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We Tell Stories (2)

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Back at the beginning of April, we published this poem, "We Tell Our Stories", which we had written collaboratively. 28 people, from 19 different nationalities reflected on how and why we tell the stories we tell. It says, we think, something about the power and beauty of stories and storytelling.

In other circumstances we might have spent time playing with how to perform it: exploring how we might use our voices, individually and together, to add depth and emphasis to the words.

Like so many things in all our lives, lockdown made it impossible to do that in the way we would have done in "normal" life. But, like so many things, we have learned to adapt and discovered that we can still find ways to create something beautiful

A number of the project participants created individual recordings of the poem. They practised the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. They reflected on the emotions they wanted to express. They each produced something very beautiful.

But this wa…

New ways of staying together

Just in case enough hasn't already been written on the subject already ... we thought it was high time to add to the plethora of reflections on community in the time of Covid-19.

This feels like a somewhat overdue update on how a project which is entirely based around the concept of encounter and bringing people together is surviving in a time when we are all being told to stay apart. As we watched the lockdown creeping closer through March, the idea of maintaining this wonderful community felt like a somewhat daunting prospect: being together in shared space felt like it was so intrinsic to who we were: how could we do what we do, be who we are when we were being forced to stay away from each other?

But it is not so very long ago that this project was just a vague idea, and with a bit of imagination and creativity it became a reality: so with a touch of that same imagination and creativity, we began to dream about how we could in fact, carry on. And, after all, if you've arri…

We tell stories

Last summer, I heard the amazing performance poet Joel McKerrow perform live. A chance mention by a friend reminded me to listen again online which lead me to hear the wonderful poem "We Tell Stories".

The clue is in the name ... telling stories is at the heart of what we do and what we are about: so it instantly struck me that it would be a perfect thing to share with the Stories of Hope and Home participants. Reflecting on the whys and wherefore of story-telling is essential if we are to ensure our participants are making informed choices about what and how and why they share their stories, and this poem was a great vehicle for doing some of that.

I love poetry: I hope I have been able to impart some of that love to many of those I have worked and shared life with over time. Contrary to what many people think, hidden behind the barriers of "but I don't do / don't understand poetry", I believe  poetry can be an incredibly accessible format for non-native s…

Encounters (2)

With all the talk of "social-distancing" a term which we had hardly heard a few weeks ago but now trips of tongues in every setting and is sung from every news bulletin, perhaps now is the perfect moment to talk about the power and beauty of encounter.

Because, I would suggest, there is actually, sadly, nothing very new about social distancing: what has changed is we are being asked, potentially, to keep our distance from our own communities: but invisible walls, in society and in ourselves, have long created social-distancing from those we identify as "the other": and with it the fear and distrust that is inherent in the unknown.

Just as now there is lots of discussion about creatively overcoming the barriers posed by physical distance from our loved ones, to ensure relationship is maintained; perhaps it is also a good moment to reflect on how we overcome the unseen divides that keep us from understanding the lives of our neighbours. Perhaps it makes sense to refl…

Wales

And so,this February half-term, a dream became a reality when nineteen of us headed to South Wales for three nights away together.

With red weather warnings in place stretching across most of south Wales, it was hardly an auspicious start to our time away. But everyone arrived on time (no mean feat in itself), and despite cancelled trains and warnings that the place we were due to be staying might have been evacuated, we made it!

And it was truly beautiful.

We fitted in plenty of activity: shared meals, walks in the countryside, music, drama and art, a museum and a parliament building, a whole lot of new English vocabulary.

But really, this was not about what we did: it was about who we were: as individuals and together. It was about a group of people bringing themselves: their joys and their struggles, their lives and their vulnerabilities, and offering them to each other to build a community. It was about wrestling with our differences and discovering our similarities. It was about …

The story we are writing ...

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This feels like a long overdue update on a website that has been sadly neglected! The lack of news is certainly not because nothing has been happening: quite the contrary, we have been excited by how quickly this fledgling project seems to be taking flight.

Now, at the midpoint of the academic year, it feels like a good point to reflect on where things are at so far.

Since we began meeting regularly as a group at the beginning of October, 30 different participants have engaged with the project. Some have come and gone, but many, even most, have become part of building a truly beautiful, supportive community which cradles both laughter and tears. Amongst those thirty we have welcomed people from eighteen different nationalities, women and men of different ages, cultures, religions, languages ...

We have also begun the other part of our project: creating opportunities for the project participants to share their stories with children and young people in schools, and here too it already …

The Colour of Home - Film

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This poem is beautiful, even without an explanation of the process which lead to it, but we think an understanding of that process adds some depth of meaning. The workshop participants were asked to choose three colours to represent the home country they had left behind. Over a couple of weeks, we shared the stories behind those choices: stories full of joy and warm nostalgia; stories filled with sadness, pain and fear; stories of hope and home. From those stories, images were gleaned and refined and shared. And that, became this.