In Memory of Andreas Michli

This post is in memory of Andreas Michli, a central fixture of my local community in North London until this week. It started as a Facebook tribute and I was asked to share it more widely. 

If you’ve come over to my place in Harringay, North London, in the last 7 years, I might have taken you to the local grocery shop to have a nosey and meet Andreas and Hulya Michli, my adopted London family. You might have marvelled at Andreas’ coiffed handlebar moustache or Hulya’s toned biceps as she lugs around massive watermelons. Andreas might have quizzed you about your family background, you might have been fascinated by the weird and wonderful collection of pictures and pottery in the shop or giggled as they shouted at various people in Turkish or Greek. Andreas probably gifted you the perfect shiny organic lemon (leaves still attached) or a caramel-soft glistening fig as you left.

Andreas died on Tuesday night. He was 80 years old and still co-running the shop until two days before, pushing crates around and counting out change with his slightly shaky hands.

Andreas was the most passionate of grocers. He would insist on choosing the best locally grown tomato, or aubergine or melon. And he’d quiz you on what you were doing with them and give you recipe ideas. At first, I was apparently crap at choosing the best ones, but then he seemed pleased that his training was working, exclaiming ‘ah yes darling, your ‘inside computer’ is now improving’. He sourced produce from local allotments or fresh from small farms in Cyprus. People travel from all over London for his and Hulya’s marinated olives, cheeses and their giant watermelons (the best on Green Lanes). He refused to modernise in any way, including accepting debit cards (much to my annoyance) and kept tally of cash tabs by sticking little notes of paper to nails on the wall behind the till.

Time Out magazine said ‘Charmingly moustachioed Mr Michli oversees proceedings at what we think must be one of the best Cypriot food stores in London.’ The shop is old skool, like one you might have found in a Cypriot village in the 1970s. They treat people like people, rather than just money-carriers.

Andreas was so much more than a grocer. His presence in a plastic chair on the corner of Woodland Parks Road and Salisbury Avenue made him a bit of a community anchor, waving at familiar faces as they passed. Kids were a favourite – Hulya and him know all the local kids by name and each would often leave with a bit of fruit in hand. I would often get told off for not having been in for a few days when cycling past…. ‘I’ll stop by later Andreas’. ‘You better do!’.

He was an artist. He painted and did all the elaborate plasterwork in their house. He used to drape bunches of grapes everywhere and stack fruit to make it pretty. He loved my multi-coloured toenails and always noticed my colourful jewellery. When dressed up for a wedding or other do, I’d often stop by, fishing for a compliment on my colour coordination.

He was a healer, gardener and a knowledge collector. He knew which herbs would help which health ailments and would tell you how to make a tea to help things from diabetes to dry skin. If you’d been travelling anywhere, he would know something about the history of that place.

He made food for us regularly and especially when our kitchen was being re-done last year. He taught me to cook Cypriot food by learning at his side as he chopped tomatoes, peeled beans, fresh artichokes or hollyhock leaves and used seriously unhealthy amounts of salt and oil. He was exacting and impatient. He sometimes let me chop something, then would immediately take back the knife and show me how to do it ‘correctly’. He was always worried about whether Hulya and his smart and gorgeous daughter Selma, had eaten enough. He particularly fussed over Selma, showing his love through cooking, chiding, reminding, complaining, showing off about her achievements, teaching her to paint beautifully.

He loved it when I brought him new dishes to taste or made him rotli (chapattis), something which I wish to heaven I’d done more often. I told him off for eating sweets, which raised his blood sugar, and he ignored me. On just one occasion he let me massage olive oil onto his dry papery hands.

He loved the little posies of flowers I took from the garden (going straight upstairs to put them in a little glass of water and offer them to Saint Mary). I took the last one for him today, I guess. Including some borage which has just come up for the first time this year – he told me we were very lucky to have borage growing as drinking its tea gives courage. He told stories of roaming the fields, hillsides and caves in Cyprus as a boy, eating whatever wild food he came across and being free. He was increasingly a grumpy sod in the last few years, getting irritable with everyone who came in the shop (‘bloody idiots!’….). But he always had gentle and affirming words for me. He was the closest thing I ever had to a granddad, I guess. I’m so glad Hulya and Selma are here, cos they reflect his big heart and spirit ongoing and I adore them and their hugs. And we all know Harringay won’t be the same without Andreas 

If you had met Andreas and want to send a message to Hulya and Selma (and Andreas’ older daughters Marina and Anita), please message me and I’ll compile for them, I know they’d love to hear your memories. Here are some pics.

 

Andreas Michli outside the shop (Michli and sons) on a winter evening
Andreas Michli – self portrait
A piece of art Andreas did at home
Posie of flowers for Andreas (you can just see a hint of the borage blue)

An anonymous tribute on the shop front door

We are the Lions, Mr Manager!

May 1st isn’t only about celebrating spring and fertility by dancing with ribbons around a pole. It’s International Workers Day, or Labour Day, in some countries. Today people all over the world are commemorating the achievements of union-based movements and protesting for better workers rights.

I managed to catch a story-telling recently of one of the most iconic trade union struggles in UK history. “We Are The Lions, Mr Manager” is a theatre production telling the story of Jayaben Desai, a leading trade union activist who worked at the Grunwick photo-processing factory in North West London. Grunwick management hired many Asian women as factory-workers, who suffered unfair wages and exploitative working conditions. Jayaben organised the women to form a union and fight for change. She is known for her famous words, spoken to her bullying manager in 1976:

“What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. In a zoo, there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr Manager.”

Jayaben died in 2010, aged 77 (more about her story is here). The play tells the story of the fight for workers rights at Grunwick, as well as telling the story of her move from India to Tanzania to the UK and how she was inspired by the struggle for Indian Independence.

Medhavi Patel as Jayaben Desai

Seeing a Gujarati woman onstage, in a sari with a Gujarati style chedo (the pleated sari fold coming down the front) was a big thing itself for me, as a Gujarati woman. The last time this had happened was when watching special Gujarati comedy plays, mostly with soap-opera plot-lines, with my parents as a child. Yet here was a Gujarati woman playing Jayaben Desai, a shining light in the history of powerful movement builders. Her story had been an inspiration to me in my work for years. Seeing her come to life on stage with powerful speeches, tender stories and rousing songs, and a bhajan…..she brought together different parts of me – Gujarati, woman, singer, activist, story-teller, organiser.

Her story particularly touches three areas of enquiry which are alive in me and which I support clients to grapple with in today’s movements for change in the UK and internationally.

 

Courage

Jayaben is famously known to say ‘A person like me, I am never scared of anybody”. The play shows just how often she dug into a reserve of fire and fearlessness and how in doing so, inspired others. She crossed barriers of organizational hierarchy, racism and gender (when facing the factory management and dealing with the husbands of her colleagues) to try and stop what she felt was a gross injustice. Her unwavering drive to align her actions with her values, together with her genius way with words, inspired so many others at Grunwick and in the wider Trade Union movement nationally to stand alongside her.

She recites a Gujarati poem in the play: ‘Lado, lado ane lado. Dhiraj dhaari ne lado. Himath rakhi ne lado’. ‘Fight, fight and keep fighting. Fight with a deep patience. Fight with strength’.

What does courage look like in our movements for change today? Do we have different ideas of what courage is? Who or what inspires us? What does courage look like in me, today and every day? 

Audience participation with Jayaben leading us in chants

 

Solidarity

A key part of the Grunwick story is the solidarity offered to the strikers by workers in other sectors; most notably postal workers, who could block mail and hamper business for the factory which worked by mail-order. They did this until legal orders were served against them.

Some more conservative parts of the Trade Union movement did not support Grunwick, but many thousands of workers did. They did because they wanted to achieve better working conditions at Grunwick for the workers there and also because they saw the strategic significance of this fight for the wider collective bargaining movement. We saw another story of high-profile cross-movement solidarity, between miners and LGBT rights groups, in the film Pride.

What does solidarity look like between different groups and movements today? How can we offer solidarity and seek it when needed? How do we respect the leadership of those worst most affected by the issue at hand? How do we build trust?

 

 

Risk, sacrifice and generosity

Jayaben lost her job due to her organising role. She spent nearly two years struggling for workers’ rights at Grunwick, much of which was spent on the picket line outside the factory, whatever the weather. She sacrificed a lot personally due to hope for change and many others did around her too. Today change-making has been increasingly professionalised in high-paying union, charity and NGO jobs. Many folks making the loudest noise about social justice are paid handsome salaries and enjoy very comfortable lives.

What would we be willing to give up to help bring about transformation? How attached are we to security and comfort? Are we prepared to share power and resources with those who are more marginalised?

 

Some conditions improved in the factory as a result of the struggle, but Jayaben didn’t see the widespread change she dreamt of. Trade Union membership in the UK declined since a peak in 1979 (though they are rising again more recently) and collective bargaining rights were systematically weakened in the 1980s onwards. You can read more here.

The Grunwick strikers had tens of thousands of workers striking and marching in solidarity with them. Jayaben said ‘”We have shown that workers like us, new to these shores, will never accept being treated without dignity or respect. We have shown that white workers will support us.” A beautiful thought, given the hostile environment that migrants in the UK continue to face.

‘We are the Lions Mr Manager’ has a few more shows left in the current tour around the UK and there are some highlights here.

 

The mural commemorating Jayaben Desai and Grunwick strikers outside Dollis Green station in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

Facilitating in a supportive way for trauma and self-care

Last week I led a Self-Care-Through-Singing workshop for the staff and volunteers at Women and Girls Network, who are celebrating their 30th birthday this year. That’s three decades of ‘counselling, advocacy and advice for women and girls who have experienced gendered violence, including sexual and domestic violence’. I looked around at the group of women, young and older, of all different skin tones and fashion styles, all contributing in some way to supporting and empowering other women. I felt happy to be there helping them celebrate. We stretched together, breathed together, laughed together and sang with beautiful heart-lifting voices. As I gave gentle reminders to bring non-judgemental attention to the body, breath and voice, it was a special reminder for me of just how much learning about trauma and self-care has shaped my practice as community empowerment specialist.

I began reading about the impact of trauma and ways to support self-care and healing a few years ago. Black Feminist writers (especially Alice Walker and bell hooks) and Buddhist teachings have particularly helped to develop my understanding in broader political and spiritual contexts. Training from Women and Girls Network helped me feel more confident about applying the theory in practical ways in my singing workshops and other workshops I facilitate. The workshops I offer are not offered as substitute for counselling and other services offered by organisations like Women and Girls Network. I hope to support these services by building positive group connection to promote self-care / community care, creativity and a sense of fun and achievement in a community setting.

Being trained in community development values and methods, I always aim to create a safe and inclusive space, supporting everyone present in any kind of workshop to be able to be there whole-heartedly. Being in a big group workshop (singing or more ‘worky’ workshops) can be a healing and liberating experience. It can also be a really uncomfortable experience for some people. If you’ve experienced trauma, you may feel a heightened sense of danger in a group. For me, building safety has always meant paying particular attention to what helps those who feel in the margin of any group to feel safe. The learning about trauma underlined this and I continue to invest time at the beginning of workshops inviting people to introduce themselves in small groups and share with others in ways which invite step-by-step connection and relaxation with each other. When the margin of a group feels safe to really be itself, it’s fairly certain that growth and development in the whole group and in the group’s work will follow.

In singing for wellbeing and empowerment workshops, I give more time to gentle movement and stretching exercises, coordinated with the breath. I find ways to appeal to sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste in each session, helping singers come back safely to the present moment, again and again. I offer tools which participants can use to help self-calming and grounding after the workshops too. Working with the breath and body in this way can be very powerful – it’s important to go slowly, to help participants maintain self-authority and build skills over time.

Trauma can have a huge impact on our perception of our voices; how can I express myself? How do I judge my voice? Will others listen? Do I feel safe during and after expressing my feelings and needs? Creating a gentle, non-judgemental space for people to share and to sing together can help participants to build a more positive relationship with their voice over time. ‘I never believed I could sing’ is a phrase I hear time and again.

Sometimes I offer breathing exercises and singing during other workshops – a team Away Day or residential for a charity of campaign group. As lots of people who have experienced trauma (including the traumatic impacts of experiencing daily structural oppression including racism, sexism, homophobia and disable-ism) turn to activism and healing work, this can be supportive for people working on social justice issues. I talk a lot about – and try to model – self-care, and build gentleness and spaciousness into each workshop agenda I plan.

I look back at my learning journey about trauma and recognise two things – how my own learning about what is supporting self-care and voice-building for me has been instrumental to my approach as a group facilitator. And how much more there is to learn ahead. I would love to hear your reflections on facilitating in a way that is supportive for trauma and self-care too.

It seems the recent #MeToo conversation has brought the widespread nature of trauma (especially from gender-based violence) more into popular consciousness. If you’d like to find out more about how I weave supportive trauma approaches into my work as a facilitator, community builder and community singing leader, or enquire about a Self-Care-Through-Singing workshop for your organisation, feel free to get in touch.  

A big Happy 30th Birthday to Women and Girls Network. Thank you for the important, creative, powerful and heart-led work you do and thank you for sharing your learning onwards to make an even bigger difference. If you want to find out more about their services, or someone you know in London might need to, please see here

 

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A beautiful thing spotted in the WGN office
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Asking women with WGN means to them
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An example of a self-care and wellbeing table I might set up for a singing workshop

 

 

 

 

#MeToo

Today I watched over 40 of my friends and fellow activists, singers and community organisers posting ‘Me too’ on Facebook. They are mostly women from of varying age and heritage (plus one man and a couple of folks of who do not identify as either gender).

The ‘copy and paste’ status being shared is along the lines of:

If all the women/people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

Over the day, my feelings shifted. I felt a numb, slightly defensive ‘I’m not surprised’ to start. And under the numbness was a truth: despite being caught unawares by the online disclosures, I’m not surprised at the prevalence of sexual abuse being highlighted.

I felt deep respect for those posting. I also felt deep respect for those women+ (*) not voicing their experience in this way – those survivors who choose to not write these words online, those who have experienced sexual abuse in prisons and immigration detention centres all over the world, those who don’t use social media, children and those of older and past generations. The image of reaching out to each other to hold hands and form a giant circle came to mind.

I felt rage. Public disclosure can bring about feelings of intense vulnerability as well as empowerment. And reading so many posts online can re-trigger painful feelings. Not only had these incredible women+ gone through these experiences, now they were doing the emotional labour (as usual) to raise awareness about the issue under the gaze of Facebook and Twitter.

The silence of the perpetrators has been so loud, I screamed at my laptop. ‘YOU KNOW WHAT? If all the MEN / people who have sexually harassed or assaulted others wrote “Me too.” as a status…. THEN we might REALLY get a sense of the magnitude of the problem’. Plus all those who have witnessed abuse without taking action. Plus men whose complicit silence upholds masculine norms of treating women as objects to meet their needs and desires.

Then I felt fear. I know it was fear cos I found it hard to take a deep breath. It felt like there was a constriction in my solar plexus area and in my throat. I walked around my local park and the fear melted into a shared grief and sisterhood with them, through my tears and an aching in my heart.

The stories behind these posts will range from being whistled at in the street to rape and other kinds of assault. Some of these are stories of trauma, the impact of which should not be underestimated. Trauma can show up in a perpetual feeling of being unsafe. The oversensitive firing of stress hormones can contribute to chronic health problems (including heart disease and cancers), relationship difficulties and a lurking sense of something not being ‘right’. Behind the brevity of the six characters it takes to type ‘Me too’, I grieved the pages that could be filled describing the impact of these experiences.

Yet what’s most striking to me is that every single one of the women+ I’ve seen post this (and actually every survivor I know who hasn’t posted too) is a powerful, creative and commanding change-maker. You are leaders creating waves in your families, communities, organisations and sectors. You are able to connect with your vulnerability and also sit tall, wearing cloaks of fire and majesty. You often have a startling level of empathy and ability to support and inspire others. I see how you work, I see how you play. I see how you create and how you laugh. I see you cry, sing and dance. I see you, full stop. I see your wounds and pain as you post and I also see the gifts you bring to this world and that brings me joy.

I see how women+ such as Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, Soni Sori shared their stories of pain and strength and inspired millions and again that image of a huge circle of women+ holding hands across the world comes to mind.

So this ‘Me too’ is from a place of all these feelings – rage, fear, grief, gratitude and joy. I acknowledge the hurt and rage, for me and all my sisters+. I also acknowledge how just like for many of you, that hurt is connected to my strengths. Learning about trauma has helped me to facilitate group spaces which are safe and supportive. It led me to community singing, which helps me and others breathe better and connect with our bodies and voices in a positive way.

I write with a wish of space for those posting (and choosing not to) to do what nourishes and supports you. You don’t need to always be there for others – being there for yourself and doing things that give you joy and pleasure is is the most generous gift you can give the universe. Ask for help if you need it. Let’s hold each other with gentleness and love until holding ourselves with gentleness and love becomes irresistible.

I write in the hope that men recommit to a daily effort to chip away at patriarchal and toxic masculine culture. To listen with more presence and kindness. To challenge and dismantle oppressive (and dismissive) words, actions, trends in your families, neighbourhoods, workplaces, our society’s institutions… and especially in your own thoughts. Talk with older and younger men about this and create healthy models of masculinity to aspire to. Maybe this looks like proactively organising a conversation soon with other men about it, given the buzz currently around these posts. I also wish you gentleness and community with each other as you do this.

Autumn leaves changing – © Shilpa Shah

 

*I created the term ‘women+’ here, to represent a longer list of people who experience sexual abuse: women (including Trans women), children, people who do not identify within the binary gender framework and sometimes men.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Treasure inside

Autumn’s here and there is treasure on the ground here in London.

It’s encased in a tough, rounded and spikey jackets. Here it stays… growing, protected. Until the moment comes to open.  There is a magic to holding a freshly emerged conker. There is a slight give if you press one between your thumb and finger. If you drop them, they bounce. They are soft for a day or two before they dry (and become hard little grenades for children’s games). There is a soft velvety sheen on the white part. They are unbelievably shiny.

Conker inside spikey jacket. Conkers are the seed of the horse chestnut tree, thought to be introduced to the UK in the 1600s – © Shilpa Shah

 

Conkers remind me of us.

Usually coated in layers of protection. Judgements. Fears. Shallow breathing and shoulders which can creep protectively forward. A stream of thoughts about things I ought to know. The weight of traumatic memories and planning ahead. Keeping up with technology and devices. A sense of constriction.

But occasionally we do open. We can’t make it happen, it just sort-of does. A shiny soft golden core showing itself. Our hearts start speaking. We feel curious. A tinge of vulnerability. An aura of strength and potential.

To me, it seems that every day, countless messengers are sent to help us practice pausing and opening for a moment. The sound of birdsong when stepping out of the door. Light filtering through leaves when looking up into a tree. A child laughing in the playground when passing the local school. An old song on the radio. The comforting warmth on the hands before the first sip of a cup of tea. A long hug.

Conkers that shine © Shilpa Shah

 

In all of my work I do my best to help create supportive conditions for clients to loosen the spikey jackets, together, and invite openness. Even if just for a moment at a time.

Breathing exercises help some people. As does creativity – singing or playing on big paper with pastels, crayons or collage-making tends to help people to connect the head with the body, heart and spirit. And encouraging people to gently surface and name the often-unspeakable power dynamics between them. It’s an atmosphere which blends the ‘a-ha!’ of answering a puzzle, with the ‘aah’ of a gentle sigh.

In moments like these, space is created to let transformation in. It’s a softer space where listening, honesty and learning happen with more ease. Where we feel wobbly, yet can see with eyes that are fresh and clear. Where we can melt into the painful things with kindness and sprinkle gratitude upon what’s good.

 

“When we drop fear, we can draw nearer to people, we can draw nearer to the earth, we can draw nearer to all the heavenly creatures that surround us.” – bell hooks.

 

 

Fear and love after the London Bridge attacks.

I was cycling home last night over Waterloo bridge, around 9.30pm. I felt happy and free. I thought of going to a bar at London Bridge who make the best hot chocolate in the world (in my opinion). A minute later, I realised I felt exhausted after a long day and decided to go home.

 

I read the news about the London Bridge attacks when I got in. My breathing shallowed, my stomach clenched, tears surfaced. I immediately messaged friends and family who might have been in the area. My cousin had been there, but left five minutes before it happened. I thought of people hurt or killed and found it hard to get off my phone and to sleep.

 

When we notice a threat, the feeling parts of our brain fire up and our body is filled with stress hormones. We typically respond with Fight, Flight or Freeze. The thinking and behaviour patterns our bodies have learnt from past experiences of danger immediately kick in. If you’ve experienced trauma in the past, this response might feel quite overwhelming. We do what we can to feel safe – we barricade ourselves physically and emotionally, holding close what is familiar and pushing away everything else.

 

I’ve been reflecting today on what helps us in times like this, as individuals and as members of a wider diverse community and society. Here are a few thoughts – I’d love to hear yours in response.

 

Support yourself first

 

 

Acknowledge how you feel – if you don’t have words for it, try picking three or four words from here. Notice what’s happening in your body. Are your shoulders, neck clenched, is your breathing quick or slow? Whatever you notice, be gentle – whatever you’re feeling is OK.

 

Breathe. Lengthening the out-breath can slow the firing of stress hormones and support the nervous system to come back into balance. Inhale for 3, exhale for 6. Or use a rather mesmerising gif like this or this (try using these when supporting children with anxiety too). Put on a favourite song and sing or hum – it will help your breathing regulate itself. Meditate or pray, if that’s your thing.

 

Move. Walk, run, stretch, do some yoga. Anxiety floods our muscles with lactic acid, moving helps it to dissipate – particularly shaking out the legs and hips. Drink plenty of water.

 

Get off Facebook – We want to stay in touch. However, scrolling through a long newsfeed of commentary, images and videos can re-trigger your fight/flight/freeze response over and over again. It’s simultaneously addictive and harmful. I’m not suggesting de-activating your account – but try to use it mindfully.

 

Be in community

 

 

Our emotional responses can lead to opposing instincts within ourselves–  do we barricade ourselves with PLUs (People Like Us) or we reach out and affirm our strength together as a wider community? As well as practical actions, the following can help build a sense of solidarity.

 

Talk with your family, friends, neighbours. Ask people how they are feeling rather than what they think about it – and listen to their response. Being listened to with patience and without judgement can feel very supportive in itself.

 

Reach out to others – those who are similar and those who are different, if it feels OK to. Say hello or smile to people on the bus (in London this is weird behaviour, but often it’s appreciated). Check in on your neighbours. Recognise that the UK and London Muslim community will bear the brunt of any fearful backlash after this incident. A gentle inquiry into how any Muslim friends and neighbours are or a message of support might be appreciated. Bear in mind many will be fasting currently for Ramadan until 9.15pm or so.

 

Commit to community over the long term. London often feels quite transient with many people passing through. Mainstream culture is to pack diaries and juggle over what feels most exciting/important to do every day. Yet there can be a magic in meeting the same group over a period of time. At the regular Tuesday night women’s singing group I run in London, creating a welcoming space for women of different backgrounds and needs is the number one priority. It’s paying off in terms of how much we learn from each other and how we are developing trust. You might have a local community association or an activity group doing music, sports, campaigning, a book club etc. Notice who is part of it and challenge any groups you are part of to be more inclusive and welcoming to all.

 

Notice the wider picture

 


 

We all want to be safe and to keep our loved ones safe. As we are hit with waves of fear or grief, we can develop a deeper empathy with our sisters and brothers facing state-delivered terror in places such as Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Calais… And closer to home, UK residents (including the disproportionate numbers of Black people) murdered in our UK immigration detention centres, our prisons and police cells.

 

‘Terror’ groups and our dominant right-wing politics (propped up by violent institutions) are both sides of the same coin. They are both extremist, un-feeling and anti-democratic. They both draw strength from others’ fear and use it to control populations.

 

What is fear comprised of – judgement, loneliness, being closed, feeling under siege? The opposite is love – being open, connected, generous, fair. Knowing you don’t have all the answers and trusting that we can work them out together. A recognition that none of us are free until all of us are free.

 

We all have forces of love and fear within each of us. Can you be curious about how these forces weave their paths within yourself today in relation to wider society? Notice about how you feel about different politicians and political priorities, as we see societal forces of fear and love playing out in the current UK election campaign. Notice where you feel scared and closed off and where you feel open and generous.

 

Be kind and non-judgemental with yourself as you notice – it’s human nature to have a spectrum of various emotions. When we recognise and accept ourselves as we fully are with gentleness and care, we create space for love and courage to grow.

How I work with you as a Facilitator

Some more general detail about how I work.

As a Facilitator for a workshop, away-day or residential:

The first thing I ask you is to share your story and hopes for the meeting – how did this group get to this moment? What change do you want to see as a result of this meeting? As well as task-based objectives, how do you want the meeting to help people connect to themselves and each other better?

I will encourage participatory agenda planning to involve people across your organisations and design a way to do that with you.

I see each person as a whole – with physical, emotional and spiritual needs and capabilities as well as intellectual. I will discuss with you how we can honour each of those aspects through the agenda design.

Workshops and meetings can be intense for many. I will champion a culture of gentleness and self-care at the beginning of the meeting and throughout it.

I pay particular attention to meeting accessibility requirements. I observe how power dynamics in the group are influenced by things like gender, race, disability, language and class. I work to quickly to create safety, particularly supporting those on the margins to thrive. Which of course benefits the whole group. I do not shy from ruffling the feathers of those who are used to taking up more space.

I encourage participants to share their stories, which help to strengthen the collective story and identity of the group.

I draw on my training in community-participatory methods and ‘Direct Education’ when designing a workshop that meets your objectives and harnesses varying energy levels and learning styles. So I am likely to suggest Theatre of the Oppressed games, collective collage-making or relaxing a post-lunch breathing space as well as more conventional methods you may have experienced such as Open Space Technology.

I support you to reflect and evaluate the impact of the meeting in an participatory and meaningful way. This will support organisational learning and planning future steps.

 

To discuss working with me for your away-day, residential or workshop, please contact me