, visit: https://warrendraper.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/the-echo-of-the-voiceless/)

I’m not going to pretend that I have the right to pass judgement on the result of the referendum. The truth is, I didn’t vote. I’m not against Britain or Europe, to me they’re just geography and interesting cultures, but when it came to deciding in a referendum I couldn’t really say that I was ‘for’ either of them. Me? What am I for? I’m for Doncaster.

This is not sitting on the fence. Everything I have been involved with creating, from Doncopolitan to Bentley Urban Farm, stems from my belief that regions are at their most creative and most resilient ( an increasingly crucial quality) when they are free to live autonomously. For all the good they may have done, when it comes to people having the freedom to design, create and maintain their own villages, towns and cities – the places they have chosen to make their home – Whitehall, Westminster and Brussels have all placed major obstacles in the road to self-determination. For me, the choice as it was set out in the referendum, was no choice at all. And besides, I have always tried to live by the old Jewish adage: “If somebody offers you two choices, take the third.” The dominant economic system offered by Europe and the UK does not offer the freedom I seek for Doncaster. Freedom can never be granted, only lived.

All The World On A One Way Street is a new documentary project which will look closely at the people of Copley Road and the Nether Hall region in general. Using photography, video, visual arts and written word, it will tell the story of the area’s recent regeneration and look at the long proud heritage one of Doncaster’s most interesting streets.  Inevitably, Brexit will be it’s backdrop; we can’t look at a place like Nether Hall without wondering what it will hold for its diverse community. But this will be a story about people. All of the people, both new arrivals and families who have lived in the region for generations. To tell an honest story we must give equal voice to all. To tell an interesting story we must embrace the good, the bad and the bizarre. So if you’d like to tell your story, give your view, or want involved with an exciting new documentary project then why not take up my offer and pop along to Donco HQ.

All The World On A One Way Street launches on March 28th 6pm at Doncopolitan Studio, 83 Copley Road, Doncaster, DN1 2QP.