Dark Heart: The Shocking Truth About Hidden Britain (1998)

On a rainy autumn evening in a fairground near the centre of Nottingham, Nick Davies noticed two young boys, no more than twelve years old, and realised that while all around them people were preparing for fun, these two were setting out with grim determination to do something very different. They were trying to sell their bodies. Davies befriended the boys and discovered that they were part of a network of children who were selling themselves on the streets of the city, running a nightly gauntlet of dangers – pimps, punters, the Vice Squad, disease, drugs – and yet, most mysteriously, they could not be stopped. They seemed to be drawn towards their own destruction.

This experience propelled Davies into a journey of discovery, following the trail of human destruction as the politics of neoliberalism released a wave of poverty over the lives of millions of men, women and children in the United Kingdom. He found other boys and girls selling themselves for sex on the streets of cities across the country and began to see that their motive for doing this was not simply that they were poor and wanted money but that they had been deeply damaged by the experience of growing up in the chaos of the newly impoverished communities and broken families.

He set out to follow the trail of damage – emotional, physical, social, spiritual – which had been left by the flood of poverty. It led him deep into the new slums and ghettoes of the UK’s green and pleasant land, into crack houses and brothels and illegal gambling dens as well as into the homes of ordinary families who were suddenly sinking into debt and despair. He befriended street gangs and their victims, rough sleepers and drug dealers as well as the social workers and teachers and doctors who were struggling to deal with the problems which the new poverty was inflicting on those it struck.

Dark Heart not only tells the tales of the men, women and children who Davies found living in this hidden Britain but also traces the cruel and complacent policies which had manufactured poverty on a scale and of a kind which once had appeared to have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

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