I grew up in mid Wales, part of a low income, but sort of culturally aware hippyish family. Our family didn’t really have any connections with anyone from a different social class and I lived until I was 18 in a very small community in the depths of rural Wales. I suppose I was pretty sheltered in some ways.
I got a place at a London uni and I moved there in 2002. The place blew my mind. I loved it, and still do.
Anyway, as i settled into the city I started to become aware of the extent to which there were whole social worlds that I could not access because of my background and my connections. It was a strange experience coming from a relatively egalitarian community. I saw it in cliques of people at uni that I couldn’t connect with, and picked up on the pockets of wealth around town, so close to, but so separate from pockets of crazy deprivation.
Then I got a job, through a bumbling posh Boris Johnson type guy in the flat nextdoor. The job was helping to run high-end drinks parties etc around the city, a different location every night. My company had an interesting mix of clients. There were big corporates, like shipping companies, banks etc, then there were fashion houses, and most interestingly, there were also a lot of high net worth individuals, and royalty. We’d run the events in situ, on the client’s turf. This meant going into celebrity houses, hanging around in the backrooms of royal palaces smoking joints, running bar mitzvahs for billionaire heirs. For some people, this sort of access would be a dream come true. So snoopalicous! Check out Sting’s bathroom decor, wow. Etc. For me, it was something of a transformative experience. Seeing this privilege up close, witnessing the power that these people had, and examining how these circles protected themselves and their wealth – it just made me angry. It basically cemented by socialist politics. After these experiences, I knew who the enemy were. I made decisions based on these experiences about what I valued and what needed to be confronted, and I joined the Labour party.
It’s amazing what value first hand experience can have. You can read all about it in the paper, but to bear witness to something can have an unquantifiable additional impact. I’m glad that I got to look inside the gilded world of the super rich. It put things in perspective and it helped me to see through divide and rule politics.