Saturday 21 March 2015

Saturday Interview: Joy Garner

Joy Garner is is a Labour councillor representing Burslem Park ward on Stoke-on-Trent City Council. She is the cabinet member for housing, neighbourhoods, and communities. Joy was also Labour's candidate in Staffordshire for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections back in 2012. In those rare moments she's not doing political work, Joy can be found tweeting here.

Do you also find social media useful for activist-y things?

Yes - to those who are already connected. Many people in Stoke-on-Trent still have no home computers.

Have you been ever tempted to take up blogging?

Yes - then looked at my available time, had a drink of coffee, and decided, no. They only work if you can put very regular posts on them.

Apart from All That Is Solid (of course), are there any blogs you regularly follow?

Yes, most of the well-known political blogs and some local ones.

What are you reading at the moment/what's the last thing you read?

Buster: The Dog Who Saved a Thousand Lives by Will Barrow, and Das Boot by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim. Both are about war. Buster is an army sniffer dog, very modern. Das Boot is a WW2 German submarine book/film/TV series. The futility of war. The day to day drudgery and threat to life of the common soldier/mariner.

Do you have a favourite novel?

The one book I do re-read is Pride and Prejudice.

Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major influence on how you think about the world?

I love factual books, and TV documentaries. However, there are two books of fiction based on the true life experiences at the time they were written, that have influenced me the most.

Of Mice and Men by Jonn Steinbeck, and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. The hard life of the working man in both, and the cruelty of man to working animals (horses in Victorian England), in Black Beauty. It's the book that really brought animal rights to the fore.

Who are your biggest intellectual influences?

I really struggle with this one. Who or what? I have lived the 60's, 70's and 80's and really believed that 'things could only get better' in 1997!

So life and listening, learning and remembering are my influences.

What was the last film you saw?

Interstellar. Thought=provoking for a sci-fi film.

How about TV shows?

My all time favourite is Das Boot. These days I try not to miss NCIS, Eastenders, The Big Bang Theory and, of course, Thursday means Question Time and This Week.

How many political organisations have you been a member of?

Only ever been in the Labour Party. I am also a member of USDAW and Unity. There are numerous lobby groups I am a member of like Amnesty too.

Can you name an idea or an issue on which you've changed your mind?

There are some I wasn't very strong on, which I have now firmed up.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to disseminate?

Freedom, equality, democracy.

What set of ideas do you think it most important to combat?

All forms of extremism.

Who are your political heroes?

John Smith, Nelson Mandela, the Mahatma Ghandi, and the Dalai Lama. Sorry, all men!

How about political villains?

Margaret Thatcher. Besides the usual, she put women's rights back years.

What do you think is the most pressing political task of the day?

Internationally, there are two. Climate Change, and stopping extremism-driven wars.

In the UK, keeping our public safe and prosperous. The how is a massive question.

If you could affect a major policy change, what would it be?

In the UK, the country's prosperity. The climate change agenda gives opportunities in manufacturing, jobs and a better, greener life. We should embrace it. Prosperity for all leads to a better, more equal society.

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?


What would be your most important piece of advice about life?

Live it! Live it well.

What is your favourite song?

This is hard. My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion, The Day Before You Came by Blancmange, Ghosts by Japan, and then there are lots of Bowie and Goth records.

Do you have a favourite video game?

Not played any for ages. I used to love the original Space Invaders and, of course, Super Mario Bros.

What do you consider the most important personal quality in others?


What personal fault in others do you most dislike?


What, if anything, do you worry about?

Family members.

And any pet peeves?

Lies again!

What piece of advice would you give to your much younger self?

Not to take life too seriously

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Spare time?? Reading, crafts

What is your most treasured possession?

Wedding ring, of course - given by Martin...

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Chocolate, good dark chocolate.

What talent would you most like to have?

To be able to play the piano.

If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true - apart from getting loads of money - what would you wish for?

For me on a personal level, to be able to go into space, to look back and see our world from space - wow!

Then waving a wand and putting the world to rights....

Speaking of cash, how, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money?

After the usual new house, bills and family, there are several local historic buildings I would look at taking over and bringing back into sustainable use.

If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be?

Stephen Fry, Jasper Carrott and either Lenny Henry or Sue Perkins. All both funny and clever.

You've been a councillor for a number of years now. Would you recommend it?

Yes. A qualified yes. You get told its part time, you can fit it around your life easily ... No, if you get really into being a councillor, it can take a lot of time, evenings and weekends. You have to grow a thick skin, and get used to the public ringing your home at all hours. Their dilemmas don't fit into a neat 9-5 Mon-Fri week. If you are okay with that, then it's great.

And finally ... will Labour win in May?

Yes. But I do think it will be a minority government.