Yorkshire Sound Women (yorkshiresoundwomen.com) The Network seeks to inspire and enable more women and girls to explore sound and music technology. We were engaged to support the Network in developing a new operational structure in line with its Business Plan. To this end, we surveyed existing core group members, carried out one to one interviews and developed an options appraisal.
- Programming a conference is incredibly hard work, made easier by the support of a great team at Engage and Artlink Hull.
- Online polling is a great tool for harvesting questions and comments for plenaries.
- Contributors’ feedback has been really positive:
‘…it was a pleasure to be part of such a wonderful event. Thanks for all your hard work, together with Engage and I look forward to seeing the questions that emerge’ (Dr Nigel Morpeth)
‘Thank you for inviting me to participate. I had not attended Conference or known much about Engage before this, so I am now aware of its work and will seek to stay involved with the organisation. Your conference design and prep work was impeccable.’ (Tonya Nelson)
‘I thought all of the discussions I was involved in, informally and through the plenary session, were really useful because you had framed the questions and staring points such that discussions got straight into useful areas, rather than reiterating the same old stuff you often hear at conferences. Well done and thank you once agin for organising such a great conference’ (James Hill)
We’re making final preparations for the Engage conference in Hull. We’re looking forward to meeting delegates and contributors. For those of you who can’t join us, the following should give you a taste of what we’re hoping the programme will deliver:
We’re delighted to have been asked to programme this year’s Conference and to have been given the opportunity to invite a range of artists, academics and activists to join us in exploring what diversity means in the context of education, learning and the arts and culture.
The arts and cultural sectors have not always been exemplars in respect of equality and diversity. The workforce is unrepresentative of the wider community and there remains amongst many a feeling that the arts exist for the elite, the educated and the wealthy. Many criticise equality and diversity activity for its outward facing, project- based approach and its reluctance to turn the gaze inwards to internal structures and organisational practice.
Conference opens with a keynote speech by Baroness Kay Andrews entitled A Commonwealth of Culture. Baroness Andrews will reflect upon her experiences of working with the Welsh Government to mainstream access to arts, culture and heritage for the most disadvantaged communities in Wales.
Not least of our challenges in programming Conference has been conceptualising what it is we mean when we talk about diversity. This is why we’ve passed the enquiry – and the first theme of Conference – over to a panel, which will explore the question, What do we talk about when we talk about diversity?
Diversity is only the latest of many terms which has attempted to encapsulate efforts to create a more equal and fair society. In decades past, policy makers and politicians have discussed equal opportunities and business cases for equality. Activists have more usually taken a rights-based approach and have considered issues of equality, social justice, power and privilege alongside efforts to bring about systemic change.
For many, the lexicon of diversity represents an attempt to sanitise issues. For others, diversity feels like an inclusive term which acknowledges individuals’ multifacetedness.
The second key theme of Conference is, Nothing about us without us is for us. This is a rallying call which will feel familiar to disability activists but it’s a slogan which chimes for many minoritised groups who feel that they are sidelined in discussions about what is best for them. Chaired by Tonya Nelson (Head of Museums and Collections at University College London), the panel will provide opportunities to explore issues of power, privilege and intersectionality.
On the morning of 30 November, a choice of breakout sessions will enable delegates to engage more closely with the conference themes. Amongst the themes which will be explored in breakouts are trans allyship; power, privilege and anti racism; and the ways in which a travelling exhibition that tells untold stories of the US civil rights movement can be used to explore contemporary issues of ‘race’ here in the UK.
Returning from lunch, Simon Mellor of Arts Council England will introduce the afternoon’s plenaries and will provide us with an overview of the Arts Council’s values and practice in respect of diversity.
Our third plenary, chaired by writer Anthony Clavane, will focus on agenda setting. Once we have the right people in the room, how do we decide what should be the focus of discussion and action? Anthony will joined by Professor Kevin Hylton of Leeds Beckett University, artist Ivan Liotchev and Bryony Bond, Artistic Director of contemporary art space, The Tetley. We’re expecting that the panel will touch on issues of intercultural dialogue and that delegates will learn about how artists and institutions can make manifest their commitment to equality and social justice.
The final plenary – Are we there yet? How will we know when we get there? – will examine how it is we can measure progress. Over the years, there has been a multitude of frameworks and templates which seek to enable organisations to assess practice and to benchmark against others. How effective have these been – what tangible differences have they made? Wendy McGuinness of Lloyds Bank will reflect on the drivers for change within her organisation whilst other panellists will bring to the conversation their insights into what success might look and how we might recognise it.
In developing the shape and content of Conference, we have been guided by an interest in making opportunities for conversation and for listening. We have tried to avoid a ‘got to’ and ‘not to’ approach, which can inhibit discussion and we are resolutely not going to provide delegates with a standard toolkit for change. Delegates should leave feeling they have learned more about how diversity can be actualised in their particular settings; they should feel more able to be effective advocates for change and should feel more confident to challenge practice where this is necessary.
Derrick Armstrong and Dawn Cameron
It’s been a pleasure working with the folk at BIASAN over the past few months as part of our Arts Council England funded project – Telling. We produced their story and in response, artists Mussarat (Mo) Rahman and Douglas Thompson made use of the Telling commission and worked with asylum seekers and refugees to make the animation which you can see at the end of this post.
We’re also very much looking forward to welcoming Mo and Douglas to the Engage International Conference in Hull on 30 November where they will collaborate with Ivan Liotchev to deliver a session focusing on intercultural dialogue and making art with marginalised communities across the globe. To register for Conference, please visit engage.org and follow the link to The Whole Picture.
An extract of our story about BIASAN follows:
Mo: the beauty of the place
When I first met Mussarat – a key organiser and artist at BIASAN, known to everyone as Mo – she was at the home of another volunteer in Saltaire. Soon after I arrived, she apologised for appearing a little pre – occupied; that weekend she was due to accompany a BIASAN service user on a visit to her son in Belgium. The woman had acquired her indefinite leave to remain status so was able to travel freely across the European Union (though, of course, that may change soon for different reasons). Her son, however, had not acquired status and so was stuck in Belgium where he awaited the outcome of his application for asylum. Mo knew a little French so she would hopefully be of some support on the journey. Mo seemed largely unperturbed at the prospect of spending the weekend in Belgium with a woman she knew a little and a man she knew not at all. She toId the story in a matter of fact way and I remember thinking, ‘Is this what BIASAN does? Is this what is expected of people working there?’
I told Mo that to me this seemed way above and beyond the call of duty and exceptionally generous. Mo seemed unfazed: it was a thing that needed doing; she had agreed to it so she would do it. Her concern was that they set off on time so that there was no danger of arriving late and missing connections.
We went on to meet with her again several weeks later. The trip to Belgium had not been without its challenges. She summarised the experience:
I can’t describe it. Never again. He was crackers.
We met in a café in North Leeds and ate things involving avocados, pulses and sourdough. The food was good and the bill for the three of us was probably getting on for half of the weekly food budget for BIASAN’s communal meal.
Mo has been involved with BIASAN for around 10 years. Her role is probably best described as multi – dimensional. She seems to do anything and everything that needs doing and over the duration of Telling she was our fixer, corralling people in to talking to us; setting up meetings; and providing us with background materials. She is a formally trained artist who develops her own projects and who fits her own artistic practice around her ongoing commitment to BIASAN (or perhaps it’s the other way around). Like many of the volunteers we spoke to, BIASAN looms large in Mo’s life. We asked her how she brought an artist’s sensibility to her work with the organisation:
To be honest being an artist doesn’t fit in at all. I felt initially that they expected too many hours out of me which crushed the artist out of me. I was actually just delivering creative arts projects but no art.
That said, ten years on she remains very engaged. She has recruited and selected other artists to work with service users and has enabled BIASAN to collaborate with arts organisations in the city on a range of projects, Cartwright Hall and the National Media Museum amongst others. The way she describes it, art is a form of meditation for Mo:
I’ve done loads of artwork which helps you forget about your own stuff. Art is holistic really… I was an artist before I even got to BIASAN and I’m an artist when I’m out there – when I do my own work.
I’m trying to find a way of using art as a platform to try to focus the brain. I’ve done loads of activities: painting, illustrations etc. I’m just sitting there creating all these things. Focus on your work and forget about all the other stuff… I think it’s my own passion because I love art, love the process and having that space to do my own stuff.
Like most people we spoke to, Mo describes BIASAN as embodying elements of chaos. It doesn’t suit everyone and even for those it does suit, sometimes it can get too much. Art provides her with a means of separating and recalibrating:
Sometimes I just shut the door and ignore everyone because I need that space. I need to think. In a sense, my brain needs it. That’s why I do it – because it puts me in a different space… I get all of that out of it.
She believes that engaging with art can have a similar impact on people who use BIASAN so she works hard to find small pots of money which enable the organisation to pay artists on a sessional basis. Mo figures that if something captures individuals’ interest, it might temporarily distract them from other things. There’s no predicting what will work so Mo engages a range of artists whose practice varies and – importantly – who are able to function in a non – traditional space where numbers and levels of engagement vary from one week to another. Once there, though, artists need to find their own way because there is no formal induction:
Initially, they don’t know how to do it so I say to them ‘Go, walk round the building and talk to people. Have a cup of tea and tell them who you are.’ They need to go chill out and talk to people.
Talking to Lorrain and Douglas later (two resident artists who deliver sessions at BIASAN), they discover that for the past few weeks they have been working in the same space without either being aware of the other’s presence. Having visited BIASAN, Derrick and I had little difficulty understanding how this might occur. We imagined that functioning in the space probably requires a great deal of concentration and focus.
Mo’s approach to the work seems matter of fact and practical. She’s clearly a doer. She talks a lot about what other volunteers do and contribute but seems reluctant to discuss what she gives in anything more than the most general terms. She doesn’t seem to want to draw attention to herself. It’s hard to gauge at first what motivates her to continue to give up so much of her time and energy to BIASAN – where the sense of fellow feeling comes from. Then she drops into the conversation a story about how she has experienced living in Bradford:
I’ve lived all over Bradford. I once had a psycho neighbour. My flat got broken into. The only thing they nicked was a bike. There wasn’t much to nick.
Then when I lived in Southfield Road I liked living there but it was really rough. For an Asian female on my own I was a bit vulnerable, but I can look after myself. The neighbours across the road were horrible. They used to come up to you and look at you and I thought, ‘Yeah, try me’. I’m not into violence and stuff but my issue was ‘This is my pavement and I’ve decided that this is how I’m going to live my life’ so I used to get a lot of shit and they used to think they could pick on me because they thought I was vulnerable but I’m not vulnerable.
I thought, ‘I’ve got a family and brothers and I used to kick shit out of them and I could kick shit out of you.’ So honestly, it was terrible the way they used to be. But I manged to cope with it.
Half of them have moved off. Some are still on drugs and drink. Why should I need to move house because of them? I pay my bills and I make sure I keep a roof over my head. I don’t want to move around like a yoyo. I’m settled there.
Weeks later, when Derrick and I are sitting in the park on that rare hot day trying to make sense of things, Derrick says,
I wonder what made her stay. I wonder why she didn’t leave.
Then neither of us says anything and in the recording you can hear birds and the sounds of a couple playing playing table tennis but not the flies that buzzed around an abandoned sandwich close to the bench.
Mo is made of stern stuff and she seems able to compartmentalise difficult events so that they don’t infect her experience of the world. Despite the neighbours and the break in and the harassment, she likes Bradford. It’s down to earth and friendly. Though less prosperous than Leeds, she likes its distinctiveness. She tells us that people in the asylum seeking system who use BIASAN also describe Bradford as friendly and welcoming. There are limited work opportunities, though, so often once people get their status they move away. For the time that they’re in Bradford, though, Mo sees her role as trying to restore some balance in what can feel like a chaotic and unpredictable period:
You know when you’ve been to hell and back, I try to bring them back into themselves, to feel what it’s like to be in harmony – make them feel a bit more happy in themselves. Sometimes I feel that BIASAN is a place where lost souls are found. That is the beauty of the place.
We’re excited to share the first of our Telling stories to be illustrated by artist, Kieran Hennessey. We think he’s done a great job of visually capturing the time period that the story covers. This is very much a Bradford story which will resonate with those familiar with the experiences of the Caribbean diaspora in the city from the 1980s onwards.
We’d be interested in your thoughts.
(Photo credit: Guy Farrar)
We’re very much looking forward to seeing the film of Carnival Messiah at West Yorkshire Playhouse this Saturday – it’s a great opportunity to reconnect with a spectacular show.
It also brings to mind lots of the conversations we had with Christella Litras in the course of our Telling project. Reproduced below is an extract from the story we wrote about Caution Collective – this excerpt draws heavily on Christella’s reflections of the time she spent working with Geraldine on Carnival Messiah.
We met with Christella several times over a period of a few months.
One of our meetings took place at her home on the outskirts of Leeds. There is no mistaking the fact that a musician lives here; the room we meet in feels as much like a rehearsal space as it does a suburban living room. Pride of place is given to a piano – the family piano – which she first played at six and which she continues to play.
We were at Stella’s house so that we could learn about where Caution Collective had come from and where it might be going. Christella was the woman to talk to because despite its collective credentials, Christella runs this thing. It feels as if everyone knows this and is safe within the operating model. Sustaining a day job, working on her own creative projects, bringing up her son and taking care of Caution’s musical direction require huge dedication and time – perhaps more time than there are hours in the day. Christella is assisted now by someone who provides production assistance but she continues to hold things together and to steer.
If – as many people would explain to us – Caution Collective is a family, it’s a matriarchy and its roots pre-date the founding of the Collective in 2007.
Christella responded to our first question – about the origins of Caution Collective – by talking about Geraldine Connor for 20 minutes.
Amongst her many talents and attributes, Geraldine was a musician, ethnomusicologist, artistic director, composer, singer and academic. Best known for her seminal work – Carnival Messiah – which combined Handel’s Messiah with African and Caribbean traditions of masquerade and Carnival, in its first iteration at West Yorkshire playhouse in 1999 its cast of over 100 included opera singers, dancers, musicians whose forms included classical, steel pan, West African Kora and opera. The professional cast was supported by a community cast of 70 volunteers, for many of whom Carnival Messiah represented a first theatrical experience. The production returned to West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2002, was later performed in Trinidad and Tobago and in 2007 formed part of a cultural response to the bicentenary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Act with a series of performances at Harewood House. Over its lifetime, the production was seen by about 75,000 people.
In 1999, a sceptical reviewer (Dave Simpson for The Guardian) described his initial misgivings at the prospect of sitting through the production at West Yorkshire Playhouse, declaring that it ought to be a disaster. Once he submits to an experience which sits well outside the traditional western theatrical or musical canon, he surprises himself and discovers that,
Carnival Messiah holds a vice – like grip on the imagination that could have the most hardened atheist running to the church.
Though Carnival Messiah is perhaps Geraldine’s best-known work, she was responsible for a number of other large-scale theatre productions including Yaa Asantewaa which toured the UK and Ghana in 2001/2, Voudou Nation and the musical production of The Harder They Come.
In the Guardian’s obituary for Geraldine Connor following her untimely death in 2011, Margaret Busby described her thus:
Geraldine never settled for half measures; whatever she turned her hand to was infused with infectious enthusiasm and a passionate determination.
Christella first came across Geraldine when she was a senior teaching fellow and lecturer on Leeds University’s Popular Music BA Programme. Geraldine turned her down for a place on the course,
She said I shouldn’t underestimate the opportunity of the place I’d got at Dartington, but I didn’t know at the time just how big that school was. I got accepted there but I didn’t want to go. She said, ‘Stella you should go to Dartington’ … I was like, ‘I don’t want to go there, I’m only an hour away from Mum and Dad and I don’t want to go somewhere that’s like five hours away’. So, she turned me down.
A year passed. Christella didn’t take up the place at Dartington. She applied again to Leeds, this time through clearing.
Advised by a friend about the availability of places, I rang bang on 8am and was told there were three places available providing I had the right qualifications…When Geri saw me she was like ‘What are you doing here?’ I’d missed the whole induction week and was probably a couple years older than everyone else.
Geri saw me perform then started being nice to me and asked me to come to the Carnival Messiah workshop. I didn’t want to do Carnival Messiah. At that age, I wanted to do Salsa. She was like ‘Find your backside in my office tomorrow’… so typical of Geri. I thought ‘Who the hell is she talking to like that?’
Nevertheless, she found herself in Geraldine’s office at the appointed time.
A couple of friends advised that I should go because otherwise she’d give me a hard time. I turned up and she started to play the Hallelujah Chorus the Carnival Messiah way and she asked me to ad lib and just sing. I did and she was leading it and wrote with me. We did it and she was so happy. From that day, she became my mother / mentor figure.
Reading interviews with Geraldine Connor, it seems that Christella’s experience was not atypical. Geraldine was a woman with exceptionally high standards who expected the best of herself and of those around her. In an interview for The Yorkshire Post during rehearsals prior to the 2007 performances at Harewood House, the journalist (unnamed, unfortunately, in the interview which I found online) is clearly mesmerised by her approach,
As she watches the show’s opening unfold – or, more accurately, explode – before her, a member of the community cast arrives late.
He makes a beeline for the director to proffer an apology.
The telling – off she issues is quiet but severe, and the face of the young man on the end of it crestfallen. He has the look of someone being told by their mother she is ‘not angry, just disappointed’.
The journalist goes on to tell us what happens when Geraldine identifies one cast member (out of the 60 present in the rehearsal) who is performing below par,
You were flat. There was no energy. It was like you were asleep…You are creating a traditional and contemporary enactment of carnival. If I was to see what you have just done and think it was carnival, I would never go to carnival in my life.
And then – standards understood and accepted – she opens the room to feedback and listens to it,
She commands the utmost respect from every person in the room.
Listening to Christella talk about her relationship with Geraldine (whom she refers to as Geri), it is clear that once respect had been established between the two of them and once Christella had proved her artistic worth, creative opportunities arose beyond the first run of Carnival Messiah at West Yorkshire Playhouse, with Christella becoming one of three of the original cast chosen to perform in Trinidad and Tobago. Whilst in Trinidad, she forged a bond with Ella Andall who would – in a separate but parallel story – go on to become Christella’s mother in law. Returning to Leeds, she maintained the relationships she had established in Trinidad and was offered the opportunity to return,
I had a work experience slot so Geri was like ’What do you want to do for work experience?’ So, I told her I wanted to go back to Trinidad. I asked her whether she thought I was being over ambitious.
I’ll never forget it; we sat in Geri’s office and she leant forward and she said ‘Child, you could never be too ambitious in life’. She told me to go for it.
On graduation, Christella continued to work with Geri, touring with her to Ghana and collaborating on projects in this country. When we asked her if it was unusual for women to lead on large scale music productions, she answered,
No, because I watched Geri and I went on tour with her, went to Ghana to play in Yaa Asantewaa …I watched this woman directing and composing. My first big job, Geri asked me to write sixteen songs for Stratford Theatre – it was my test.
Between 2000 and 2006, Christella spent months at a time working in Trinidad,
I went out there and ended up collaborating on Ella’s album. I underestimated the skills I had because we just do it naturally. Ella needed someone who could arrange vocal harmonies and I just did it for her and she was like, ‘You need to come back, I need you on my next album’. So, I spent six years out there from 2000 – 2006. I was there constantly for months on end. I worked as a freelancer. Back then, money was better because you could get a commission for like £900 for four days work. I’d get my money and be off from Manchester to Trinidad for £330. So that’s how I did it and ended up collaborating on four of her albums.
Following her son’s birth in 2005, Christella decided to relocate back to England. She performed again in Carnival Messiah in 2007 and afterwards gave some thought to starting her own venture.
It struck us in many of our conversations with Christella that over the course of her artistic career she has sought out mentors and guides – often accomplished women. It is noticeable that when Christella recalls conversations with the likes of Geri and Ella, she recounts their exchanges verbatim, as if they had happened yesterday. When it came to naming her band, she spoke first to Ella,
I wanted my own group. I decided to use the group we have now – most of them although some left. And it just developed to Caution. It was Ella that told me to name them Caution. I didn’t come up with the name. I said to her, ‘What do think I should call the group?’ and she said, ‘Call them Caution’. And then it changed from Caution to Caution Collective because we started to guest people and we weren’t sure if we wanted to keep them in the group so we call it a Collective so we can ask people to come and go.
Though Christella is at pains to point out what differentiates her from Geraldine Connor, it feels clear that a similar commitment to quality underlines their approaches. Like Geraldine, Christella expects high standards. She expects musicians and collaborators to stretch their practice; to listen and to learn. She contrasted her and Geraldine’s approaches to testing musicians.
It’s like if I put someone on the spot to do something, they may not understand it but they trust me because they know that every show we do works. For example, Kieran, he gave me a lot of challenges at the beginning because he wasn’t confident so I was constantly saying to him ‘You sound great’. Geri, she wouldn’t have said that. She’d be like, ‘Boy, do you want this part or not? Because if you don’t I’ve got this one waiting…I can’t tell you anymore. Do it or don’t do it.’
Geri would sometimes bring the understudy in. She did that to me; she… was testing me to see how I handle this. She’d test everybody to see people’s characters. I didn’t give Geri any shit but inside I was thinking, ‘Well, okay, will I get my part back?’ I was still there cheering them on and then Geri took them off and said, ‘Right, you’re back on now’. And then I realised that I was actually doing my part well.
Towards the end of our conversation, Christella mentions an exchange she had with someone some time after Geraldine’s death. This particular artist – an accomplished singer who has toured extensively – had a run in with Geraldine and remained angry at being rebuffed.
I asked her, ‘Why, what did she do?’ She said, ‘She just made me feel really uncomfortable in the audition and she didn’t take me on and I knew I could do the part’, and I’m like, ‘Geri knows exactly what she wants’.
As we’re about to leave, Christella talked to us about how she works with musicians and singers; what she does to enable them to get the best out of themselves. Though Christella describes her approach as more gentle and less direct than Geraldine’s, it is clear that she, too, will take decisive action where it is needed and where it serves the greater project. She told us about a singer who struggled with harmonies. The story left us wondering whether what Christella got from Geraldine is what she gives to others,
…because she’s not a natural harmoniser, [she] would get up on stage and always try to cut the big ad-lib and sing over everybody. I just had to pull her to one side and say, ‘Obviously you are a solo artist but you need to learn to collaborate’. She was like, ‘I can’t harmonise’, and her attitude was in the wrong place so I just told her, ‘I think it’s best if you just take some time out; go find yourself’…She did and got really offended. It hurt her but she wasn’t ready…
Even to this day she is not a natural harmoniser because she does not have confidence in herself to just do that but we encourage her so much. She came back to the group when asked to guest at the Playhouse a few years ago and her energy was just beautiful, it was so right. She’d obviously gone through a lot and I said to her, ‘Come back’ and she said, ‘Can I?’ and I went, ‘Yeah, you’re ready to come back’.
We’re delighted that one of the commissions which formed part of our Telling project has been shortlisted to go forward to the judging panel of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust film competition.
As part of the Telling process, participating organisations were able to benefit from a commissioning budget which enabled them to engage an artist to interpret their organisation’s story. Chicken Shop Shakespeare decided to work with two excellent young film makers – Roua Al Azzawi and James Marshall – both students at Leeds Beckett University’s Northern Film School. The resulting short film can be seen here:
We’ll keep you posted on the outcome of the judging panel.
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:
It was good to meet with Stella of Caution Collective and talented film makers, James Marshall and Roua Al – Azzawi from the Northern Film School, discussing how our Telling commission brings the Caution Collective story to life.
The School has been a great partner throughout the Telling project and we look forward to finding new ways of collaborating in the future.
Funded by the Home Office and managed by Voluntary Action Leeds, Challenging Conversations aimed to support a range of interventions which encouraged young people to engage in discussions around post Brexit Britain. We were selected as one of the delivery organisations for the pilot project and our approach was to work with dancers from Phoenix Dance Theatre and alumni of RJC to answer the following question:
What needs to happen to make communities function as tolerant, welcoming, safe places?
In our final session, we were joined by Jess Mountford who made a live illustration which reflected a set of discussions around:
- What principles should we live by as human beings and how should these be extended to others?
- What diversity means and how it enriches a society
- How ignorance can breed fear and misconception
- How and why people might find it difficult to cross metaphorical and actual roads
- What might be the benefits of crossing to the other side
It feels as if we’ve just scratched the surface and there’s clearly an appetite for exploring these issues further. For more details about the programme of work, please contact us directly.
Thank you to all of the people who participated, to RJC Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre and The Tetley.