As part of Homes for Heroes 100, on 4 June 2019 the centenary of the Addison Oak was celebrated with a birthday party in Sea Mills and the planting of a oak sapling at the new housing development at Ashton Rise. Vanessa Kisuule (Bristol City Poet) wrote and performed this poem to mark the occasion.

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Close your eyes

Picture the house of your dreams.

Is it nestled in the wooded ribs of a glade,

laced by the gentle sound of the sea?

Perhaps perched on a hill overlooking

The twinkling lights of the city

Looking down at those that

live side by side and top to toe.

When we imagine perfect homes

They’re tucked away on private acres

Unsullied by the bonds of social living

Yet we lament the rise of loneliness

the sickness making graveyards

of us long before our last breaths.

The underclass is frowned upon,

their livelihood a punchline, a

cautionary tale told with half

its chapters missing.

 

Their grievances are many, but

Too few of us listen.

So many facts too often forgotten:

the good faith that built these dwellings

The rich communities that flower here,

every family behind every window

With a story as unique as a fingerprint

These buildings once trembled

with the soft glow of utopia.

In the aftermath of war, a bold law was passed:

An act to build homes that would last.

Fertilised by green space and great hopes,

Owned and enjoyed by those in need.

A young man hollowed out by

The horrors of combat could return

To a home ‘fit for a hero’,

A low earning mother could

raise her children in a house

with working lights and running

water.

 

This was not a given.

It still isn’t. We have yet to make

good on this 100 year promise.

We’ve neither the space or

luxury to be islands, not whilst

Waiting lists for houses get longer

And the life span of the homeless

Gets shorter. Let idealism

Gleam on the horizon once again

as it did in 1919, bolstered

by the lessons we’ve learnt

Let’s meet the ever urgent

need for all of us to live

amongst and for each other

In a city where everyday living

Makes heroes of us all.

 

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Photos this page: Vanessa Kisuule at Sea Mills; Vanessa Kisuule at Ashton Rise (Evan Dawson)

Cover photo: Vanessa Kisuule at Sea Mills (Melanie Kelly)

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