Embers

by Laura Fawcett April 21, 2015 A

This week we woke up to the smell of burnt plastic.

The local recycling plant had burnt down in the night. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but speaking to come people locally arson could have been a possibility. Arson is not the problem that is had been in Flint, but with over 25% of Flints buildings derelict and abandoned, it had been an issue. 1631 were reported at vacant homes and buildings in the city from 2008-2012. Half of the fires are believed to be caused by children under 18 years old, some of these seeking a thrill, others out of anger, revenge or metal health issues, others because they have felt frustrated, surrounded by abandoned, dirty and derelict buildings.

Most residents are desperate about the situation. The attacks cost the city millions in fire-fighting and legal investigations, and now the city cannot afford to employ its own investigators of these fires, insurance companies are sending their own investigators in. There are reports that such investigations have found an arson for profit group had also been operating in Flint, with people unable to sell their houses, desperate to get money from somewhere in order to leave the city, this group has since been arrested.

In one street a house that had been recently renovated burn down after catching alight from a delict house that was set on fire next door. This house had been a symbol of hope for many in the community; a neighbour explained how others from the neighbourhood had come out to watch it, some of whom had been involved in its renovation. Many stood there helpless, in tears. A friend of mine who witnessed this decided to work with students at the university to give voice to the anger pain and frustration that the community were feeling through a verbatim theatre project, Embers. Playwright Andrew Morton worked with students to gather thoughts and feelings of local residents. The performance took place on the street where one of the houses had been destroyed and local residents came to watch it, sharing in their own stories and the hope they felt for the future of the city. You can find out more about the project here (Chapter 3).

Still others are rebuilding and renovating buildings in Flint, and whilst some people are still moving out, some are moving in. The landbank is a governmental organisation is currently in a process of doing this as part of their Neighbourhood Stabilisation Program.

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