Community projects


WOMEN MAKING HISTORY

A collaboration between the Golden Oldies and SHRAVIKA SATSANG MANDAL group, Year 12 students from Haberdasher Aske’s Hatcham College, the Museum in Docklands, the Women’s Library, Rachel Warrington and Ceri Buck.

Come and see our film and zines Saturday 8th March – International Women’s Day

There will also be talks from writer of Hero, the toughest girl in London Catherine Johnson, poetry from Dorothea Smartt and Joanna Ingham from the Women’s Library

1.30 – 3pm FREE, the Museum in Docklands

I want to tell you about this project I’ve been working on over the last month. We’ve been based mainly at the Museum in Docklands and we called it Women Making History. The people involved have been women from a group of elder women from the Caribbean (the Golden Oldies) and a group of elder Asian women from East Africa (SHRAVIKA SATSANG MANDAL). We’ve also been with a group of teenage women from a school in New Cross. The main focus of the project has been to tackle the question of how experiences of women have been represented in history, and especially in relation to the Museum in Docklands itself. Interesting in most of the galleries there are hardly any women evident in photos and text. However, in the Sugar and Slavery exhibition there are more women and they seem to be women who campaigned against slavery, both of African and European origin. Now, the way we went about tackling this project was to ask the elders what they were doing at the time of the photos depicted in the galleries and the responses were really insightful. Most women at the time of the Docklands at War exhibition were in the Caribbean or East Africa and the Ugandan women and the woman from Zanzibar recollect having to black out windows because of German plane expeditions, and all women talk of food shortages because of the war … suffering that is little heard of in the cosy wartime nostalgia stories from the British mainland. Some women were shocked at the lack of representation of Black and Asian men also. One woman asked ‘Where are they?’ Who was doing all the work in the docks at this time? Of course there were Black men here’ (and this is a theme that Catherine Johnson covers in her book Hero, the toughest girl in London, an action-packed story of a young mixed race woman’s struggle to find her father, an escaped slave, in late 18th century London). Apart from tackling this issue of representation, the women have also been writing and speaking their own stories and we’re putting all of this material into a zine. We had a trip to the Women’s Library, Old Castle Street, Aldgate to look at their collection of objects, books and zines. We chose to make a zine, alongside the film that is also being produced, for a variety of reasons related to its inclusive form – anything and everything goes in zineland; great for attempting to represent the messy, chaotic and non-linear of women’s time. See more below.

The most pleasurable thing of all has been sharing stories, food and time together to get to know other women from different communities and different generations. It really has been that simple. Get a mixed bunch of women together in a space and wonderful things happen. I feel privileged to have been there

The purposes of the zine are many and various:

In it you will find representations of our lives through objects that we have chosen because they are special to us. You will find our evaluation of whose experience isn’t represented in the museum You will find words from discussions about what it means to be a woman in our culture in terms of:

• Having a baby,

• Seeing images of women used to sell, advertise, glamorize,

We see images of women used to sell, advertise, entice, glamorize and symbolise. We never see ourselves (some comments were …)

‘None of the women here is old, everyone is active and engaged, interesting and involved. The media puts any woman over a certain age into a corner and ignores them or misrepresents them. There is no representation of the woman here.’ ‘

Women are sacked for looking older. They need to look like the trophy wife. Men are considered to be better as they get older’ ‘As a woman, I am very successful at selling things, like my pepper sauce, peanut drops, coconut cakes. I feel I am better at this because I am a woman. I can relate to people as a woman and that helps too. I feel very proud because I raise money for the project I work with, not for my own pocket.’ (this young woman is 90, sorry, but I have to divulge that!)

‘The media misrepresents people and gender roles to make money, not to be honest. There is a lack of race representation.’

• Being mis or under represented as women,

• Doing housework, • Getting older,

• Female friendship and sisterhood

You will find stories about who we are, how we know each other, how we maintain our communities and how we have come to be here.

You will find the answer to the question ‘How do I want to represent myself?’

You will find evidence of the above collected in this zine.

Zines are a perfect home for our experiences because zines are about living joyfully who we are without concession to pressures from outside. Zines are a space for creativity, for urgent live-giving messages of support to friends and to oneself, a space for angry rants and practical how-to sharing of information, knowledge and wisdom. Zines are distributed across networks of friends and groups, often free of charge. Zines are made for the love of it, not as commercial venture. Zines are a space where the logic of the market does not figure.

Through these images and words, we invite you to make a significant leap away from evaluating achievements based on the best … the most … the tallest … the loudest, the first to reach Everest, the fastest car to drive the earth, the first to reach the Americas …. And into an appreciation of women’s time, of the relational, the small-scale, the domestic, the inclusive. In this sense, we are inviting you to ‘think differently and think small’ by producing something together that needs to be handled, given a close read and that can be taken back to your home. Museum in Docklands, West India Quay, E14 4AL (at the end of the quayside, after the row of restaurants, opposite the floating church) West India Quay DLR (2 mins) or Canary Wharf DLR / Jubilee line (10 mins)

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Workshop in Creative Workshop facilitation for volunteers at SDCAS

March 2007

(this post has been copied from a word processing document – the line layout has changed. Please contact openbracket@riseup.net for a copy of the original)

Outline: 

Some warmer exercises to work on the group dynamic: how to work with and change the energy

Writing strategies: 2 exercises to do and discuss

(Because we are where we’ve been and FOUND)

Visual Arts strategies: why do visual art together with creative writing? 1 exercise to do and discuss. Recap on papermaking

Over to you: Practical Task:  

   

Warmer exercises:

Clap / Hand weaving / Anyone who / web weaving

 Writing strategies: 

Silence silence silence

Silence            silence

Silence silence silence

Talk about your responses to this one-word poem by Eugene Gomringer (all responses are valid!)

  

When writing with people who have English as a second language the following strategies are useful:

  • Ask lots of opening questions to contextualise theme
  • working with objects provides a tactile way in to writing, images will provide a visual way in, sounds, an aural way in – try out different approaches rather than always using the same one, people all respond in different ways
  • breaking a task down into manageable stages is essential
  • give lots of examples and/or bits of language writers can recycle
  • working with a model will support lower level writers

 See handouts below to create the poems Because we are where we’ve been (Strategies include collecting places then ideas, memories, experiences associated with these places) and FOUND (strategies include working with a model and template, working with objects as a tactile way in and using an easy visual strategy to accompany the writing).  
Visual Arts strategies:

Present papermaking and bookbinding, the  visual aspect of Because we are where we’ve been and My fingers are lonely for my country piece.

Practice with different materials (pencils, acrylic, watercolour, pastels)

Present other ideas (in photos)

Over to you: Practical Task: 

     1.    Create an exercise in which participants write creatively about one of the following themes:

  • Spring in London
  • A Journey
  • An object
  1. Think of a visual art exercise, the result of which you will join together with the writing

Don’t forget, you can write creatively with just one word

                         

 

Ceri Buck, 2007

As part of the Pulp-Paper-Poem project

at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers

     

FOUND   

URGENTLY IN NEED OF

(what does this object need to give it life or movement?)     

FOUND BY SOMEONE    

INTERESTED?

Writing & Activism & Pedagogy In the practice I’m in the process of developing, my role fluctuates between that of artist, activist and pedagogue. For me, art without activism feels unreal, activism without creativity is easily contained by the authorities, and art and activism without pedagogy neglects a curiosity about and communication with the ‘other’.

Practical projects come out of a dialogue with a contemporary political moment, which manifests itself locally and networks globally. We want to find out how text-making and text-receiving can transform social relations and organising strategies, (and vice versa); and how, by working with new technologies, and emerging artist / activist initiatives, we can continue to investigate the notion of community through collaborative literacy. 

Creative Skills for Life, arts workshops for homeless people at South London Gallery

Pulp-Paper-Poem: Creative writing and Paper making for Asylum Seekers at the Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers

Site Specific writing workshop with the Southern African British Council project at Oval House

Associate schools project: Mapping, History and Creative writing at St Matthias primary school in Brick lane

Associate schools project: INSETs at Ashmount Primary school and Mayflower primary school – Mapping, Geography, personal history and creative writing for Key stage 1 and 2 teachers

Speech writing project for Key Stage 3 & 4 in Islington

Stories Everywhere! (storytelling project in Hermitage School, Wapping, devised and delivered with Kai Fierle-Hedrick)

Biodiversity: Creative writing project for Key Stage 3 & 4 in Islington

Poetry Places: creative writing and geocaching at Montem Primary school in Slough

(Let us shadow side by side)

 

This piece, which includes fragments of language assembled by myself and by three participants on the pulp-paper-poem project at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers, is a journey into this sense of longing for another place which can be witnessed in the Portuguese word of no precise translation in English, saudade.  An eternal optimist and believer in the possibility of new things and of life sprouting out of the ruins, of shedding old skins, I found myself –  in the process of joining together a list of about thirty found words into various combinations – creating this collage of haunting words that calls out for us to ‘shadow side by side’, to have the courage to look back and within in the process of growing new roots. This is possibly more challenging and painful for adults, than for children as adults have left more (time) behind, and adults find it easier to slip into saudade as a means of expressing things left behind them.  The vibrancy of colours and varied textures in the doodles and designs that accompany the text (each original has been cut into 6 small squares) speaks of an ease to play and experiment and to make marks on paper. The overall effect of the snippets of text and fragments of colour is one of looking into a window, or at a Polaroid snapshot, each mark is part of a bigger story that is so difficult to tell.

 

The travel came to travelling

I dream about a book

I travel in the country

I dream home

I look in the mirror at the house

The mission of time

The chill came to life

I dance with wings

My dreams refuse to budge

The truth of the end

The backwards battle is beginning

My brother’s bizarre book

The burnt and buried century

The chill of childhood country dancing

The end of dreams and emotions

Exploding and falling and flying

The gap where my home is

I hope that my house has legs

The lonely life of the mirror

The mission of nature refuses of budge

Let us shadow side by side

The stairway temples of time

The tragedy of the toy soldier

Travelling and trembling

The fingers of uncomfortable truth

Wings wings wings wings

wings wings wings and fly

I’m dreaming about travelling to another country

Dancing in life comes in time

My fingers are lonely for my country

 

 

The aim of the Pulp-Paper-Poem project, running at SDCAS between October 2006 and March 2007 with writer and artist Ceri Buck, is to provide access to creative ways of working with words for clients and workers at the centre. 

 

“The project encompasses creative writing strategies and various visual art strategies, including papermaking.  On this project, we play with words; cutting, pasting, editing, selecting, making lists, pulling fragments into an order and working collaboratively.  The objective is to find ways to express ourselves, our many selves, to have a voice, to have many voices.  Our writing emerges from our experiences, our endless conversations with other people. We write in order to raise self-esteem, to communicate, to be part of a writing community. We expand our vocabulary and improve our English … learning a language can open up new worlds to us and within us.  We are learning how to make paper because it is a great way to get to know plants; banana skin, blackberry leaves, stinging nettles … and to recycle old envelopes. When we make paper, we work with our hands, and with our whole bodies, not just with the mind or part of ourselves.  We have made books out of our writing and the paper thereby self-publishing our work.”  Ceri Buck

  This project has been funded by the Arts Council