Here’s the space for our STORIES . Story-telling: the time-honoured way to explain ones-self to the “other”.

Each tale started insubstantially… ” I’ve got this idea!”…… ” Go on then. Let’s be hearing ya”… Someone ventures to speak. Another stills, to listen….

Hard to Have Hope

Our story is a poem ‘Hard to have Hope’ by Wendell Berry.

The line that perhaps speaks loudest :-

‘Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you, which is the light of the imagination’

 

Wendell Berry ( 83 ) is an American novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic and farmer... 40 years working his own farm ... READ MORE +

Hard to have Hope

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old,

for hope must not depend on feeling good

and there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.

You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality

of the future, which surely will surprise us,

and hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction

any more than by wishing. But stop dithering.

The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them?

Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

 

Because we have not made our lives to fit

our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,

the streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope

then to belong to your place by your own knowledge

of what it is that no other place is, and by

your caring for it as you care for no other place, this

place that you belong to though it is not yours,

for it was from the beginning and will be to the end.

 

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are

your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,

who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,

and the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike

fishes for the fish in the creek, and the birds who sing

in the trees in the silence of the fisherman

and the heron, and the trees that keep the land

they stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

 

This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power

or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful

when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy

when they ask for your land and your work.

Answer with knowledge of the others who are here

and how to be here with them. By this knowledge

make the sense you need to make. By it stand

in the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.

 

Speak to your fellow humans as your place

has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.

Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it

before they had heard a radio. Speak

publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.

 

Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up

from the pages of books and from your own heart.

Be still and listen to the voices that belong

to the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.

There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,

by which it speaks for itself and no other.

 

Find your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.

Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground

underfoot. Be it lighted by the light that falls

freely upon it after the darkness of the nights

and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.

Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,

which is the light of imagination. By it you see

the likeness of people in other places to yourself

in your place. It lights invariably the need for care

toward other people, other creatures, in other places

as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

 

No place at last is better than the world. The world

is no better than its places. Its places at last

are no better than their people while their people

continue in them. When the people make

dark the light within them, the world darkens.

(This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems)

Http//www.poetryfoundation.org

To subscribe to Panthala – blank email to ” Panthala- subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Wendell and Tanya Berry

Prayer for Humankind

This Story gives an insight into how you make contacts through community networks ; how  one young woman’s dream was fulfilled by the crucial Heron stance ( or footballer) keeping a  ‘loose neck’ and eye on the target. 

 

In 2014 ASCENT : Ascot & the Sunnings Community Environment Network , was publicising the first Environment Festival in our villages. Ten of us met around a friend's table to fold distribution leaflets: 7,000 of them ! Belting through the task on a couple of afternoons.. lots of chat. ``I'm looking for a young woman to play an Afghan in one of the Windsor Fringe drama award plays`` said its Creator.... Mutter, mutter .. kept on folding. `` How about you, Kirti ? You want to act`` Heron grasped fish. ... READ MORE +

During the following weeks of rehearsal,  Kirti became Afghan. This Play won the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing 2014.

Moving into 2015, another amateur play started to take shape, ‘TAKE TWO’ a play about Palestine.  Again Kirti came forward, venturing the part of a young Palestinian woman .

Writer Jennifer Leach’s text is beautiful, subtle use of language. For Kirti to deliver her part was a feat of courage , persistence and dedication.

In her own words:-

I was approached by Anne Yarwood in June 2016 with an idea she had in mind, of the suffering and injustice which was taking place in Israel and Jerusalem. Anne wanted to convey this message and dream she had in the form of a play, which Anne felt my drama skills could portray this message to people.

I thought this would be an marvellous idea to do, with the help of Justin Butcher’s direction and Jennifer Leach’s play writing and other people it could really be done.

My experience playing the role of an young Arab lady, in the play ‘Take Two’ really was an eye opener for me to the extent of injustice and suffering these people where going through. I felt the character was alive in me and speaking out to the audience, conveying her message of ending the pain and suffering of her and her people, which she was reaching out to the audience to spread the word of peace and to seek help for her people.

I felt my body was acting as a vessel to carry out the voice of many people who are crying out for help from the world. It was like I was chosen to use my acting skills to project out the spirit of this young lady and many more in her position.

The whole play was a big prayer and a call out for help to the people who watched the play and to carry out this prayer and message to the world, of world peace.

Kirti Dhanoa

Remember Sarajevo

Here we report a tale within an epic.

Skilled therapists Jan Trewartha, Kat Chu, Emma Holly, Megan Bennett, all trained in ScarWork, a therapeutic approach to scar healing created by Sharon Wheeler, went to Sarajevo for one week to help.

Sharon Wheeler: Sharon’s Evolution of Structural Integration. 

Dear Friends... hearts of the people - REPORT FROM BOSNIA 15- 23 October, 2016. ... READ MORE +

Saturday
Well, here we are, Kat and I, in Sarajevo!  We start work on Monday so some time to rest and explore. Megan and Emma arrive late this evening to complete our little team of ScarWorkers. A HUGE THANK YOU to all our generous donors who made this possible. What you raised paid for our flights and supports the Healing Hands Network infrastructure; the premises for the clinic, insurance, the accommodation for therapists with some money to cover the basic outgoings, the interpreters, taxis to and from the airport and the outreach clinics, etc.  We pay the rest – getting to and from the UK airport, our lunches and evening meals out, etc. – ourselves.

We’re all here now – up till 1pm. chatting excitedly!  Woken by the loudspeaker from the nearby minaret.  Couldn’t get back to sleep so drowned it out with radio 4 – thank goodness for IPlayer!  The Shipping Forecast with its predictable, rhythmic chant, backed by the fervent call to prayers, creates an interesting interplay which succeeds in lulling me back to sleep.  But then the early traffic reawakens me and I’m much in need of the strong shower to get me going when I finally struggle out of bed.

Sunday
First today, our lesson on how the clinic and outreach are organised, our work timetables etc.  Then time to ourselves and we wander down the hill to Sarajevo’s centre, soaking up the atmosphere of somewhere so different from home.  Such variety in this Moslem city; from the bazaar where we could be in an Arab souk, to the Brewery bar and restaurant with jazz and great beer.  Not much sign of the predominant religion here; a few women in headscarves only……and the minaret calls, of course.  Everyone seems very friendly – the young speak a bit of English, sometimes they are quite fluent.  The older people rarely speak English but are patient with us as we mime to get what we need in the shops and restaurants.

Monday
What a first day! Megan and I were on ‘Outreach’ which means we went to a Sarajevo suburb and set up our couches in a community Hall. Today I worked on a variety of scars including a sniper bullet wound where a ‘dumdum’ bullet had hit the shoulder.  These are expanding bullets, which create a larger wound.  An odd sensation, the feeling of fragmented soft tissue.  I’ve never felt anything like it before.  A similarly odd and very satisfying feeling as the tissue reintegrated and became more solid, more compact, more normal as I worked on it. Even more so when the client demonstrated an increased range of movement in the arm.

I’ve also worked, today, on people with:

– A fractured nose, using BoneWork
– Back pain stemming from abdominal trauma, primarily emotional in origin
– Back pain stemming from an old abdominal surgery, nothing to do with the war
– Scars from a dislocated hip repair in childhood.

We came to work primarily on scars; some of these are what we would see in the UK, but the majority will be from the war.  Most people back home have scars; here the frequency will be higher, naturally, and often from a violent source.

The clients are directed to HHN mainly through different associations in Sarajevo, associations for the victims of war, the concentration camp survivors, etc.

The people we met have a feeling of real stoicism about them. They’ve been through so much. It truly puts our own problems into perspective.

Wednesday
The last three days have whizzed by! This is seriously hard work, here in Bosnia with Healing Hands Network.  Although the giving of our time is often a joyful experience, I still feel like a tired workhorse tonight!

When I came out to Bosnia I was prepared to be overwhelmed by the pain and anguish the people would be holding in their bodies. What I wasn’t prepared for was being overwhelmed by their gratitude. I’ve been hugged, kissed, thanked, had my hands kissed, had my hand laid against someone’s heart to show how the energy from the treatment was flooding through them…..it’s had me on the verge of tears all morning.

The pain we see in our clients is terrible – their bodies have been deformed by bullets, shrapnel, bombs…..but their hearts are open and their gratitude to us so humbling.   They need more therapists who can deal with the structural deformation and we hope that going as a team of ScarWorkers will inspire others with this training and the BoneWork training to go.

Friday
When you are meeting people every day whose bodies and faces are scarred and deformed. Who have lost loved ones, families, old friends.  Who are still shaking or who have other symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  Who can hardly believe that you are happy to touch their scars, their bodies, despite their injuries.  Who weep with gratitude when you help them move limbs again, when you ease some of their pain.  When you laugh with them.  Cry with them… because our eyes filled a lot.  When you meet this daily you cannot remain unmoved, untouched.  The hardest thing, as a therapist, has been trying not to take on the ‘stuff’ our clients carry.  The years of locked in trauma, fear, anger, betrayal, loss……this is easy to take on board and could affect our own health.  The stories we hear from these dear people, stories of rape, brutalisation, torture, starvation, would break your heart.  Almost every woman who went through the three-year siege of Sarajevo has osteoporosis – it’s just a fact of life for them.

The siege went on for 44 months and 11,541 people were killed, 643 of whom were children.

https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/resources/research-resources/art-photography/sarajevo-red-line-project/

What is really marked in the clients we work with is their strong desire – compulsion – not to pass the trauma onto the children.  “They are the next generation”, the interpreter explains, “The people who went through the war try to protect the young people”. And so, when we ask what happened to the clients, the reply is often “Oh, it was in the war” – and that’s all we are told.  Sometimes there is a whisper in the interpreter’s ear and we are given an abbreviated version of events – just as much as we need to know to help them, which was all we want really.  But occasionally the whole story will emerge.

Georgie is with us making a film about HHN, and for this reason the whole stories are sometimes told, for the sake of telling the world that people are still suffering, still reliving the pain.  These stories can be unbearable but they must be told.  Just because the war is over doesn’t mean that it is not still there, in the people’s lives, bodies, minds; most will carry it to their graves.

When we work on the scars the emotional trauma is often released, hence the tears.  We hope that for our clients the pain may lessen somewhat and the grief lose its rawness.

We lead very privileged lives in this country.  We’ve had our wars, our losses, our griefs, and we remember them every year when the symbolic poppies flood our lives.  But in Sarajevo the raw loss is too recent; just over 20 years is insufficient to have cleansed the nightmares.

Monday
Great to be home again.
We were able to help a lot of people last week – between the four of us we treated 100 people over the 5 days. I did three times the number of treatments I normally do in a week – but what a buzz!  I have very happy thoughts and memories of this last week as well as a relief that the intensity of it all is over!   I’m still processing everything that happened and I feel that the experience has changed me in a subtle way.  When I was working on someone’s scar the other day, in my clinic, she said that I had changed how I was working.  I think this is because I had no time to waste in Bosnia; I had 1¼ hours to work with each person and then I wouldn’t normally see them again; not enough time to deal with some of those wounds.  I just worked as fast and efficiently as I could.   I’m an efficient worker anyway but I think that the time element, combined with the numbers of clients all with major trauma of some sort or another, and the need to think quickly and ‘out of the box’, upped my work level and ability.  The experience of piecing together feet, shoulders etc. that had been smashed to smithereens was invaluable to me as a therapist.  And the reward of seeing the results and the clients’ increased mobility and decreased pain was profound.  I learned so much and I’m grateful to these lovely people who entrusted themselves to me with such open hearts.

ScarWork is the original creation of Sharon Wheeler, to whom I am extremely grateful: http://www.wheelerfascialwork.com/.   I met Sharon four years ago, and am now her accredited UK tutor (Emma Holly, one of the Bosnia team, is also being trained as a ScarWork tutor).  Sharon’s work, the ScarWork and BoneWork, have changed how I see the body and have been invaluable in developing my own clinic work.

As a team, Kat, Megan, Emma and I would like to thank all of you for donating to support us and help us get to Sarajevo to do this invaluable work.

Personally, I’d like to thank you for enabling me to have this experience, to learn from the dear people I worked on, and for what it has done for me as a person and as a therapist.

This is a video of work done for Adzja, Sarajevo, after ScarWork to Achilles tendon.  (Please ensure the volume on your device is turned up)  – www.bodyinharmony.org.uk/bih-testimonials

For more info on the Healing Hands Network – www.healinghandsnetwork.org.uk

For more info on Jan’s work – www.bodyinharmony.org.uk

With gratitude

Jan Trewartha

jan3

 

Who We Are

One day social norms will no longer result in people feeling ashamed or guilty about the way that they dress, and we’ll understand that a person is more than the clothing that they choose to wear.

In 2003 a group of people began to meet at the function room of the Lion Brewery in Ash, Surrey. They adopted the name Surrey Swans. People have met there 11 or 12 times a year since then. ... READ MORE +

Those that come long are transgender or the friends or partners of people that are transgender.

I first went along in 2007 and began organising the meetings in 2011.

Why did the meetings begin? And why do they continue?

For me, the story runs something like this.

I was born a boy in the 1950’s. As a teenager, and then as I grew older, I occasionally dressed in clothing that’s generally classified as being ladies.

It was a secret. It resulted in mixed feelings. Pleasure. Guilt. Shame. Sometimes I would buy things. Other times I would throw them away.

In the nineties and noughties things were changing.  Trans-related issues began to be discussed openly on WEB sites.

In 2007 I booked a makeover. It felt a bit like meeting myself for the first time. In a way, Andrea was born.

And then Surrey Swans began to make a big difference in my life. To be more precise, people at Surrey Swans made a big difference.

No longer alone. No longer a total secret. Guilt and shame giving way to self-acceptance, wellbeing and healing.

So began a journey.

Today, Surrey Swans matters to me because of the people.

It’s a place where I spend time with friends.

It’s also a place of safety, acceptance and friendship where people who are in the process of discovering themselves can meet other people that are travelling in a similar direction. People who are able to pay attention, to listen, to care, to take seriously and to empathise.

I believe that love is a kind of giving of attention, and of listening. And so, in its way, Surrey Swans is a place where people receive love.

It may be that one day there will be no need of places like Surrey Swans. That our perceived social norms will no longer result in people feeling ashamed or guilty about the way that they dress. That we won’t jump to conclusions about who people are based on stereotyped images projected by the media. We’ll understand that a person is more than the clothing that they choose to wear.

As transgendered people are empowered and encouraged by each other they are more able to go about their daily lives in a way that better reflects who they really are. Able to celebrate rather than self-recriminate.

As people and groups of people that once stigmatised, chastised and criticised learn to tolerate the transgendered. And then to accept them simply as people. And to welcome them.

Until one day, no one even notices.

And little by little this is happening. Right at this very moment.

And some footnotes:

The term transgender is broad. It conjures up other words like transsexual, transvestite and crossdresser. And more modern terms such as genderqueer, gender dysphoric and non-binary.

The same word can mean different things to different people. Different things in different countries. A word that one transgendered person identifies with can sometimes profoundly offend another person.

Here isn’t the place to discuss the precise meaning of these terms. If you’re interested in the meaning you could try here as a beginning: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Transhealth/Pages/Transhealthhome.aspx

In truth, as with many collective nouns, the words are open to stereotypical abuse.

The only way to begin to find out what the term means to a particular trans person is to spend some time talking with and listening to that particular person. Everyone has a unique and special story. And not everyone fits into a specially predefined category.

Having said that, of the people that I know, each in our own uniqueness, we all agree that our trans-ness isn’t about any label that tries to attach itself to us. Really, it’s just who we are.

Andrea with daughter, Katie

andrea.wright@hotmail.co.uk

http://surreyswans.blogspot.co.uk/p/introducing-surrey-swans.html

Andrea Wright

27 December 2016

The Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing

This is the 13th year of our Award for New Drama Writing, generously sponsored by Kenneth Branagh and we are proud to be ‘The Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing’.

Our Award is International and annually attracts hundreds of scripts for 30 minute one-act plays. Over the years we’ve received nearly 3000 scripts from all over the world.

The Windsor Fringe was started in 1969 ... READ MORE +

I’m a clothing designer and only got involved as I met and then lived with Tony, who ran the Jazz events for the Fringe.

In 1999, a local writer asked if The Fringe would bankroll his community play ‘The Fallen Women of Windsor’. I offered to help with costumes, which took ages but I found it fascinating seeing the play take shape.  The next year he did a play ‘The Railway Wars’ and the following year ‘The Kings Head’ about King Charles’ beheading.  Although it had taken a lot of time, I’d loved seeing the plays take shape:- the auditioning, meeting the actors, rehearsals  and costumes, so when he decided to have a sabbatical, I knew I’d miss it and thought why not produce modern plays and put it to the Committee. The then chairman, said “If you think it would make a good evening go ahead Ann?”.

I spoke to local directors, who thought an evening of three short plays might work best, so I approached local writing groups who sent in 27 plays. Three directors each chose the play that they’d like to direct and had total autonomy in casting etc. The evenings were a great success and a committee member David Birrell suggested that if the Fringe gave it an Award, it could raise their profile. So it was decided to award £500 for the winner and the three finalists to be performed, with strict guidelines being drawn up . Then an ad. was sent to writing websites and the BBC. 167 scripts poured in from around the world and readers and judges had to be found. Fortunately through connections, our first judges were Hilary Mantel (who I designed clothes for) and Rosemary Squire of The Ambassadors Theatre Group.

This is the 13th year of our Award for New Drama Writing, generously sponsored by Kenneth Branagh and we are proud to be:

The Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing.

Our Award is International and annually attracts hundreds of scripts for 30 minute one-act plays .Over the years we’ve received nearly 3000 scripts from  : New Mexico, France, Nigeria, Belarus, Japan, England, Italy, Norway, Slovakia, Scotland, Belgium, New Zealand, Cyprus, Canada, Eire, USA, Finland, Germany, Wales, Albania, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, the Ukraine, South Africa, Portugal, N. Ireland , Israel, India, Australia, The Caribbean, , Mexico, Korea, the Nederlands, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Sweden, Finland and Greece.

Many of our winners have gone on to further success in the Theatre, Films and TV with our prestigious judges having been:  Dame Hilary Mantel, Rosemary Squire OBE, Fay Weldon CBE, Nell Dunn , Nina Bawden CBE, Nell Leyshon, Iqbal Khan, Sir Kenneth Branagh,  Joanne Harris  MBE, Jenny Seagrove, John Adams, Andrew. C. Wadsworth, Pete  Gallagher, Alan Brodie and Sarah Wolf.

 Our readers and judges are passionate about supporting new writers  and although it takes so much of my time, I’ve found it immensely satisfying and am proud of our achievements.

THE THIRTEENTH WINDSOR FRINGE KENNETH BRANAGH AWARD FOR NEW DRAMA WRITING

I am delighted to sponsor this writing award and to be a small part of the Windsor Fringe initiative that supports new writers. Without a good play or script, the best actors and directors in the world cannot hope to produce good work and I welcome the encouragement that this award offers to writers both local and international.

Kenneth Branagh

 

Readers Group

Ann Trewatha

18 December 2016

 

Festival of the Dark

How would it be if we – just – stopped ? For a while.

Turned off the lights and sat – just for a while – in the dark?

 

What might we discover ? Rediscover, perhaps ? Shall we try ? We launch Reading’s pioneering Festival of the Dark.. READ MORE +

So begins the Festival of the Dark, launching in Reading on 21 December 2016, and running for an entire year, from winter solstice to winter solstice. Our first event is Let There Be Dark!, an evening of spicy dinner in the dark, whilst enveloped by magical piano, storytelling and an immersive instrumental sound experience.

The motivation behind the festival came out of a climate change conference, in which it was generally acknowledged that scolding or scaring people into changes of behaviour is a blind alley. The questions must be, why are we doing what we’re doing, and how can we find a better way forward ? Shifting consciousness, changing minds and hearts.

‘It is necessary to stop, to dwell in the dark, in order to see what we have created – and lost sight of – in the light.’

The festival is intended to challenge, creating cultural flashlights to illuminate aspects of the dark that are largely hidden and shunned. There will be, too, celebration of the beauty and mystery of the dark. Centred loosely on the Celtic Wheel of the Year, winter and darkness will be celebrated and honoured as essential counterpoints to summer and the light. We will explore the darkness physically, scientifically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, environmentally, through music, sound, theatre, storytelling, wild events in nature. By 21 December 2017, we hope Reading will have come far enough in its quest to celebrate a turning off of the lights for one night. A meeting with the Lights Officer last week was surprisingly positive. He spoke of ‘choreographing’ the event.

Our festival partners are The Olympia Ballroom and South Street Arts Centre. With full support from Reading Borough Council, University of Reading, Reading Climate Change Group, Reading Year of Culture 2016, Dark Mountain Project and Tipping Point.

This is the intention. What we are finding in practice, the two of us who are running this entire construction, is that we are being moved by spirit, supported with love and practical involvement, and are being asked to Listen, Listen, Listen ! Our first steering group meeting was held in a basement in Reading, in total darkness. We drummed, played singing bowls, sang, and listened. This set the intention for our journey.

We have our ear to the ground, and the very clear message we received this last week was that the core of our journey lies with polarity, ‘mental health’, exploring the terrible consequences of misbalancing/mislaying the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. The signs are clear that the demasculation, the alienation of men (in particular ?) needs to be healed and addressed. Suicide, sadly, has been a recurring theme in the past three weeks, with two personal instances affecting our steering committee (not themselves involved), and the issue being ‘inadvertently’ raised again and again.

This festival is such a leap of faith. Your prayers and support, words of encouragement, attendance at events even, will be a part of the spiritual feathering that allows it to become a holding nest of healing. If you want to be updated, I’ll keep adding blogposts here, and can be contacted on: jennifer@outrideranthems.com

Jennifer Leach  11/12/16

The WEB BUS: book a trip to the future you’d chose

Another “ONE  DAY” Story, for that’s how the ‘out’ drops from the ‘blue’,  seemingly.

So, an Autumn day like today saw my small Renault rattle along to nearby Crowthorne . Oak trees to the right and oak trees to the left. Clonk, cracking acorns hitting the roof. 

“BUY A BUS!” The Sky-blue voice spoke very loud and clearly.

I rattled on.

Buy a bus to convert into a MOBILE DEVELOPMENT EDUCATION CENTRE.

So eighteen months later.. WE DID! We bought a ex London Transport Route-master from a London depot. I recall sitting on my own on a grey, misty morning... looking in my mirror back down the road from London. Cold. A nothing of a day..dreary! Then far back.. A RED BUS . Tears come to my eyes, recalling the moment. It was HERE! All those months of meetings, fund-raising. Laying my head on my hands on my desk in exhaustion , after yet another lengthy conversation, 'selling' the idea to a reluctant funder. READ MORE +

All such moments of inspiration, moments of hugely heightened energy, final birth from a long gestation…such moments have tunnelled their tap root down into damp earth whilst the opening shoot shoves upwards. That’s what all those meetings of a few, the hours spent getting adequate consensus about direction and action, being inspired by what we read, who we meet, news of other people’s doings….that was the tilling and the fertilising of the ground for the seed.

‘We’ started off as a World Development Movement (WDM) group. Got a small grant from the new Labour Government’s Development Education Fund within the Ministry for Overseas Development. The strategic rationale for the DE fund being that if the electorate understood the ‘development’ needs alongside the ‘political’ causes of poverty, the Government budget for Overseas Development would have electoral support in general.

So…..Had the bus idea. £1,200 to buy.  £4,000 to convert.  Raised money during a summer by a brill. leaflet asking givers to buy bits of the bus. I think it was 60 quid a wheel.

We then entered the tough, highly competitive arena of THE FUNDERS : of UK NGO, EUROPEAN COMMISSION ( DG8 of the Commission)  and that vast new edifice THE MANPOWER SERVICES COMMISSION ( MSC).   DG8 would consider 50% co- funding Dev. Ed.  projects with home money, 50% of which could be costed voluntary input.  Off I went to Brussels for the first  of many years’ visits.

Finally, we stacked-up adequate money to employ 30 mostly young, unemployed women and men.. 30 people per year, for a three year project.

WE CREATED WORK FOR 99 people during the three years. With two exceptions they all entered work or study, at the end of their year with WEB: WORLD EDUCATION BERKSHIRE.

That said, MAINTAINING funding is the never- ending task for others. A significant resource allocation issue. Which brings us back to the eternal ‘development education question’ – who gets what, where, when, how and why?

HIGHLIGHTS THROUGH VARIOUSLY COLOURED FILTERS –

  • From scratch: in 1987 the budget was £35,480.
  • Red Routemaster sprayed green by Windsor Buses. The ‘legend’ designed by Reading University Art Department students painted by six of our new team. On top of the high tower-scaffold in Windsor Bus Depot, singing away.. we  painted in bright pink ‘WEB : WORLD EDUCATION BERKSHIRE : BOOK A TRIP TO THE FUTURE YOU’D CHOOSE’
  • Converting a working bus into a mobile classroom ; electrics, Calor Gas fittings , bench seats out  tables and chairs assembled , by Berkshire Youth Action & our son Richard.
  • WEB worked in 62 schools from 1984 -1987, varying from single visits to a year long programme with 400 Secondary students.
  • Our Spanish driver Louise took the bus to London; a big Anti- Poverty Action Rally organised by the major development NGOs . She swung us round Parliament Square.  Halted outside Westminster Abbey. Shouts of delight from supporters. Amazed to see us…. and we were pretty stunned too, that we hadn’t broken down on the motorway !!!
  • Two great songs written by our First year Guitar players. ‘WAKEUP and take part’.
  • Innovative teaching programmes e.g. Seven Sixth-form conferences on Conflict Resolution; a Black Studies project researched by the Black Caucus; Racism approached by studying Auschwitz; Womens’ work and roles.
  • Interactive teaching methods : questioning constructs of reality, sources of stereotyping, purposes of image-makers.
  • We aimed to enrol two colleagues each year, who were ‘unemployable’ in market-place terminology. One participant, a brilliant self-taught guitarist, said ”Anne, this is a chance for me. If I don’t make it here, I’ll never make it”. At the year’s end he left, still not able to find suitable employment. We learnt hard lessons. Within a small-scale voluntary organisation, compassion and an aim to access equal opportunities for entering the Job-Market, was but a starting point. The MSC scheme had inadequate resources for sustained training. Tokenism in WEB’s thinking . Tokenism in a national scheme for the ‘unemployable’.
  • Multi- ethnic teams learned, quarrelled, and mostly began to respect differences because we listened to one another. Their single year opportunity over, nearly everyone said ‘I LEARNED.. A LOT’.
  • Whilst the external work was important, the greatest learning for all of us was in group discussions .. called arguments ! Learning as individuals and for developing work – practice consonant with ideals expressed in Development Education rhetoric, was often painfully hammered together in the many hours of group discussions; PRINCIPLES about coherence between intentions and practice.

This innocent, seriously well-intentioned project, fronted by a white middle class financially comfortable woman….amazingly gave women & men a SPACE TO EXPLORE the stoked – down injustices of their life experience.

Women & men began to explore their potential, their identity. ( ‘I and I must survive’). AKALA talks in 2016 of Speak Truth to Power. Gradually members of the Bus Team began openly, to use that language. They practiced it. Through their access to schools and the curriculum, their ‘in-house’ developed teaching materials and open discussion methods, there emerged an unique resource for teachers, willing to take risks.

Teachers loved the visits, children and teenagers loved them even more. For the professionals..at least a dozen assistants. For the young people, new approaches, bus outside the classroom walls, young ‘teachers’ from not the usual backgrounds AND you could make the bus wobble.. a BIT.

From an ACORN of an INSPIRATION, through a risky process, a group of strangers, unemployed, aware, articulate……in a short time made a MARVEL of a thing.

Detailed Project Analysis available ..theimaginationacts@gmail.com

Anne Yarwood  27 November 2016 Bus - full view and people in front

Bus - green bus

Cosy Fire and Armchairs, In the Magistrates Retiring Room

One day my boss called me into his room in the somewhat decrepit terrapin hut , former Library, now “Social Services”. It was 1968. We were in transit from the hut  to new offices. The task, to get cracking to put into working practice the Seebohm Report.

Under the Labour Secretary of State Richard Crossman, the call was for generic teams in unified Health & Social Services departments; a coordinating organisation in a generously funded Welfare State. I didn't realise the depth & complexity of the changes; first Community Worker appointed in the County, fresh from a Masters in Social Policy under the rigour of the late Professor Maurice Kogan's teaching, I jumped at opportunities for shiny fresh ``projects``. Always knew that anything is possible! And my ``brief`` was `` preventive`` action. READ MORE +

So the Director took me to see the old Magistrates Court in Ascot. This was a building and a half! Built at the outer side of a large square , brick floored court yard , stables for horses formerly used at the Race meetings, the Police Station completed the rectangle.

“See any use for this?” Jim asked. “It’s offered to the Department, rent free . Short term. It’ll all be demolished”

” Marvellous” said keen Comm. Worker !

Contacted friends. Started in the huge Courtroom. Tony with office cleaning business.  Industrial cleaning machines scrubbed the wooden floor. On the RHS brick walls we painted a mega DRAGON, red, white and blue. End wall, equally huge numbers .. more patriotic colouring! Cleaned the best play things in the WORLD.. the Magistrates’  bench and the large wooden Witness Box.  Onwards next door to the Magistrates Retiring Room. Coal fire, loadsa cushiony arm chairs .. the best from Rejects Ltd., carpet on the floor. Cushions. Small tables.

Nearly done and Social Workers getting together the lists of children and Mums, able to come.  I put cards in local shops for volunteer drivers.. petrol costs covered by the department. Encouraging responses from kindly Ascot,  including a famous TV actress. ( I recall her struggling up the  steps to the Play Centre, one small child under each arm .. pretty damp at both ends )  BIG BUT appeared to halt us. Kitchen and toilets still not ‘sorted’ by the prestigious neighbours across the road !! I recall writing a poem in red pen on a strip of Silver Birch bark. Left it on the Clerk to the Course’s desk. About “Autumn cometh .. where lies The Authority with our kitchen?” Next day, very large figure of the military marched at me. “Taking the mickey, Mrs Yarwood.. out of The Authority ?”  Boomed.  Comm. Wkr. explained. Next week, work completed.

So we were all ready with a team of local volunteers to welcome the children and some of their mothers. The children and, even more so in the holidays their elder siblings, ADORED  the Court room. Seated at the Bench doling out Sentences . Good game, good game !!!!

Two further delights: local publican gave the Mums use of the hut in the pub garden , for Jumble Sales.. followed by curry and chips. In charge were the Mums. Long remembered time of ‘power’.  And Mabel, our next door neighbours’, the Police , Cleaning Lady. Renowned in Ascot for the gold- painted bicycle and “MAB ONE” plate provided by the Officers.

The Opening was by the greatly loved Clerk to the Course , the late Hon.Nicholas Beaumont. Flowers from us. Kind words from himself. Appreciation for the generous Volunteer Supervisor, Margaret B.

Last words: A research project  by Brunel Uni. set the project within an analysis of Child Care provision. Also, the project featured, top of Agenda at the County SSD Cttee… large amount of dosh used for petrol costs !!  OK, a cost AND hugely effective for the children and their Mums who never forgot the experience of being very SPECIAL, listened  to during the to-and-from journeys, and Ascot women who actually MET and KNEW people from Bracknell.

Cf “Community Care” article 2005 ” Knock it down and start again”

 Young Bob

And so into our school came young Bob. A tiny thing, but as slippery as an eel and with 5 brothers at home, he was most practiced in the art of kicking and punching. With no previous schooling, no words and Downs diagnosed, we all knew Bob was in the building.

Velcroed to a huge, gentle male Learning Support Assistant for everyone’s safety, it reminded us of Mowgli and Baloo floating off down the river singing about those bear necessities! As the days went by, were we making any difference ; was Bob slowly becoming institutionalised ? READ MORE +

Nope, and now he has discovered the power of spitting!

And then by magic, Bob discovered football! The bigger boys didn’t mind this little dot being part of their game. He was almost like a mascot. He didn’t really know which way to play or who was on which team, or which goal to shoot into – he just followed that ball. Even the kicking and punching and spitting didn’t matter. All footballers do that – don’t they !

So how about Bob representing the school in the up and coming tournament we thought ? Never put on a team kit before and what would the opponents make of this whirling dervish ! It didn’t matter that his Number 7 shirt touched the ground, or that his socks went up to his waist. It was Bob’s first ever football game for the school.

The game started, with all the school there to observe this experiment. Bob pretty much followed the ball as before and generally clattered the astounded opposition out of the way like a beserk bowling ball. And then it happened. Bob wasn’t looking, he was even running in the wrong direction, but the ball came in from the right and as Bob’s leg came forward it accidently met the ball on the half volley and screamed into the net !

A brief silence then cheers erupted all around: One game, one goal – better than Mesi.

Contributed by the Head of a Special School

 Chats to Unwrap the world of the Gups: the Boy and the Rabbit

Chat Number One: ‘Moad Raps’

A friend was wearied by an excruciatingly convoluted process seeking UK funding for a Green Energy project. To bring him a laugh, I wrote three Boy & Rabbit stories.

Starting off, they were about soul-destroying bureaucracy in the face of urgency. Later I realised that the Stories are about NOT BEING HEARD...our inner child, unheard by self...our experiences of the gummed-up ears of many adults, to our childhood & adolescent splutters. READ MORE +

On many a sunny day,the boy raced up the hill behind the house looking out for the Rabbit.

From out of the Briar Patch at the very same moment, would hop the Rabbit.

Together the two would hunker down. Turn faces to the sun. Chew on a lush bit of grass. Sniff the wild thyme… Chat.

Always, what they were on about was the Gups and the total Mystery of their Sayings’n Doings !!!!!

The boy had had to LIVE with Grownups every single day of his seven years. Whilst when a Gup was sighted, Rabbit just dashed for the Briar Patch of his amazingly free life.

Today the Boy started off with his usual..” Phew! They didn’t half go on..all while I ate my Sugar Puffs. Dad did his Big Sighs..”

“Miriam, I really can’t stand It. The Pressure! Perform, perform is all we hear in the Department.. No more gentlemanly, old colonial clubbery..now it’s all change. ..PM’s latest wheeze. ..Our new Minister …fortune made in Sausages..we’re on a three-line whip to produce the very latest Road Map on Future Energy Policy…by next Friday!! Big speech in the House. I can’t go on Miriam.”

“What’s a Moad Wap.” Mushtered Brer Rabbit….nibbling Wild Thyme and not really listening. “And what’s this whip stuff? Are we into fox hunting? Now that’s more  like it…”

“Road.. Not Moad, I think.” yawned the Boy. “That’s a Road.. That awful chuggy, rattle, don’t-go-near-it place, down there. ..down the hill.”

“Oh,”said Rabbit..”What’s them to do with your Dad?”

“He’s got to make a Map of them…Another map, he sez..This is the 7th. in this Government. He wouldn’t stop the moaning..and Mum patting his hand and there-thereing…on and on…”

“Would you call this darlin’ wiggly track, a road?”asked Rabbit-of-the-Irish-Ancestry.  “‘Cos, for sure I swear by St.Flopsy of County Limerickisaveryfunnypoemcreatedbyrabbits …that I’ll NOT lollop for that ‘the Making-of-a map of it”, said one-steaming rabbit.

“No,no,no, my fluffsome matie ” said terrifically stoic Boy.

“We’re travelling along the Freedom Path. A wiggly path ..don’t have any part at all in the world that the Gups have created for themselves. Their one’s got a mega enominous sign aloft with dazzling lights and flashing signs” … “Let the World and all its Democratically Disingenuous Voters believe that Something Is Being Done”

” That’s more than s’nuff of talk..Chase yer down it!” They both yelled …off and away down the track.

And elsewhere! as Miriam wished she could spew…”Have another slice of Class One on Toast, Herbert … Dear? No need to Go On, for MY Sake”….

 

 

Hosted Spaces

”What defines a hosted space is not just the presence of a host and a space but the relationship between the two. The ‘person’ is not simply occupying the ‘place’ like a caretaker, staying on in the premises until it’s time to lockup….but inhabiting it expressively , responding to it and ordering its ways that reflect something of themselves & their intentions. A hosted space is created mindfully & to enter it, is to enter a mind”

Geoffrey Court, Founder Director The Circle Works. East London

HOSTED SPACES - FINDING THE WORDS TO ASK THE QUESTIONS, THEMSELVES SCARCELY FORMED. During the past 22 years, scores of visitors have seen each other as TEACHERS & LEARNERS at Constables; (our house, significantly built in the explorative days of the late 1800s). We have taken inspiration from THE CIRCLE WORKS a project located in East London, led by Geoffrey Court, Jeannette Weaver, Heather Goodman for the past 30 years. TCW, a modest sized, deeply power-filled sanctuary for individuals & groups working in the community, to COME AND BE AND SPEAK. Indeed one of the highest compliments about us here at Constables is `` I can say things here that I couldn't say, anywhere else``. READ MORE +

Looking back, I can’t say who brought the suggestion nor how the inspiration came about, to make a homely meeting place within a home.   ‘Just’ SYNCHRONICITY?

As now, I’d come to the end of one phase of my life. Been working hard, mostly organising in Community Social Services and with Development NGOs . Exhausted. Retreated to home with no specific job to do. Then women and men floated by…

“Hear you have a room suitable for massage classes ?”( Jan Trewartha)

Or ” Have you heard of the Quiet Garden Trust? You’d like them; about being silent in a beautiful place” (the now Bishop, Oliver Simon)

And ” I heard about you at a national meeting of GreenSpirit. I’m the Treasurer” ( the late, Gordon Dunkerley)

And more… ” Do you think there’s enough space for Yoga if we all squashed up?”( Sardine Yoga was born)

COMING and BEING and SPEAKING gradually accrued through countless small group discussions and activities around :-

* Questioning  the effects of current global economic practice on us all

* Questioning the sources of  ill- health

* Questioning an inability to understand oneself, leading to anguishing constraints on openness in relationships

* Questioning the causes of conflict at all levels of human existence and the promotion of War

* Questioning ” Power” in all its manifestations, alongside the gross inequity of resource distribution, locally & globally.

* Bewailing environmental degradation

* Yearning for non-doctrinal spiritual wisdom

* Being inspired by the creative impulses of the Imagination

I’ve often met a face- turned – away  from this “systemic” analysis of our human condition.

” You’re just too much” … ” What’s THIS  got to do with THAT?”

And equally….. gradually, chat by chat, Ideas get clearer and so can be put into words . Words come easier to mind. Confidence builds TO SPEAK UP & SPEAK OUT

Currently one of the groups which meets here, Ascot Quiet Garden, is reflecting on a concept in esoteric teaching termed ‘a crisis of spatial extension’. In this tradition,the ‘crisis’ is seen as a transformation in the way time and space are registered in the unconscious as a result of increased ‘spiritual’ influences. The sense is that although the disturbance is hard to bear, humanity is passing through a testing time of transition towards a new era. While energies are impacting upon human consciousness from a multitude of sources as we move into the Aquarians age, they are still only dimly perceived and initially causing feelings of unease and disorientation, nay despair.

This small group are not scholars of Esoteric wisdom, but from experience of an exploratory way of working, we shall shovel around our experiences, understanding, mystification, application and be enhanced by the sharing.

The essence of Hosted Spaces is being Teachers & Learners.

So I’d say that a Trust has developed over the years in the process of collective insight into imponderables: the MOOCHING AROUND SCHOOL FOR WISDOM.

HOSTED SPACES PROGRAMME 2016

MONTHLY meets: approx. two hours duration. Free / donation to local charities.

First Monday        7. 30 pm. Meditation with Alex

Third Wednesday  7.15 pm. Creative Writing with Trisha

Last Tuesday        10.15 am   Eco. Meditation  Maureen,Viv,Mike, Anne

Last Friday           10.30 am. Quiet Garden retreat . Ascot group

Last Sunday          5.00 pm Play Reading with Trisha & group

QUARTERLY       7.30 pm. Monitoring COP 21/22  All Saints Ascot Heath Environment group.   Brian, Darrell, Mike, Anne

For more details on Hosted Spaces – please phone 01344 621167

Further info.about ‘spatial extension’, see ‘From Intellect to Intuition’:  World Goodwill Seminar. London 29 October & online.

Email : worldgoodwill.uk@ lucistrust.org

 

 

 

 

Tippling Robins and Access to Life

Two imaginative actions came to mind today; their focus was opening life out, a BIT, for wheelchair users.

First imaginative act to mention: purchase and locating a large holiday caravan for wheelchair users. READ MORE +

The idea of Ascot area MS Society.. Peggy Plaskett  and others in the ’70s. I was their Voluntary Visitor. One new friend Jean, a beautiful young woman that I visited, ventured to go-caravan  with me. The Van stood, isolated seemingly in the midst of fenland near Chichester. Second night found it rocked by powerful gusts from the incoming storm. I was a bit alarmed. Jean was terrified. ” It’s going to overturn!”  It didn’t, but we scurried home smartly next day. What comes to mind around this typically imaginative action by people of good will, is ” what disabled, struggling people need is money to pay to go to paradise, for a few days.. not to the fens of this world! ”

A second engagement with another MS hero Bill Carey, was to make happen his dream of creating a small workshop for wheelchair users. This a part of his dashing, two- fingers up approach to life. He of the Tippling Robins ; three wheel Reliants which Stirling Moss reported unsafe to drive! (Bill overturned his vehicle, time without number!)  We secured a sizeable room in Cooper’s Hill Youth Centre, Bracknell and Bill found  a Zerox printer. Mucky business to use !! In addition we did a bit of enamelling.. Necklaces and stuff.

After a while, Bracknell Social Development office gave us use of a small derelict house; due for demolition. It was an island in the midst of a main road junction, going out of the town. Pretty impossible access for Users .. But OURS!

Just a few attended, mostly men. For Bill it was a triumph. He went on tippling from his Robin as he pelted  to Bracknell, down back lanes from Twyford. Never, seemingly damaged but a hell of a worry to his very fine wife, Pat. Around this time Bracknell Social Services opened a special provision of care and occupation for Disabled residents: Downside. And down came the little house, some time later.

My heart anguish for those of us denied access to life through physical damage, is rooted in my childhood experience with my heroic parents. More about that in another story.

But one last bit… One day my not – large -‘n- strong Mummy, was shoving my Father’s wheelchair along an uneven pavement trying to get somewhere or other. ” Stop Lil! Stop! There’s something shiny on the road.” She stopped. Picked up a shiny little brooch: Courage  Brewery badge. It read ” TAKE COURAGE”. Arthur Davies my Father, wore the ‘shiny thing’, in his lapel, ever after.

For more information on Multiple Sclerosis Society UK –  www.mssociety.org.uk

Wildlife in Ascot

Badgers were the start of it !

Badgers, known to have been resident on the north west side of Ascot Racecourse for over a hundred years. Hal Henshaw, one time Stage Designer at the Theatre Royal Windsor would tell of Badgers rolling around the sloping lawns of Cissbury: one of the few remaining Victorian houses which holds tales of care for Free French soldiers billeted there during WW2, of General de Gaulle's visit and much, much more ....... READ MORE +

About 10 years ago ‘the Developers’ had their eye on potential building sites on land standing farther back from the Race Course. A sandy rise, with a number of badger sets, was particularly vulnerable.

Two families began to challenge the effect of several house builds upon the Badger population. A number of concerned neighbours accompanied them to Planning Meetings… to no avail.

Alarmed and ignited by these actions and conversations, three women met and determined to set-up a new community group; its brief to include Badgers and beyond, to demonstrate a passion for our local habitat, flora & fauna.

‘Wildlife in Ascot’ covered it all !

Indeed the nascent group echoed a growing public concern about the pace of seemingly unrestricted development, in the area. Large houses built in the grounds of smaller, demolished homes. Trees felled. Green spaces under threat. Scant success of Planning Application appeals against the Developers.

This grumbling mood, coalesced in one of the first public consultation processes and ultimate Neighbourhood Plan, in the South East.

WinA played a significant role at the very last stages of the Plan, by pressing for the inclusion of Green Corridors. Further, lead members of the group were central to the mapping of Green Corridors for the report.

At the same time as these actions, another supporter of WinA began a spirited confrontation with Developers about unlawful tree demolition and a planning proposal for a grotesquely sized mansion house ( see “Granny Kettle Wood” www.ascentascot.org).

If you look on the Wildlife in Ascot website, you’ll see a programme of talks and activities which a small group organises for some 20 or so supporters & the general public: 200 on the email list. Talks and walks which are well supported; active conservation less so. The aim is to preserve and enhance biodiversity locally, through education & working together: an aim strongly supported from the start by BBOWT (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust). Other working relations are being developed with Silwood Park, the local Parish Councils, The Neighbourhood Plan Delivery Group, Rangers in Bracknell Forest, Biodiversity Officers in Bracknell & Windsor Maidenhead District Councils and the Highway Department. Included in this support and encouragement, are a number of local experts.

Hearteningly, WinA is taken as a model for like- minded others. Next month Wild Maidenhead is launched.

For sure, a flag has been raised in an oak tree rich, people pretty rich area, reminding us of diminishing bird species and not so many squashed hedgehogs on the increasingly congested roads. For those of us who’ve lived for many years in Ascot, the Badgers symbolise past times. Quieter times. Maybe, more rolling around on hand-mown lawns times…..

To find out more – www.wildlifeinascot.org

Written by Anne Yarwood with help from Catharine Paige & Anne Ayres.

The photos below show some activities which WinA encourages :- wild flower planting, identifying wildlife fauna and flora, pond-dipping and monitoring endangered species.

Jennifer Leach – Outrider Anthems

Tales from Beyond the Pale

Jennifer Leach is the author of the play ‘Take Two’: a poetic portrayal of the human agonies of Palestine, commissioned by Ascent in 2015. ‘Finding’ her was a crucial part of the inspirational community, collaborative effort to create this performance: there’s an attraction in risky business.

Jennifer's story - A friend of mine explained to me how wild animals tend to meander rather than walk in straight lines – this to gain a wider view, a more extensive map of the terrain. So is it with artists.. READ MORE +

My own creative and ‘career’ journey has meandered dramatically, a fact that worried and upset me hugely for years, and engendered many a deep ‘woe is me, futile being’ session. Over the past few years, however, I have come to sing the blessings of my path daily, and can see now how necessary it was to wander in the wilderness, in order to bring my gifts into full service. Like a desert gopher, I’ve been tunnelling for a long time, and no one is really more surprised than I to discover where I’ve surfaced. Far, far from the conventional world caravanserai. I feel right in the heart of mystery; deep listening feeding imagination, spiritual practice leading creative expression. I do not question any more the efficacy of what I do – that is the Universe’s business, not my own.

So, what do I do? In 2011 I set up my company, Outrider Anthems, and the name probably chose itself. Outriders – the pioneers, the artists, creatives, seekers, who travel to the boundaries, who venture beyond the pale. They who seek the visions, the lay out of the land, and who then (crucially) report back. The visions – the Anthems – they bring back must be shared with and understood by the community, and sung together in all their variety.

Outrider Anthems’ work is largely cross-disciplinary theatre; the scripts defy plot and linearity, weaving otherworld magic through poetry, film, dance, movement, music, sound. Where Then Shall We Start? (2014) was a powerful choral work of theatre, performed in the Queen’s House, Greenwich; through fairytale, and the loose biographies of Wilfred Owen and Käthe Kollwitz, it walked over battlefields, rattling the destructive, senseless bones of war. Take Two (2015) was commissioned by Ascent, to focus on the human agonies of Palestine. Its poetry allowed the pain and injustice to find expression, cutting deep without violating the spirit. Earlier this year, Song of Crow had its debut in Reading. This piece was the most markedly ‘postdramatic’ to date, a jargonesque term that signifies flying in beneath the radar, shifting consciousness well below the understanding of the mind.

Shifting consciousness is the key to all of Outrider Anthems’ work, and it is in this that I find myself living in deep trust. Given remarkable allies, my trusty Shamanic drum, and the beautiful seeds of inspiration, there is great joy in working with other practitioners to create works for the Cosmic Dance. Works of passion and prayer.

This coming midwinter solstice, 21 December 2016, sees the launch of The Festival of Dark in Reading, a yearlong exploration of darkness – vessel of beauty, vessel of fear. Until we visit the darkness, and find ourselves comfortable with all it has to offer, and all it takes away, we will never succeed in changing our destructive, alien relationship with our environment. We must embrace the dark side of Love.

Our first steering group meeting took place in pitch darkness, in the basement of a Reading shopstore; we drummed, sang, made music with songbowls, we meditated and then, in the dark, we talked. What unfolded was magical, and in this spirit we move ahead with total trust and, as yet, no funding, into the year ahead.

Please keep us in your thoughts!

Story - J Leach self photo

‘PARITY’

– a Story of an evolving charity whose focus includes identifying and addressing inequalities against men & boys.

David Yarwood worked with Consulting Engineers, Binnie & Partners for 40 years . He specialised in the supply of potable water in Malaysia, Brunei, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. During his retirement he has built a volume of information on this aspect of discrimination in our society. READ MORE +

The nineteen seventies and eighties saw a succession of legislative reforms introduced in the UK and in Europe relating to sex equality, mainly aimed at improving the situation for women.  However, certain historic statutory inequalities against men were deliberately excluded from these.  Chief amongst these in the UK were, of course, unequal state pension ages (since 1941) and the ramifications of this, and the lack of any statutory benefits for widowed fathers.

When Barbara Castle was formulating the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act, it is believed that she had wanted to include in its provisions an equal state pension age of 60 for both men and women.  However, the then Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, is said to to have responded “do you want me to bankrupt the country ?” so she didn’t.

The unequal state pension ages were of course reflected in occupational and non-state pension schemes, and these in turn affected normal retirement ages for men and women.  The unequal state pension ages were also increasingly used to define the qualifying ages for widespread non-statutory concessions, such as entry fees to cinemas, swimming pools, football matches, and exhibitions.

Things began to change in the UK with a decision in 1986 by the European Court of Justice in the Marshall case.  Miss Marshall had been forced to retire from her work in a hospital when she reached the age of 60.  She argued that this was a sex discrimination since her male colleagues could continue in employment until age 65.

The Court agreed that this was indeed a discrimination and that enforced retirement ages had to be the same for men and women.

Such decision really set the issue alight, since whilst pension ages could be different for men and women, both in the state and private sectors, compulsory retirement ages now had to be the same.  Since for most people retirement is synonymous with pension, this was both perverse and certainly not fair.

Unbeknown to each other at the time, two Davids in Berkshire, David Lindsay in Whitchurch Hill and David Yarwood in Ascot, had letters criticising this new inequality published in The Times and The Guardian respectively in April 1986.  As a result, they subsequently met in London, together with three others from the Manchester area who had expressed interest.  There they agreed that they ought to try to do something about the situation and formed a group with David Lindsay as chairman. This came to be known as the Campaign for Equal State Pension Ages.  They were not advocating any particular age, only that it be equal for men and women.  The campaign was formally launched in Manchester Town Hall in August 1986.

Both Davids’ played a key role in the campaign achieving much in the next fifteen years.  As well as dealing with regular complaints of non-statutory sex discrimination, the campaign mounted four cases in the European Courts testing particular aspects of the pension age inequality and its significant impact on pension age-related benefits and the liability to national insurance contributions.

Disappointingly, the first legal action in 1991 in the same European Court of Justice was lost, this challenging the inequality in national insurance contribution liability periods for men and women for the same eventual pension (brought on our behalf by the Equal Opportunities Commission).

Subsequently, however, the campaign won three other actions in the European Courts on pension age-related benefits.  This resulted in men also, like women, qualifying at age 60 for free medical prescriptions, bus passes, and winter fuel payments.

The campaign was also party in the early stages to a legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights over the lack in the UK of any statutory survivors benefits for widowers and their children.  The Court agreed that this was a breach of the Convention, and survivors benefits were eventually extended to widowers in the UK in 2001.

The name was changed to PARITY in the late 1990s and PARITY was granted  charitable status in January 2005.  In its heyday, it had over one thousand members.

Its present focus is now largely on sex inequalities arising from policies and priorities rather than statutory inequalities, although some of these remain, eg. child benefit follows the mother and there is no mechanism to apportion the benefit when separated parents both have parental care.

David Lindsay died in 2012 and David Yarwood remains an Officer until the present.

TONY DOUET: an Elder’s Memoir

An Elder’s Story offering a pin-hole into a peep-show of life in the 1930’s, during and after WW2

Tony's Story was written as a part of the ASCENT Network's first Environmental Festival 2014 in Ascot. It honours both Tony and his wife Sue Douet : Tony for his fortitude and Sue for the love and optimism she exudes. READ MORE +

The idea of listening to Tony Douet’s story began because at age 97, his daily living is dimmed through hearing and sight loss. In addition, three days every week… four hours of dialysis. The world of his outer life is shrinking… not his inner life, not the life of his experiences.

His and my aim is to capture a sense of his experiences of Resilience and Self-empowerment; the theme of an Environment Festival to be held in Ascot, Autumn 2014.

I was invited by Tony and Sue Douet to ask Tony questions about his life.

The sequence emerged like this:-

Just a few days ago he’d been heartened by a surprise sortie to London; Remembrance Day celebration.

Tony’s personal remembrance swiftly traveled to his Army days. I held him there, wanting to hear about childhood in the 1930’s, schooling, first work, and then.. the North Africa campaign.

Throughout I had in mind “resilience”.. no need to search this out.. Resilience shines through Tony’s story. Self empowerment IS its theme..

Tony started off saying “would the children be interested to hear his recollections?” “Yes, indeed “ said I, and so we began..

“A few days ago,.. it was suddenly arranged for me, my son and grandson.. three generations.. to go to the Hyde Park Corner Remembrance Ceremony. The medals were waxed. I was made very welcome. Saw the whole thing and took part in the celebration march. One of three WWII veterans” Only Tony wore the Artillery socks; that was noted by the crowd as he passed by… “I felt proud”… it all “just happened, proud of what the event represented at that time”

Recalling this significant, unplanned, cheering experience led Tony to tell me about the start of his army career. He volunteered in 1938. “A good thing to do for the country… Eight years of my life were spent in the army. September 1939, sent away for 5 years. 21 years old…. It was the right thing to do”…. Thinking of others”.

In the lovely flow of Tony’s talk, we next entered his early life. “During 1924 to ‘26 we were very very poor. We were not alone. Heavy unemployment was general. The country had not recovered from WW1”.

Father left when Tony was 8 years old. “I feel sad about it…Father not there to watch me play “..And then Tony’s prime motivator ” I  was determined never to let our children go through what my sister and I went through in our early days”.

I asked about school. He went to Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School. “VERY catholic…learnt thrashings, Latin, Greek, Catholicism. Happiest when playing rugby and cricket. When he was eight years old, the family lost a lot of money on the Stock Exchange. “At the time my father had an affair which developed to the extent that he left us to live with his other woman.  I had to leave school. Mother couldn’t pay the rent. We were put out on the street. No social services at all… Mother’s mother took us in until 1939….my mother’s sister & husband were both deaf and dumb. Their son Brian became a brother to me. I spent most of my youth with him.”

Work began for Tony at 16: apprenticed… “ I left the comfort of home. My sister Delphine never knew our father.  I didn’t cry. I had no cuddles” He worked in a Shipping Office: 15 shillings a week. “ Across the City of London, I walked all those streets on the Agents’ business.  I had to find out what to do on my own.. It taught me self-reliance and recognition of my own capacity”. He played cricket and rugby…Barnes and Ealing..                                                                                                                                            

“I felt different to other people; a little envious. They had things that we didn’t have. I felt the only man left in or family and responsible for them”

We then drifted back to Tony’s feelings ..”Mother was not demonstrative …effeminate to hug.” His inner life was hidden. Impecunity. No family life. Use to pretend father was at home. It was a bit odd. “I was determined to improve myself. Couldn’t see how it could be achieved at a time of general unemployment. I didn’t know how to get started”

“War changed my life completely. It got me a job. I liked discipline.. always an opportunity to do better”.

Tony spoke of his personal and the general determination to see Hitler out.. I noted  his awareness of antisemitism, at this point in the interview. 1930-38 in his work as a clerk with a London shipping firm, he had handled goods being landed in England from Germany. They belonged to Jewish refugees; deliberately damaged by German handlers. During 1936, stories were around about Hitler.. his war-like determination.” Germans are a war-like nation”.

Tony expressed great regret after two world wars.. but noted that as a prisoner of war the Germans were OK in their treatment of the POWs.

We then moved on to talk about Tony’s father -1938 “My father was a gunner. “He and I like big guns” Father Alphones Douet came from Normandy.. Served in the Mesopotamian Campaign in Iraq in the 1920s. ( In the circle of Tony’s recollections, Iraq is a powerful image.. Father there. Tony‘s ultimate career all about Iraq and oil). Thinking about how his career progressed Tony noted that he had  worked with the Iraqi Petroleum Company both in Iraq and UK for 31 years.. following the 8 years in the Army, in Iraq, North Africa, Egypt, Italy and Germany.

Tony then recalled the North Africa Campaign. The succession of generals.. Alexander, Ritchie, Auchinleck .. not effective until Montgomery appointed by Churchill. Tony spoke of the North Africa Campaign and the conditions for the troops. The Desert. Very few natural resources. 40 degrees… then cold nights. Given WWI equipment. Food was canned beef, dry biscuits, sweet potatoes.. not packaged food. Water came up to the batteries once a day; a quart of water per day for cleaning, tea, shaving and cleaning your guns.

In our second two hour conversation, Tony spoke of his first wife. “September 1939 we got married, two weeks after war broke out…I was away for 5 years.. I loved her and thought better a dead husband than no husband at all.. She was eighteen years old, I was 21.”

He was captured by the Germans, transported to Benghazi then shipped to Italy. There conditions were different. “We had to sleep on the floor… de-loused…two doses of Malaria. Treated in an Italian field hospital by an English doctor prisoner… I had dysentery three times which was worse than Malaria.”

As the war progressed Tony was moved from Torrento to Germany, in cattle trucks to Mulberg near Dresden.  ”8 horses or 40 men”. Written on the  side of  the truck. We went over the Alps for 2-3 days, still in desert dress.. the loo was a hole in floor”.

In the German POW camp there was food and clean clothes.

“We knew what was happening because POW aircrews, imprisoned with us, had been equipped with radio parts because  they were the most likely to be caught. These were turned into radios and secretly the Germans listened to the British news”

In April 1945 towards the end of the war. “My camp was being moved. Me and my pal dropped off the truck. Hid in bushes and got away. We were in the Biedenfeld forest on our own. Lived for two days on raw potatoes, then ran into a patrol of British soldiers who took us back to camp.

Quite suddenly we were flown home in a Dakota to Horsham. Given railway warrant. Home to my wife who was secretary to the 3rd. Sea Lord in Churchill’s team: Admiral Charles Lamb.”

1945 Six weeks leave.. one of the first to get home. Others waited for months to get repatriated and demobbed. Sent to Edinburgh for 6 months.” I was determined to make progress. ..Child on the way..  my father introduced me to the Iraq Petroleum Company.. Just about the only thing he usefully did for me!”

“There, I did well… had to wait for 31 years for success…. an office in Cavendish Square.. a Pent House suite.. a car and chauffeur.

 ……………………………………………………………………………………………….                 

This speak and listen, warmed the hearts of  us 97 and a 80 year olds !

 A shared time OUT.. which could go on for ever.. which DOES go on for ever… It concluded with a glorious image of the man.

 Here he comes! he’s in our  view … striding across Waterloo Bridge, in his bowler hat and rolled umbrella; back to Ascot, where the Station Master greeted him every day with “ Good morning, Mr.Douet”  …

 Three  times Tony widened the pin-hole into the peep-show – “The desert: something ethereal  …a grandeur of its own. Flowers and green stuff came out at night” ; “I have an ability to over-come life’s difficulties” and “I always kept my faith.”

Windsor Homeless Project

This Story was told by Staff member, Sally Wright.

It started with a guy who died on the steps of Holy Trinity church, Windsor, Patrick O’Leary . He died from lack of care. Churches Together in Windsor along with Dave Bullock a police officer said, “THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN AGAIN “.

It was the winter of 2009. Volunteers from churches together in Windsor got together to serve food. Groups of volunteers wanted to serve good, hot food Monday, Wednesday and Saturday lunch time. All the churches in Windsor supported the idea.. READ MORE +

As this work developed the instigators realised that to make a difference, they needed  to raise money for modest salaries. Thus far, a local charity funded a dish washer and later on a shower. (Always a major obstacle for small, innovative projects to be gain the salary/ running costs, requisite for development. Charities like to see what their money has bought.  Or how many nail-scratches on cars have been prevented. Very  few donors will risk funding project partners with unrestricted funds. Peace Direct – a future TIA Story – is a shining example of getting money to its partners in conflict zones,fast and untrammelled by achievement criteria)  An exception to the norm when starting-up WHP, was a local builder who funded a part time worker for a year.

During the first  three years WHP housed 8 guests of which 2 were later evicted from the Local Council property. These tenants’ medical needs were recognised as acceptable criteria for re settlement. On the other hand, the majority of the projects ” guests” did not fit into Housing Authority criteria.

The project was learning about the multi – layered, overwhelming challenges with which their guests struggled. It became painfully clear that the issues were far more complex than”homelessness”

My friend Sally Wright started to work part time alongside individual guests to support them in LIVING ; to learn how to be a tenant was huge!

One guest who was recently out of hospital following liver failure needed support with budgeting, filling-in Job Seekers Allowance and clearing his garden. He said Sally was” Seeing me through”. Sally noted that all in WHP work in a non- judgemental way. They are alongside men and women rejected by society. The majority have not had a family life.( see  ##  below) Experiences which led one man say ” Sally, you never give up on me. You are always there. You never say I’m stupid”

A new phase in this community project had been reached. They took the plunge! Employed a Manager, Murphy James in March 2016.  As a former drug addict who nearly died four years ago then is clean for four years after Rehab …  this fine musician who came to give a gig at the Project and told his story…is also a computer savvy man. He has made all the difference.

WHP is clear about what is needed next. Their Vision now is for the statutory services to take their provision seriously  and locate staff in the project’s building. e.g.the  SMART drugs user service,  CMHT Community Mental Health team. The aim is to be ” the first port of call ” so that Homeless individuals can get all the help available withinWHP. They will not have to endure being ” pushed from pillar to post”, as they experience it.

Together with the presence of Service providers on site, WHP is now attracting volunteers with specific skills ;   Volunteer counsellors trained in behavioural therapy, sexual and drug abuse, anxiety and depression conditions.  These people are primarily Murphy’s friends  offering one – to – one meetings, on a professional basis.

Such practical and therapeutic attention will  be in an established setting, where trust is being honed. Sally says- ” The Guests like it here.They feel at home. They can be themselves. They are never sent away. There  are clear boundaries .  Respect for one- another is central. Abusive language will not be tolerated, nor drugs or alcohol on premises. Smoking is outside. The police man who co -.started  it all, will come, if further firmness is required”

In the words of one Guest:-

” THIS IS A PLACE OF ACCEPTANCE WHERE WE FEEL WELCOMED”

This matter of mooching around preferred ” help”, testing for safety…is the common resistance from people whom other people aim to help !!! Us all !! It is a wibbly-wobbly thing, risking trust.

Sally says-” It’s taken me three years for these vulnerable guys to trust me; to open themselves up to trust. This is where Murphy is great. There’s a difference between imagining and being there. We are understanding now, how our values, our fine hopes, can be made real. Change is very gradual.

Central to sustain the vision is the brill.supervision I have.This is a time outside the project when I can unleash my feelings ; a place of safety. It’s where I can be clear in my own cleared mind. It ‘s where I recognise the importance of being listened to. It’s the give -and – take of the project. I FEEL the Importance of being listened to.

This is the CIrcle which is the Windsor Homeless Project.

Sally ended our chat saying ” I feel it’s using my deep seated learning of all I’ve been through . It’s edgy but rewarding. I LOVE WORKING IN COMMUNITY”

For further information on the Windsor Homeless Project –  www.windsorhomelessproject.org

Sally Wright

WHP Sally Wright

Passion for Wales 

Someone, and I guess it must have been my father, had the bold idea to acquire a bungalow on the sea front at Llanaber, BARMOUTH. The plan was to provide low- cost holidays for families of Birmingham Community Association members.

The 'boldness' was in organising the venture at far distance to Brum, at a time when few users would have owned cars (unlike my family ; very proud owners of a Ford Anglia). READ MORE +

I thought the lengthy wooden bungalow, verandah all along its front, wooden floors with scant coconut matting, iron bed- spreads … Paradise. Holiday- makers could look out to the sea just beyond the railway-line, which went on to Harlech and The Gower. Every Spring and Autumn my father braved the long drive from Kidderminster to BARMOUTH, to check with the resident Caretakers, that all was set to open- up or close-down.

( Today, I use the setting as the visualisation of ” perfect Happiness” before I open the Third Eye  to see golden healing drenching down from my brow to whatever wigglyness is troubling me!!)

What I, as an alone child with small terrier Pip, adored… as did the Brummies who came, all summer-long.. Was the buttercup meadow beside the bungalow, open the gate, turn right , stream gushing past two stone cottages, narrow lane edged with honey-suckle then blackberries, heavy gates both sides of railway line.. Up and over the Sandhills, jump down from the promenade.. hurtle  into the freezing sea. OR turn left and up the narrow lane to the mountains. Rock strewn, rising above the narrow coastal strip. Goat leaps of exuberance.

Farther round towards Barmouth, the mountain was named The Panorama Walk (all short “A’s.) From these pathways my mother and I had explored the Mawddach Estuary when we were evacuated for a year in Barmouth during 1939. And above the mountain contained water, Cader Idris. (Once, when a Manchester student, a boyfriend and I tried to race our companions down Cader by sliding down part of the scree. Bloody stoopid.. And the others got back to the bungalow at Llanaber before us !)

Recently I was bed – bound with a slipped disc. Entered my Welshness .  Looked on my iPad at Cader and the beloved Mawdach; looked at all the old stone properties we could buy and listened to Bryn Terfyl sing Land of My Fathers.

Gifted by an Imaginative possibility, the water and the mountains, WALES entered my soul.

My introduction to Sierra Leone

Statutory money seeded one group of UK citizens’ desire to create a personal, practical link with a place in Sierra Leone: 30 years of solidarity, beyond mere “goodwill”.

A significant aspect of Development Education in the ’70’s was making relationships of integrity with “Southern Partners”;that is with NGO partners in EUROPEAN COMMISSION funded DE projects. READ MORE +

Contacts were negotiated mostly in West and Southern Africa…Kenya, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and with South Africans, exiled by the Apartheid regime .

Co-Funded by the commitment of the UK Department for Development of the Foreign Office, one such project was a facilitating organisation UKOWLA : United Kingdom One World Link Association.

They held thoughtful annual conferences, bringing Project Partners to the event.

One such group was in Leamington Spa. Jane Knight .Ken Harris…their Link was with BO in Sierra Leone. It was through this sound organisation that I met Moussa Conteh, funded at that time by Christian Aid. ( together with Oxfam and the European Commission, a key funder of DE).

Moussa had completed a Development Economics degree at Reading University.

My first memory is of him coming to our house and sitting on the floor at the edge of the room. I didn’t understand.. He said something or other about ” that’s where I’m comfortable” I was uncomfortable. Thereafter I saw him occasionally. He came to our church twice. Getting up very early to reach us by about 9.30. He preached in his deep, deep voice which I don’t think all could hear. One of the times he brought a modest sized photographic exhibition of the current suffering in Sierra Leone ; frightful shots. To my shame and fury, our church congregation gave scan attention to the images.

At the time, the eleven year civil war 1991 to 2002 was in full flood.The Revolutionary United Front supported by Liberia took control of large swathes of territory in the east and south of the country which were rich in alluvial,diamonds.During this brutal war over 50,000 were dead. Boy Soldiers were snatched. Hundreds fled into the jungle. Moussa’s sister a local teacher in BO and his elderly mother were but a few of the displaced. His mother, I seem to remember was lost, never found.

On the church occasion and at another occasion, Moussa’s response was tolerant acceptance that ” that is how it is”. I wouldn’t say Moussa was a man of suppressed rage, rather that his rage maintained his motivation.

Motivation which was, to get back home.

He waited and waited. The mayhem continued .

Finally he felt it productive to return.

David and I went to his touching farewell in the Midlands.

Once back in BO he setup football teams particularly for the boy soldiers appearing back from the forest. Later he was elected an MP.

It was at this stage when I was immersed in setting up our Berkshire DE Centre ( the WEB bus which transmogrified into RISC Reading International Solidarity Centre) that my Sierra Leone links decreased.

Last memory of Moussa. I travelled with him by chance, to East Berlin; an EC funded international conference for Grassroots Development Educators and activists .

Berlin was full of Left wing world leaders for the funeral of Willy Brandt. Daniel Ortega was there. Moussa and I had struggled , with much fairly hysterical laughs, to get from Berlin Airport, by tram to East Berlin (including dropping my ticket off the platform in West Berlin)

It was a time of great hope. Tyrannies was starting to fall.Nicaragua was free of US domination.

At one glorious moment at the conference, the call went up ” Daniel Ortega is HERE “.

A phalanx of women, long black hair abounding, leapt up on the stage, calling to me and others to join. I stayed in my seat. Not my moment…and then our hero was there with them Shouting out, singing of solidarity. Joyous ,thrilling moment in my small life.

I travelled back to the UK with Moussa. 

At the departure lounge he was called aside by officials. I dashed over to offer support, Moussa in his quiet dignified manner, moved me aside” it’s alright Anne, I’m used to this”.

Moussa Conteh died in ? 2012.

I am reminded of this heart- strengthening times and this beloved friend , because the new partner in our Doctor’s Surgery is from Freetown.

For more information – http://www.oneworldlink.org.uk/