It’s a strange thing when you actually become aware of how class works in Britain. A dawning realisation that can shift your perception of everything, like your eyes focussing after you’ve just woken up.
Whether it’s realising that your friend’s idea of going on holiday doesn’t mean going to a caravan park somewhere near the coast for a week ( that’s if you even go on holiday), or the way that girl at school gleefully tells anyone who’ll listen that your Mum cleans her house as though it makes you and your family somehow intrinsically lesser people.
The lived experience of being working class in 21st century Britain isn’t a universal one but Know Your Place from Dead Ink, edited by Nathan Connolly, does a good job of conveying life experiences on a variety of subjects filtered through the prism of growing up working class in 21st century Britain.
Simply put Know Your Place is The Good Immigrant for the working class, being inspired by a tweet from the editor of that book, Nikesh Shukla.
As Connolly points out,
‘There is a vision of the working class we like to cling to: a romanticised, fetishised idea that is still rooted somewhere around the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier in 1937, an account of working class life written by a man educated at Eton.’
The essays collected here cover a broad spectrum of life experiences and observations about being working class in Britain in 2017. Rural poverty and the myriad obstacles writers from working class backgrounds face, how class and race intersect, how ‘working class’ accents and backgrounds can still cause major problems for people (a good example of this being MP Laura Pidcock’s comments on her experience of Parliament) and many more.
This book is important and timely given the way that the ‘working class’ have become a convenient scapegoat for a lot of things in recent political developments. Now it’s hard to think of the working class without thinking of Jeremy Kyle’s eponymous TV show, in the space of a little over a decade it’s become firmly rooted in the media landscape presenting a parade of troubled families for the nation’s entertainment.
Know Your Place shatters misconceptions and stereotypes embedded within the barrage of press and media coverage by presenting real stories and perspectives from real working class people.