Activist and prize-winning author Darren McGarvey takes a tour of a Scotland he knows only too well in this new six-part series.
Known to many as the rapper Loki, his book Poverty Safari – chronicling his childhood and teen years in Pollok in Glasgow and the issues he saw around him – won the Orwell prize in 2018.
For this series, rather than a keyboard, he takes TV cameras across Scotland to highlight issues and confront what he sees as the rampant rise of poverty and inequality.
As he says directly to viewers in the opening titles of the series: ‘I want to immerse you in the world I grew up in…A world defined by poverty! By the age of 18, I was just another statistic… Another angry, confused young man with alcohol and drug problems.’
Over the course of the six episodes, it is a very personal take on the ground level reality of poverty in Scotland and how the effects play out and impact on so many lives in a desperate range of ways.
In Dundee he meets people counting the very personal toll of many drug deaths, in Edinburgh, a young mum living in deprivation with a toddler affected by respiratory problems, and in West Dunbartonshire, the focus is on how poverty affects women…
While in Glasgow, he reflects on the city’s health legacy with statistics showing men die younger here than anywhere else in Europe, in the Borders he encounters rural poverty and mental health issues, and in Aberdeen, he meets people on the streets in Scotland’s oil boom capital, living at the sharp end of austerity. But as well as highlighting the issues, Darren McGarvey’s Scotland also shines a light on grass-roots moves to fight back and counter poverty’s corrosive influence.
In Pilton he discovers a scheme to let young people get off the streets of an evening and ward off night-time gang violence. In Dumbarton, he encounters a women-led project to get young people and others involved helping provide sanitary protection for women who struggle to afford this basic hygiene need, and in Glasgow, he has a line-dancing lesson with the ‘dancing grannies’ whose video went viral, proving communities can come together for their own combined good.
In Eyemouth, he meets a local woman – who struggled with poverty in her life – now providing much needed therapy for teenagers through horse-riding, and in Aberdeen visits food banks fulfilling more than one need with offenders learning about the real meaning of community service as they carry out their community payback orders there.
The focus in the first episode of the series is on Dundee, which in 2018 celebrated the opening of the V & A as it also became Europe’s Drug Death capital. He meets Jamie. Drugs have been directly responsible for the deaths of more than 20 people within her close relatives and friends, including her sister, mum, dad, step dad and uncles.
And he acknowledges that the grief extends to the families, who have suffered at the hands of drug-users, as he meets publican Karen whose brother was fatally stabbed in 2011 by an addict.
But he also finds hope in a locally-driven project, with a support group of individuals helping each other towards recovery from their drug addiction.
Darren McGarvey’s Scotland begins on Tuesday, 3 September, on BBC Scotland, from 10-10.30pm.