Our Journeys is an outreach project which we’re currently running out of Stockwell Community Centre. It draws on the structure of our meal performance: Only Wolves and Lions, combining the process of cooking and eating together with elements of our Personal Manifesto Workshop practice. The project invites Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to come together to cook, share stories and eat together at weekly sessions. It’s the sibling project to ‘In Flight From Home’ the aerial promenade performance (taking place at Hampstead town Hall on 23rd July 2016), which we’re creating in collaboration with WAC Arts and aerial circus companies Upswing and Scarabeus.
The themes explored in both projects are home, rituals of belonging and the struggles and repercussions of journeying and migration. When we began Our Journeys we hoped to make a performance that could be shared over a meal with invited guest audience, but we were concerned by the lack of numbers. We had a tentative collaboration with several Migrant help non-governmental organisations, but the recruitment was slow and the instability of people's lives meant that there was no guarantee of their weekly presence. We decided that the project must start without any pressure on outcome using the alchemy of cooking together to break the ice and create the magic, so we took the pressure off ourselves to create a final performance.
This meant that I could be present, because I wasn’t considering a bigger picture of how to contextualise people’s stories for an audience, how to hold and share them. I had wanted to hold a sharing for ethical reasons - to offer a space for people’s voices to be heard and to raise our empathic understanding of the migrant experiences. However some of the participants were weary of sharing their stories, as in the past they had experienced unethical processes where they had felt exposed or used to service wider agendas and this is the last thing I wanted to do.
Letting go of this need to produce released us and released the participants to meet in the present. This has been a massive learning. The stories and sharing, the cooking together and eating, this is justification in itself for the projects worth.
We now have a small robust group made up of wonderful people, bringing the richness of their culture to the room and to the table. All of the participants involved have suffered at the hands of the migration process. All of the participants deserve and desire stronger human connections within this often isolating megatropolis. All of them have stories to share and humanity to nurture. We are into the fourth week of the project and this last Monday was a magical and organic mix of the cooking process and my Personal Manifesto autobiographical workshop practice. It emerged naturally without the nervous need to produce product. It may be that we do turn the process outwards for the last meal and invite people to share the experience with us. But only if this feels right within the time scale. This is an unchartered area of work for us. It is for this reason that we need to go slow and not over stretch our ambitions. Take stock of what we have learnt from past projects and give space for what can be suggested within such a rich context.