An intergenerational project working with Elders from the British Muslim Association and Asian Women’s Resource Centre and local primary school children.
We invited the Elders to come and join us at local schools – to meet the young people, and to tell them something about their own childhoods in far-away lands.
Anayet Ali remembers …
“We were down in the valley surrounded by the hills … I hear the echoes of the mountains, my mother’s voice calling me, echoing round. I still hear it in my heart … I will hear it forever.”
The Aim of the Project
We wanted to encourage the young people to meet and exchange thoughts and ideas with people from a different generation / culture, with a view to exploring new ways of working together to address some of the issues we
face in the wider community.
Our approach was to use poetry, story telling, music and reminiscence to help the young people to feel closer to the experience of migration, journeying away from one’s homeland – to encourage them to empathise, to connect emotionally with the Elders …
The Starting Point
The schools project had as it’s theme ‘a treasured object’ and began with a storytelling performance of Peter Findlay’s ‘Story of Ashana’ that recounts the tale of the grandfather’s drum, detailing how it came to be in the attic and what it embodies for the young girl and her memories of her grandfather. We then workshopped around the notion of objects of significance in our lives, why they mean so much to us, and our thoughts about keeping something with us forever wherever we go in our future lives …
The Pull of One’s Homeland
What is it, to want a better life for one’s family, less hard, with new opportunities? What lay ahead for these Elders was much more difficult than anticipated: fewer work opportunities, mostly in the mills and small businesses and certainly, for the first wave of men who came, there was intense loneliness. They missed their families, their food, their music, their language and conversation. And of course, they missed the warmth, the
heat of the sun.
“It was a beautiful life all my childhood. That place is in my heart, always, every day, all day.”
Anayet talks about the smell of the flowers on the trees that were all around: “such a perfume! The sun brings out all of these beautiful smells … and there were lots of fields, very flat … 2-3 miles away there were the hills. I can’t forget it. The river was 1⁄2 mile away, and as children we would take the animals (buffalo) to drink, and we would swim and play.”
How We Worked
We used these themes and reminiscences to work with the young people to explore their own feelings about home, their surroundings and the things that are special to them. We looked at some of the poets from Pakistan with the Elders, particularly poems that represent the beauty of homeland, and of memories kept in one’s heart. We used poetry, together with dance and visual art to encourage the young people to express their own thoughts and ideas. Elements of the poems were fed into the dance and movement sessions with Natalie and the visual art sessions with Sharon.
The workshops were led by:
artist SHARON MARSDEN
dancer NATALIE SPEAKE
storyteller PETER FINDLAY
Comments from the schools:
We strongly feel that every child has developed tolerance and understanding of other faiths in the community. The children were extremely enthusiastic about meeting the Elders and the respect and awe that they showed towards them was wonderful to witness. In one particular instance, the effect that the week has had on one particular child was profound. In addition, the individual approach given to each child was outstanding. Encouragement and celebration of the talents of each and every child was a vital part of the project.
The lasting effect of the project has continued after verd de gris left, and will continue to do so in the future.
Alison Embleton, Year 6 Teacher