For those of you that haven’t heard of Cash Carraway before, let me introduce you. Cash is an award-winning playwright, author and spoken word artist from Penge, South East London. She’s also speaking out about the realities of living just below the poverty line, social cleansing and the lack of support services available for those who need it the most.
Cash’s biography and debut book, Skint Estate, is not an easy one to digest – but it’s not supposed to be. The author’s note reads: ‘The words written on these pages were not intended to be read in silence. So please say them out loud whenever you can – preferably to someone who doesn’t want to hear them.‘
I hesitated more than once before deciding to write this post (ironically to be be shared on my blog, penned from my Ikea sofa in my cosy – albeit rented – home. I don’t have an Aga or Mark Warner holiday planned though so that’s something at least) as it’s pretty far removed from my usual content.
But Cash’s story is too important and powerful to keep quiet about. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Cash via social media and blogging for a few years. We’ve shared occasional messages and sentiments and I’ve witnessed her being viciously trolled by other full-grown women to the point of being forced to close her accounts; it appears that downright bullying doesn’t stop at the school gates.
Cash begins her book with a prologue that gives the reader a glimpse into her current life as a working-class woman in modern Britain. She states from the offset that this book is about finding her voice and cutting through the stigma as she shares her personal stories, sordid experiences, candid emotions and most importantly, as an anecdote to the usual right-wing media portrayal of ‘people like her’.
She tells tales of her upbringing, discovering that she was going to be a mother while occupying a shitty train toilet, the horrific reality of domestic abuse, making money as a stripper whilst pregnant, working full-time yet still being forced to rely on handouts from a food bank, rogue landlords, and using social media to start a revolution from a refuge that is, quite literally, falling apart around her, all shared with a sprinkling of dark, sharp humour and defiance.
Cash’s compelling and beautifully written words have followed me around ever since I finished reading this book. For starters, I shall never again listen to Cher’s ‘Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves’ in quite the same light. In my eyes, I don’t see Cash as someone to be pitied or avoided at all costs. I see her as an absolute warrior, a superb role model for her girl and someone to be admired, not shamed and ridiculed.
I read a review of ‘Skint Estate’ where a gentleman states – despite having actually read the book- that Cash’s situation is down to her having the audacity to want to stay in her hometown, where rents are too high for housing benefits to cover, scoffs at the idea of period poverty, accuses Cash of being bitter and angry (no shit Sherlock) and thinks that basically, she needs to take responsibly for her own ‘poor’ life choices. And that, my friends, is a prime example of why we must keep talking.
As much I choose to share my life publicly through this little corner of the internet, there are still so many things that you don’t know, things that I will never share with another living soul. I tend to keep my blog posts nice and fluffy, void of an actual opinion out of fear of causing debate or backlash. Fun fact: I once shared a tweet about the ‘correct’ way to put a bra on and got absolutely ripped apart – about a fucking bra – so can you imagine the outcome if I had the balls to share something real?
You see, I know those smells all too well. I have the same internet search history as Cash and I know how it feels to want the very best for your child while having no home of your own. I have felt that same exhaustion and shame that a lack of support or stability brings. I know what my price is. I have also shared a kitchen, bathroom and living area with other women in the same sorry situation, through no fault of their own.
But we’re certainly not alone. There are too many people living this reality, suffering the consequences of austerity in Britain and being silenced. It’s really important to know that Cash isn’t about the cliche ‘poverty porn’ narrative or seeking empathy from the middle-classes, but speaking up about the skewed system and fighting for those who can’t – and every single one of us needs to listen.