It’s been a pleasure working with Patwah Media and Community Arts over the past few months as part of Telling – our Arts Council England funded pilot project.
Once we’d finished writing the story of Patwah, we provided Pauline, Sandra, Mareen and Mycall – the stalwarts behind Patwah – with a small commissioning budget to make some art which interprets the story we wrote.
What they decided on is very much a Made in Bradford production and all the better for that. The piece is written and performed by Mycall Isrell, filmed by Void Arts with sound recorded at Rubix Cube Music Lab. A link to the film is at the end of this post.
In the meantime, here’s a short extract from the Patwah story:
Though each person we spoke to had their own take on what Patwah is and why it is important, there was a strong sense in all of our conversations that connections are slipping away; that there is an imperative to provide opportunities for people to come together, to talk to each other and – as one of the people we spoke to described it – to make space for fellowship.
Early on in our conversations with people associated with Patwah, we noticed that themes of invisibility and voicelessness were discussed and returned to repeatedly. One person asked us,
Do you know what it’s like to feel invisible?
This was not a rhetorical question and it was one that Derrick was able to answer rather better than I – we’ll get on to that presently.
For my part and thinking back to those early conversations, I know that I heard what people said about feeling invisible. I listened and I took notes, some of which I underlined. But I didn’t understand how it might feel and I didn’t appreciate that it means being unseen, and – by logical extension – being unheard.
Or, as Mycall described it,
If you’re not visible, nobody knows you’re there.
Like most of the people we spoke to, he referred to a process of dispersal which meant that over time African Caribbean communities in Bradford no longer had an established geographical base. It was only later on in our conversations that we began to unpick how and why communities might have become dispersed but the first explanation – Mycall’s – was perhaps the most striking,
The Black community just went, ‘Whoosh!’ Just scattered.
It felt sudden and unexpected: as if you might wake up one day and turn around and wonder where everybody had gone. Mycall was not the only person we spoke to who expressed that sense of sudden atomisation.
As the community dispersed, so too did what Mycall described as visible symbols of a Black presence in Bradford: the African Caribbean shops and businesses that were a feature of Lumb Lane and Manningham Lane have gone and that’s not all that’s gone and is missed,
It could be a group of Black guys walking down the road. For me, these things count. You know what I’m saying? Even if it’s not a conversation, it’s that eye contact…It sounds depressing but it is depressing.
Here’s the link to the film: