One in Five

By Louisa Britain

An anthology of stories about the realities of living in poverty

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Knowing the unknowns...

In the words of Donald Rumsfeld, former US secretary of state for defence, in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." He was talking about a seminal moment in international history of course, but you could pretty much say the same of the most mundane of tasks, the drive to work on a Monday morning, or the checking of the salad drawer when cleaning the fridge. Only so much in life can be anticipated and the road being closed because an old lady hit the gas when she meant to brake, or the unusually short lived carrot you forgot a month ago are unknowable.

I sometimes ask myself what possessed me to try to make this book. I'm not qualified. I can barely write a tweet without hitting the O when I mean the I. I can tell a story. I have significant lived experience of poverty which is rare in publishing and ongoing living experience every single day of my life. I am right now writing this from a freezing cold room, having had no breakfast because money for either bread or gas credit isn't available right this moment. I know how to give a ropey old car it's best shot at the MOT, or braid a little girls hair to distract from her third hand school disco outfit. I know 6 ways to kill mould on walls and in what shops to find the winter socks with the tog rating. But I don't know how to make a book. I know why I want to. I know why I need to. I know the living breathing realities of being poor in the modern UK aren't going to be told to you accurately by privately educated journalists or visiting professionals in low income communities. I know how the poor talk about ourselves within our own safe spaces, and how we talk to others outside of this bubble. I know what you watched on daytime telly, and primetime. I can read those sane papers, magazines, books. I can feel on a powerful, instinctive level, a voice that isn't being expressed and that doesn't reach your consciousness through the normal channels. The fears and sufferings, the triumphs and gains, the parts left unsaid, the truths. I know what it is that burns to be corrected and what you already are finding out. It keeps me awake at night, why can't you see, why don't you know? If no-one is telling you, why would you know? I must tell you. I have this project. I can find you voices to shine a light into a corner of your own communities, which you think you see and yet are entirely oblivious of... Or I could... if I knew what I was doing.

There were always known unknowns. I didn't know how I would find writers from among the British poor, or what words like typesetting even meant in the digital age. I haven't a clue how to market a book, or what a book cover should include. I'm out of my depth and I always knew I would be, which is why Unbound and their collaborative approach have always been central to this book happening.

It's the unknown unknowns that bite hardest. I've got more unwell lately. I have a chronic condition/ disability called M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) which renders me largely unable to work, there has been a cost of living crisis which has posed a real and serious threat and it's coincided with the hard parts of making One In Five a reality. I always wanted to put these stories and these works together myself, but wishing and wanting and boiling in frustration isn't getting us there and I am now so far past deadlines people have probably met and married in that gap! So the exceptionally lovely team at Unbound and I have reworked the plan. A fair bit of what I was down to do, will be moved over to professional editors, with me retaining final oversight. That means contributors can expect to hear from team members with emails ending (at) Unbound (dot) com in the near future. I may be crashing out of life on all fronts right now, but One In Five is not. Like that Monday morning commute, it's hit trouble, but ways round are being navigated and it's just going to take longer. I can't tell you how indebted I am to the generous patience of backers and contributors to this project. Really, thanks yeah, from the bottom of my heart. I am not used to roadblocks resulting in novel solutions and work arounds- I am poor, where I come from life is precarious and just one late pay packet can lose you your transport, job, home and family. I've been resisting and trying to push myself back to it because I haven't wanted One In Five to die. We need it. It has to exist. One In Five isn't going to die. She's down but she's not out. We rise again, because of the incredible professional Unbound team, because of the staggering talent of the contributors and because of your patience as supporters. It's going to be worth it.

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Liz Warner
 Liz Warner says:

I am simultaneously excited about this book coming into existence in the world (the world needs it) and absolutely fine with it taking as long as it needs to.

You got this. We can wait.

posted 17th January 2023

Mason Grace
 Mason Grace says:

So many tweets, so many excuses. This is insulting to the backers.

posted 17th January 2023

Lisa Rull
 Lisa Rull says:

Ignore the haters - you are doing what you can with support. Producing a book is HARD for anyone; you're doing in the midst of everything likely to make that harder. Tweeting is not the same as producing / editing a manuscript of pieces from other people writing. I am looking forward to this book and am absolutely on board for it to take the time it does because the content, the message, is more important than the time taken. In the meantime, there are important messages being conveyed via social media and we thank you for that.

posted 17th January 2023

Harry Burnet
 Harry Burnet says:

The book takes the time that the book takes. When I backed this project in many ways I was making a bet. I bet that I will get a book at some point in the future, and that book would simultaneously educate me and support others. I'm still very confident in that bet. Thank you for the update, and all the best for this new year.

posted 17th January 2023

Paul Harris
 Paul Harris says:

Thank you for the update, and make sure you keep well - the book will come when the book will come, can't wait to read it, and happy to wait for as long as it takes. :)

posted 17th January 2023

Jenny Pearmund
 Jenny Pearmund says:

Thank you for the update. I'm happy Unbound have come up with a solution to allow the book to continue and look forward to receiving my copies in due course :)

posted 17th January 2023

Pea Channon
 Pea Channon says:

Thanks for the update Louise, ME is evil, happy for you to take as long as it takes. Hope the little ones are well x

posted 17th January 2023

Louisa Britain
 Louisa Britain says:

I have heard your feedback "Mason Grace" and accordingly I have checked the supporters list- something that you may not have realised I can do. I can confirm that we don't have a single backer on this project by the name of Mason and never did. This means you are not a supporter and never were. I firmly believe that the most accurate reflection of how a group or community feel comes from them, directly. If I didn't, there would be no One In Five at all. As much as convention sources of information are not speaking for the British poor, you are not speaking for the backers of One In Five.

Regarding excuses, M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) has one of the worst quality of life scores of any illness. "ME scores as -0.29 making it approximately 15 times worse than cancer and two times worse than having a stroke." (Source: ) and given that you obviously do follow me on social media you will know it's impacting every corner of my life, not least because I'm medically assessed to be incapable of any form of employment.

I work on this book from my bed, when I no longer can focus my eyes on the screen or hold up my own arms. I write on a phone because a laptop is too heavy. I call in favours, I sit in my clothes for days on end so as not to waste precious book building energy on clean jeans. It's been killing me. I don't know that you could do that. I don't know you at all. What I do know is, you never supported this book, you never fought for it, you didn't envision the dream for it, you haven't invested a penny in it, it didn't cost you a third day in the same clothing to write about it and you can't appreciate the scale difference between learning an entirely new skillet and profession and proffering silly remarks on love and spring dresses, or making serious threads about how to actually not die in the dire economic conditions a growing number of families endure.

I am good at not dying. M.E. kills, as does poverty or work stress. But dead I am not. Nor out.

So thanks for your concern for the backers, but the backers know where the office email is and they can make their own decisions. I trust they can weight for themselves the relative hardships or not of the given realities of what makes and keeps people poor in our time and nation.

Their voice has consistently been of wanted to hear this story, and my part in it has been if hanging on. I don't know for sure what you hope to achieve but I can guess. It's not working. The book goes on.

posted 17th January 2023

Jenny O'Gorman
 Jenny O'Gorman says:

Thank you for taking the time and energy to update us. It is an incredibly difficult thing to ask for support, and I am glad to hear Unbound are the kind of publisher which is willing and able to provide support, so that projects like this can be made more accessible.

Please know that your work is appreciated - and that you have value beyond the work. The book will be worth it, whenever it is ready to come into the world. The drive of capitalism is to make us all imagine urgency and keep us in a state of false competition. What you are creating here is collaborative and insightful, and taking a slower approach is not a bad thing.

posted 17th January 2023

Mason Grace
 Mason Grace says:

Wasn't expecting a response so thank you. I'm entitled to my opinion. I didn't want the abuse that seems to come with any reasonable criticism. My critism is you seem to do a lot, just not this...and the update is long overdue. Does my illness make my comment any more or less valid? Of course not. Doesn't need to become a melodramatic argument. Other commenters seem fine with this. I'm not. That's all.

posted 17th January 2023

Beck Laxton
 Beck Laxton says:

Take as long as you need to! Give me a shout if you need someone to typeset it – I'm a typesetter by trade:

posted 17th January 2023

michele wallace
 michele wallace says:

I was afraid that this project may have been too big for one person; glad you've gotten assistance in completing the book. There are a lot of people that really have no idea how hard it is to just survive in poverty, let alone how much support one would need to escape it. The book will be a wake-up call for many. Thank you for starting this project and not giving up on it despite the setbacks. ❤

posted 17th January 2023

Liz Ellis
 Liz Ellis says:

Thanks for the update Louisa, and sorry for the snitty comment above. I'm more than happy to wait.

posted 17th January 2023

Mitzi Mouse
 Mitzi Mouse says:

Thank you, Louisa, for the update! I am glad Unbound is continuing to support this very important book, and that you and they have come up with creative way to continue this project. Good luck to everyone involved, and…we can wait. This book is important, and you’re right. It needs to be done. It will be done, however long that takes. We, the supporters, have faith in you and the Unbound team.

posted 17th January 2023

Liz Jones
 Liz Jones says:

Thanks for the update and happy to wait, your well being and family are your priorities
Best wishes

posted 17th January 2023

Fiona Eason
 Fiona Eason says:

So glad to hear you have support to continue with this project, and that you've not had to bow out entirely from your vision. So happy to wait for as long as it takes to celebrate its emergence with you.

posted 17th January 2023

Tristan Wood
 Tristan Wood says:

Thanks for the update, Louisa. Your idea for this book was brilliant and the book too will be brilliant when it comes out in due course. I am so pleased that Unbound are supporting you during this difficult period. My partner has had ME and I know that you just have to take each day as it comes and also that recovery is possible. All the best to you - the book will eventually emerge and will be just as relevant as the day you conceived it.

posted 17th January 2023

Ritchie Nelson
 Ritchie Nelson says:

Ach, we can wait. Your health and wellbeing are far more important than a deadline.

I think that's probably what's best about Unbound - people back people and are willing to give them the time and space to do what's right for them. At the very least, that's what I find so good about it.

posted 17th January 2023

Rachel Wright
 Rachel Wright says:

We can wait. These are voices that need to be heard. I'm glad that the nice people at Unbound are taking more of the strain, because you are part of the story and I don't want your oversight removed. Believe me, we can wait.

posted 17th January 2023

Siobhan Qadir
 Siobhan Qadir says:

Hi Louisa. Thanks for the update. Hope you are ok. Just take your time and look after yourself. The book will comes when it comes

posted 17th January 2023

Alyson Rolington
 Alyson Rolington says:

Hi Louisa,

Thank you for taking the time to update us, books just take as long as they take, even without an illness like M.E. to contend with.

I’m so glad you have a new plan, but in any case, when in need, remember my favourite Douglas Adams quote, ‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’ :)

Take care of yourself.

posted 17th January 2023

Andy Lloyd
 Andy Lloyd says:

Thank you for the update. The story of how the book is being created is another rarely-told account of what it is to be poor in a world designed by and for the rich. I am fortunate to be closer to the latter than the former despite my modest means, which is why I need to read these stories. I wish you all the best as you complete this work, and am thankful for the good people of Unbound who are making this possible.

posted 18th January 2023

Sheila Russell
 Sheila Russell says:

Keep going, Louisa. Your book is really important

posted 18th January 2023

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