A LISTENING PILGRIMAGE — Sharing refugee stories while walking from Dover to Ioana
The vast majority of people who seek asylum in the UK have fled countries ravaged by war and human rights abuses. The numbers are relatively low: according to the UNHCR, by mid-2015 there were 117,234 refugees, and 37,829 pending asylum cases in the UK (around 0.24% of our population). Yet, almost 50% of those questioned think that all refugees should be turned away from the UK. The political response has been a dramatic swing to the right. Attitudes are locked down and defensive, and new arrivals to our country have been prevented from taking a meaningful role in society. Meanwhile, those voicing anger and dissatisfaction at the arrival of refugees are being branded as bigots and racists and feel that their opinions have been overlooked and undermined. For peace to exist in our communities we must listen more carefully to the range of voices being raised across the country, and encourage open-hearted engagement in our collective future.
As part of our Refugee Voices programme, Projects For All has launched ‘A Listening Pilgrimage’ which will enable us to learn from refugees and the communities who have welcomed them, and those who have actively rejected new migrants. Between April and June 2017 Projects For All is supporting Isabel Freer and Christy Hawkins while they walk roughly 1,000km from Dover to the Scottish island of Iona. They will invite people to share their stories and in doing so identify the attitudes, values and ideologies of people across the UK.
Together we hope that through listening and learning we will be able to identify the experiences, needs and ideas of a wide range of people affected by one of the biggest humanitarian crises of all time. Whilst we do not know the outcomes yet, this insight will inform the projects that we hope will emerge. This is a small-scale initiative but one which touches on big ideas.
Isabel and Christy will stay in tents as well as relying on the hospitality and welcome of people who are interested in the project and who wish to hear or tell stories of seeking refuge. Isabel and Christy will record, collate and share spoken and written stories of the storytellers and keep a live blog during their pilgrimage.
Isabel Freer is an independent producer; Christy Hawkins has taught secondary English, Drama and Creative Writing for 10 years. He has been an actor, director and writer of plays and is currently working on a dystopian novel for young adults. Isabel and Christy are engaged.
And if you would like to support A Listening Pilgrimage please get in touch with us.
Our Engagement Residency Programme
‘A Listening Pilgrimage’ is not a fully developed project. At Projects For All the first stage of developing new projects is always to ‘engage’, i.e. to listen to communities and learn from them. In order to do this, we have set up an ‘Engagement Residency’ programme which supports individual activists who become involved in a community to learn about their challenges, and inform new projects. This approach gives Projects For All the freedom to explore new ideas, without preconception or anticipated outcomes. A Listening Pilgrimage is our first Engagement Residency, and Projects For All is proud to support Isabel and Christy on their quest.