The photo which showed it always pays to look beyond league tables on poverty

This is the photo judges at a publisher’s monthly editorial awards picked as their favourite image in June.

Taken by Rob Browne of WalesOnline, it was one of a number taken for an article by the website’s Welsh Affairs editor Will Hayward when the pair went to explore what life was like in one of the most deprived areas of Cardiff, and indeed Wales, over the course of a month.

Riverside is financially poor. Of those 1,909 areas of Wales (of which Riversides is made up of four) it ranks 1,903 for housing, 1,804 for employment, 1,804 for income and 1,852 for health (men in Riverside have the lowest life expectancy of any ward in Cardiff). Of all the children in Riverside, 55% of them live in poverty , the highest proportion in Wales.

It is just yards from the Principality Stadium, and from the streets in Riverside you can see what hundreds of millions of pounds of property investment has done for the city centre.

Often, such articles understandably tell stories of despair, depression and decay. But as Rob’s image — one of several which were published with Will’s article in June — showed, that’s not what Will and Rob found.

The image depicted families having water fun battles in the streets during a good weather day.

Will wrote: “ If you really want to understand a place you need to go below the figures. Just because a child is living in poverty doesn’t mean they are living without love. Just because health and housing are well below the Welsh average doesn’t mean that there isn’t a vibrant community here. To try and go beyond the stats WalesOnline spent a month immersed in the Riverside area. Speaking to residents, businesses, educators, volunteers, law enforcement, community leaders, decision makers and parents to understand what Riverside is. What we found was a place with heart, a place with a soul.

“Leave Fitzhamon Embankment and head into the warren of terraced housing that makes up Riverside and your ears are immediately greeted by the sound of a brutal gun battle. Screams rip through the air as the combatants shout instructions to each other. It is a ferocious battle with no quarter given.

“But the screams are that of joy because what you have walked into the middle of is a seemingly spontaneous water fight between some families. Saif Kahn shows incredible dexterity wielding two Super Soakers simultaneously as little girls drench him using the cars as cover. On the same street Del Singh directs his troops while Nick Lewis and his little daughter Eliza wield a little pistol. The Singhs, the Khans and the Lewises all playing together. Forget the stats, forget poverty, forget the challenges and forget the reputation thrust on on to a community by people who never come here or only pass through, this right here is Riverside.”

That’s not to say the challenges and issues faced by people in Riverside aren’t scrutinised in depth, but as Will added: “They are numerous and they really matter to the people of Riverside (all the more for the fact they love this place and want it to be as good as it can be). However as we discuss the myriad of social issues here you must never stop remembering what Riverside really is — a place with a soul.”

You can see more of Rob’s photos, and Will’s long read article, here.

Reach’s monthly editorial awards were set up to celebrate excellence in journalism across the company, which is the largest regional news publisher in the UK.

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

>> See the series so far, here

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