Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Spectrum of Light

What an enormously creative year this has been for so far.  Not personally - I have had very little time to write - but in terms of facilitating the writing and helping to nourish the imaginative landscape of everyone I have come into contact with. For several months I have found myself juggling five different jobs and many weeks have stretched beyond seven days till they've run one into the other in a seamless winterspringsummer. However, I can honestly say that I haven't wished myself elsewhere. I am constantly awakened and energised by people. And, of course, the nourishment goes two ways. I am very lucky to be doing this work.

Waving Hello has been a tremendous project. It culminated in a display in Bonn Square in Oxford of 3,000 paper boats made by the people we'd worked with as well as by passing members of the public. Each boat was placed in memory of the thousands of people who have made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to find safety. We also remembered those who haven't made it. Even as we celebrated the wealth of music, art, poetry and storytelling that migrants bring with them, we recognised the appalling conditions that so often drive people to take such risks.

We read poems written by pupils from the schools we'd worked with - Buckland CE Primary and Blackbird Academy Trust schools Orchard Meadow, Pegasus and Windale. The poems reflected deep concerns for the safety and well-being of refugees and asylum seekers. Frankly, the humanity and compassion of these young citizens puts many of our politicians to shame.

We sang the songs that had been especially written by Arne Richards and listened to speeches from Asylum Welcome, Dr Ramzy from the Muslim Council of Britain and Isabel Knowland, who conceived the project.

Besides working with schoolchildren, we've worked with detainees at Campsfield House and have also enjoyed the support of the Ashmolean Museum. One of the highlights for us was the visit to Buckland School from women from BK LUWO. Filda Abelkec-Lukonyomoi's story of survival had a tremendous impact on all of us. I have nothing but praise for the teachers of the classes we worked with, too.

It has been a real pleasure working alongside Arne and Isabel from Oxford Concert Party - they've even had me singing and dancing and anyone who knows me will recognise that that is not an easy thing to achieve. It's been a pleasure, too, to work alongside Tony Lloyd whose fine printing workshops I have previously attended as a student. We missed our lovely Helen Kidd though and we shared her poem with everyone on the day.

Photo by Judie Waldmann
Still on the subject of poetry, I'm nearly at the end of my ten weeks at the OSJCT care home in Henley. We've produced a booklet of 40 poems and also a CD of residents reading poetry and singing Irish folk songs. There's also a splendid percussion rendition of rain to go with a hilarious poem about the real Dr Foster who went to Gloucester.

Again, I have been struck by the importance of music in these sessions. I have seen people transformed by a song or a passage of classical music. People who have been described to me as 'non-verbal' have spoken about things they've suddenly remembered.

One of the things I'm discovering about people living with dementia is that the capacity for creativity does not diminish when language becomes compromised. If the right word cannot be found, often a more wonderful and textured evocation will surface. Somebody told me she couldn't hear a thing when she held a sea shell to her ear. "But you're happening," she said suddenly. "And we're happening." And so we were, all of us.

My six month writing workshop tour of England finishes this week too. Creative Future run these workshops in conjunction with the Literary Awards competition. This year we've focused on Newcastle, Brighton and Birmingham and the wealth of writing that has emerged from each area has been really exciting. It's been great to see some of that channelled into the competition too, though as judges, we had no idea who had submitted work or indeed whether any had come from the workshops until after we'd chosen the winners. I have to keep schtum, though. No spoilers here. Wait and see when the winners are announced!

Photo by Judie Waldmann
Summer is the wedding and baby naming season and we celebrants can be kept very busy this time of year. As someone who does funerals as well, I feel I am involved with the narrative arc of human life. This ties in very closely with the art of storytelling as well as with poetry and music. All my jobs feel like they belong to the same spectrum of light. They're like colours balancing and bouncing off one another.

I'm hoping for some rainbow moments when I'm on holiday and finally able to write.

No comments:

Post a Comment