From the ground up

Green World talked to Emma Robson, Sunderland Greens’ Coordinator and prospective councillor for the Labour-dominated Ryhope in Tyne & Wear, to find out what it’s like on the ground in areas without Green council representation.

Emma Robson Sunderland Greens
Emma Robson Sunderland Greens
Green World

What’s your background and how did you get involved with the Green Party?

I actually used to be a member of the Labour Party, that’s where I started in politics, and through that I also started to make friends with Green Party people! I was umming and ahhing about whether to join the Greens and eventually I did, and then that really got things started. I believe that Green politics is not just about politics but it’s its own way of life – I’ve got into all things green through being involved in the party, in veganism, recycling, gardening… I’ve also become more community-oriented since joining; each year I’m in the Greens this gets stronger and I’m getting more involved in actions in different communities. It’s given me a passion for helping people even more than I used to.

Where are you based and what is the picture like for Greens there?

I live in Ryhope, which is a very Labour-dominated village south of Sunderland. The Labour councillors are really good at doing what they do, so I’m trying to push my way in and help at the same time! 

I’m currently the Coordinator for Sunderland Greens, so I organise the meetings and stalls, and I’m also Fundraising Coordinator. We don’t have the bodies, the active people, in Sunderland, so more of us are taking things on. In Ryhope, I kind of have to do things by myself. I’m very impatient, I like to do things yesterday! 

At the moment, the council is mixed between Labour, Lib Dems and the Tories, but we are trying very hard to get councillors in. It would be nice to have us in the mix. After the Green Party Conference recently, I really was inspired by the slogan ‘Green Changes Everything’. I’m desperate to be a councillor just to have that little bit more authority to make change happen and to hold people in council to account – especially regarding building on Green Belt land, which is a big issue in Sunderland.

What are the big issues in your local area and what can Greens bring to the table?

I think what Greens can bring to the table is a wider look at issues like litter and theft that affect small communities like Ryhope. Poverty is a problem here and the Greens look at it from the question of ‘why are they doing this, what’s causing it?’ – seeing the wider picture.

I’m involved in a new project in Ryhope called a reverse advent calendar, which I’m really excited about [this involves people making donations every day in the runup to Christmas, which will then all be donated to Christmas hampers for people in need in the local area]. There’s a few independent businesses in Ryhope that will be supporting the project.

I keep putting myself forward [to be a councillor] for Ryhope because that’s where I live, it’s where I’ve put my passion into. I’ve helped clean up a local park – we have a big litter problem here, and thinking of ways to tackle that is really important. I’ve been doing litter picks all over, even just going out myself with a bag to pick up litter in the local park. It’s all about the cuts being made to the local council – with services being cut, people are having to look after their local areas, communities looking after their own parks.

How are you preparing for next year’s local elections?

Each year, I want to do a little bit more, so this reverse advent calendar project has come at a good time to hopefully boost my votes at the next local election. I feel as though I’m getting a bit of a reputation because I’m getting the highest votes in Sunderland for the Green Party, and not only do I want to keep pushing on that, but I want to continue to build my profile in the community.

What do you do outside of the Green Party?

I currently volunteer with the charity Sue Ryder, and I’m a member of a Tri club, so I like keeping fit and taking part in Triathlons and Park Runs.