Feb 18, 2022
On the 2nd of February, CDEC hosted a Writeshop at Cooke’s Studio in Barrow as a part of CDEC’s Discovered Stories Shared Lives project. It was a day of connection, creativity and expression. Strangers came together to share what they considered a welcoming community to be; drawing upon their own experiences through their lives and throughout the pandemic, culminating in a piece of writing to express this.
Through tears and laughter, we co-created a diverse, raw and inspiring collection of stories that thoughtfully address the question: what is a welcoming community? These stories are being put together in a publication to support community leaders, organisations and local authorities to create and develop communities that are welcoming to everybody.
Whilst we shared and wrote, an unlikely theme emerged: what does community smell like? Scents such as Arabic coffee, damascene jasmine, the chicory smell of Syrian coffee and the smell of daisies were some of the suggestions. Many also considered how community physically felt, with many expressing how much they missed physical touch and hugs from their fellow community members during the pandemic. Throughout the day, stories of welcome, unwelcome, friendships, family support and community support emerged.
With contributions from police officers, community workers, asylum seekers, Barrow locals, people who moved away and later resettled in Barrow, and people who have emigrated to the UK, we captured a huge range of experiences and viewpoints.
Here is a flavour of what was created on the day:
I was in hospital last week in a ward with five elderly ladies who had all had falls in their home. I was the only patient who had not fallen over. The ladies were all suffering immense pain from multiple fractures and we were all isolated and anxious. There is no hospital visiting allowed at the moment because of covid and so we turned to each other. None of us knew each other. Julie in the bed next to me was blind. The people serving the meals didn’t know this. They put her meals down and walked away. Julie turned to me and said, Rachel where’s my toast? We quickly developed a relationship around her blindness and the necessity of negotiating the practical issues around this. She needed help and I was very happy to give it because helping gave me physical activity and mental purpose.
Over the next three days the six of us helped each other to eat, talked about smoking, food, our upbringings, bowels, husbands, sex and children. We whispered to each other in the night time to take our minds off the pain we were in.
I asked the ladies what their ideas were about what makes a welcoming community. They were unanimous in their opinions. The fundamental requirement was talking and hearing the stories. You have to talk to understand. Once you understand you can help. They all talked about the importance of being able to meet, in the street, in the shops, in their houses to talk. Once the stories were heard it was their duty to help each other.
- Rachel Ashton, The Theatre Factory
Discovered Stories Shared Communities, a CDEC led project funded by the Big Lottery Community Fund, brings together people from diverse communities to share, explore and work with ideas and stories. It develops ways of understanding what it means to be a resilient and welcoming community. Through this project we are listening, talking, and playing with new meanings, interpretations and stories, and, out of this, new visions for the future of connecting with our communities will emerge. The Discovered Stories Shared Communities project aims to capture those visions so that they can serve as an inspiration to everyone. We are hosting a dissemination event in May where we will present the outcomes of the project and the steps that have been put in place to support communities long past the project completion date. If you are interested in attending, please contact Gabi at email@example.com.