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A Festival of Encounter

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I'm not sure I can even begin to sum up the experience in a couple of hundred words in a blogpost the story of our Festival of Encounter at St Cassian's Centre, Kintbury, meant to those who participated. It was a truly magical three days.  At some point, I might try, but for now, I'm just going to leave you with the words of some of those who participated: 

A plan and a plea ...

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We have all learned much about ourselves and one another in the past year: the things we want and need, the things we miss when they are taken away. I suspect many, if not all, of us have learned a deeper appreciation for time spent with others: for quality time with family, friends, those we love; and also for all those opportunities to meet new people which have been stripped away.  I suspect many, if not all, of us have learned a deeper appreciation for opportunities to get away from our everyday surroundings: however much we love our own home, we've maybe all had enough of those same four walls. That sense has undoubtedly been exemplified for some, depending on the level of comfort and security those four walls provide. And so, many of us have reached the summer with plans to gather, and plans to get away. We watch the weather forecast and covid rates with a sense of trepidation. We hope. The Stories of Hope and Home group are no different, in that sense, that anyone else and w

Soaring with Clipped Wings

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A very busy and very beautiful Refugee Week has just drawn to a close (if I get myself organised, there'll be another post to follow about the many highlights of that!)  But refugee week also marked the end (or is it the beginning!) of a long project ... our poetry book is now in print and available for sale!  The book contains all the poems we have written over the past 18 months. Some are written by individuals, but most were written collaboratively during our sessions. In total, we think 36 people of 22 different nationalities were involved. It is the result of many, many conversations, the sharing of stories and experiences, a whole lot of laughter, and a few tears. It is also the result of one of the group exclaiming earlier in the year "we should publish this!" an exclamation that stands as testament to their growing confidence and sense of self-worth and their increasing awareness that their words have value and deserve, perhaps even need, to be heard.  Copies cost

This year, next year

23rd March marked the grim anniversary of a year in lockdown: albeit with a bit of light relief when the restrictions were relaxed over the summer. It has not been an easy year, probably, for anyone. It felt important to spend a little bit of time in our session that week looking back and looking forward. We managed to identify some positives, but overall the sense was definitely that the end of this particular period can't come soon enough!  The  very first poem we ever wrote together  as a group used colour as a tool for reflection. So does this one as we looked back at the past year and ahead to our hopes for the one to come. We were having website issues at the time (since, hopefully, resolved) so this is being posted a little later than planned. But that means it is being posted in the week in which we will, finally, be coming back together. Social distancing and facemasks not withstanding, we are very much looking forward to sharing the same physical space once more. Maybe, j

Together again. And then not.

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As ever, there has been a long gap between posts. As ever, a fair amount has happened in the interim. There were so many good things through the summer: lots of walks in the various parks and green spaces of Birmingham. The odd game of football, plenty of laughter, and some serious conversations in the mix too. We even making it to Blackpool for a somewhat blustery but undoubtedly very beautiful day. We shared some wonderful moments which we carry into the autumn. Much as we enjoyed our various trips and excursions, and much as our sessions on zoom continued to generate ideas and inspiration, we were also still looking forward to being able to sit down in a room together: if not exactly as we used to, then at least something close to it. As the autumn approached bringing its more unpredictable weather, we were even more keen to be able to gather once more in indoor space. Finally, after reading and rereading the ever-changing guidance, after lots of conversations and negotiations, afte

The foods that matter

We talk a lot about food. It is definitely one of our very favourite topics of conversation! Probably because food is so rich in memories and associations, so deeply embedded in the human experience of life and community. Many of our conversations about our lives either start with or come back to memories of sharing food with others. Back in June, we were lucky enough to have a virtual visit from the Scottish Poet Makar, Jackie Kay ( find her @jackiekaypoet on twitter ) In conversation with our group she shared three of her poems, two of which connected food with other associations or experiences. It inspired us to do the same. Several months and a large number of tangential conversations later ... *        *        *  I left behind attieke and grilled tilapia  Even in my grave I will remember the gorgeous taste of this delicious food  Two years have passed, but still I have the taste on my tongue, from eating it with my friends.  I also left behind my sunny beaches  I left behind deli

A (different) story of tents

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There are, we know, lots of refugee stories accompanied by images of tents. Often they are stories from Calais, or from other transition points on long and difficult journeys. They are stories which need to be told and need to be heard.  For some of those who are part of the Stories of Hope and Home project this is part of their story. But it is never the whole story.  And however important they may be, these are not the stories we want to tell today. Today, we want to tell a very different story accompanied by images of tents. From almost as soon we got back from our wonderful trip to Wales in February, a summer residential was definitely on our agenda. An opportunity to take time out from our everyday lives, to create safe space to build community and share stories.   And then, Corona Virus happened and, like so many plans, it seemed like it would be impossible.  Even as lockdown gradually eased, much of what we might have liked to do was still well outside what seemed safe and reali