Dear Unite Against Dividers,
I was really keen to come and be part of this event because I loved the spirit of it. After all the bitterness and gloom triggered by Brexit among other things it felt good to take part in an event that wanted to inspire positive action. Looking at all the issues we face as artists and human beings head on and trying to find practical ways to deal with them together.
It was great that you began by feeding us, generously! Generosity of spirit ran throughout the whole weekend. I liked that everyone was equal and differences welcomed/accepted, that there was a sense of togetherness, with a free flow of information running between people leading the workshops and the participants.
The 2 workshops that I attended on Saturday were, ‘A Solution Lies in Salt & Spice’ and ‘How to talk to people you disagree with’. My decision to join the ‘A Solution lies in salt & Spice – How does a person of colour navigate through a world dominated by white centric thought and action?’ was a last minute one. If I’m honest I was doing that cop-out thing of thinking it wasn’t for me because I’m not a person of colour. So I decided on the spur of the moment I should give it a try. I’m really glad I did, not just because I got to try to make and eat Sambusa (Somali samosas), but because it challenged me to think outside of my own experience, to decolonialise my thought process. Listening to Fozia and Edwina, who ran the workshop, talking two questions formed in my head around when people talk about making Britain great again; Firstly, when was it great before and secondly, who was it great for? I’m thinking it was never that great for most people and especially for the people living in its colonies. Also that for many people living in the U.K. the notion of a Great Britain is a remnant of greener grass from the past, something that was/is fed into a national psyche that ends in people being stuck in a cycle of negativity.
Fozia and Edwina’s answer to this was through food, how exchange, dialogue and understanding can come through preparing, eating and talking about food. They took a heavy subject and found a way to create a space of lightness to talk about it without losing any of its weight.
This letter’s gotten a bit longer than I meant, I’ll try and be more snappy.
The second workshop I went to was about how to talk to people you disagree with, and probably in brackets, without losing your rag, becoming incoherent or being labelled a. a silly little girl b. a hysterical woman or c. a crackpot. This was very useful, I hate confrontation and especially with aggressive people, I’m likely to sidle quietly into the background while trying not to make eye contact. Maybe next time I find myself trying to talk about weighty issues I’ll be a bit braver. It’ll probably be with my Mum.
I also loved the info. guide/brochure you gave us all, it was great that you shared the budget for the event, who got paid and the cost of everything. It gives a very real guide to how events like this happen, and how you were able to make it happen. It made it feel a bit less daunting to anyone who has never organised an event or done something activist before (I don’t think I’ve used the word activist correctly there). The bingo game of phrases you might say or overhear during the day that you included on the back brought some self-deprecating humour that was nice, (I found a few of the phrases in this letter and changed them to make myself feel like less of a cliché).
The sharing and openness of information was again a generous gesture, that ran throughout not just the event but also your website http://makeitclear.eu/ with the sharing of things like reading lists and links to other organisations. This shows a very simple way of unlocking a door to information about lots of the subjects that you dealt with. I think for me it was the lack of competitiveness and willingness to be open about what you thought and to learn from other people that made this such a refreshing event to be at.
Ps on the Sunday I went to The Walking Reading Group on Commons. I went to one of these walks before and bored Bee & Sinead to tears with how much I loved it, so I’m going to do a separate letter for that too, sometime soon.