Together Towards a More Just World - CWC x Haven for Artists
In the run up to this event, the Community Wellbeing Collective and Haven for Artists exchanged letters. Individuals connected over their ties to community, struggles and joys. The lines these connections drew pointed to what both organisations have in common, creating spaces of care in which to exist and imagine otherwise against all the odds. We come from our own specific geographic social and political struggles, theirs the oppression of a failing state, of multiple and extended political and economic crises and the struggle of survival of people and culture. Ours is decades of austerity, cost of living crisis and the growth of right wing and anti-immigration politics bringing deep political division and social fragmentation.
Before our public event on Sunday 20th, Yasmin and Dayna joined us for a dinner on Wednesday 16th August, placing conviviality and respite and togetherness at the centre. A safe harbour for those of us in struggle to practise and discuss community building. CWC member and chef at Queen Vital, Chantal Auguste made food from her home country, Trinidad accompanied by a Lebanese dish that a member of Haven for Artists shared a recipe for in a letter, Batata Harra.
We spoke about community building, how we can show up for each other as a community and what makes that possible. CWC member Callum noted the importance of ‘a space to congregate’, many people spoke about how everyone is different and the need to be non-judgemental and Dayna shared the words ‘love should be shared as often as fear is’
We shared these moments as we celebrate being open a year and look to an uncertain future with dedication, hope and solidarity in precarity, as we fight to stay open.
The Anchor Event - Together Towards a More Just World
On Sunday we opened our doors for the public to join the conversation.
Throughout the day, Community Wellbeing Collective members shared about their wellbeing offerings with visitors. People in Wester Hailes and people living precarious lives across the world include share struggles of poverty, unstable housing, isolation and alienation resulting in poor physical and mental health. To imagine and build together, we must address these barriers. That is what our wellbeing offerings are all about! Bringing health, headspace and calm or creating the change and infrastructure of care At the community Wellbeing Space we work together to create what is necessary for us to show up to imagine together towards a more just world.
CWC member and artist, Bobby Sayers created badges representing the offering of all 33 members which we wore with pride as we talked with visitors new and old, from near and far about what our wellbeing offering is and the barriers we can overcome together.
These conversations extended over a very special community meal by Chantal who brought the celebration and joy with a festive buffet including favourites of jerk chicken and a lentil stew.
We pasted posters for 12 of our anchor events since September 2022 across 3 large windows inside and out, taking stock of the radical work of public imagining and events that went on to create real change within ourselves and the world. Jj Fadaka led a writing workshop ‘Letters to what we long for’ where people wrote letters to and inspired by the themes of previous anchor events. People drew connections between struggle and brought their own wisdom and passions to the ongoing work towards equality of wellbeing which these events explore. People left with their letters copied onto sticky paper ready to be placed in the world, wherever they were needed.
A far reaching, radical and imaginative panel, ‘Finding Solidarity in Struggle for a More Just World’ was brought together and chaired by Josie Tothill CWC member and social practice artist, political organiser and former care worker who now creates spaces of care in which we imagine and build radical worlds, in opposition to oppressive systems and towards ones where we can thrive, together. And Federica Cologna CWC member and Art Worker whos unique research and practice is feminist in focus and form with her research and participation in CWC not only speaking to one another but interacting in a non-linier dance. She considers art as a field of action and the transformation which happens in relation and public imagination as a framework for creating an alternative future for democracy. She hosts feminist conversations and movement activities in the Community Wellbeing Space
On the panel, Yasmin Rifaii and Dayna Ash of Haven for Artists were joined by CWC members:
Jogob Saar, care worker, local to Wester Hailes, originally from Gambia, her work in companionship extends beyond the workplace and into community believing that ‘care for self and community changes the world from inside out’ and Bobby Sayers socially engaged artist, poet, and producer focusing on on class, belonging and masculinity, through all of his work he weaves the understanding that everyone and everything matters and builds infrastructure as care.
They were also joined by guests who have worked with us over the last year; Carmen Simon, union representative for Unite the Union, Vice Chair of Edinburgh's Trades Union Council, case manager at Support@Work, and social care worker for more than a decade, Jess Haygarth, theatre maker, facilitator and director of Sweet Beef, an emerging queer theatre collective exploring socio-political issues that affect us, Fae Gerlach -Co Founder, Co Chair and Project Manager of Edinburgh Refugee Sponsorship Circle, where she develops intersectional, anti-oppressive leadership enabling communities and organisations of tangible care in the struggle for migrants rights.
We discussed solidarity and workers organising, oppression, precarity, division and queerness, What care is needed in order to create space to share love even in and amongst all the fear, and how this can expand across borders. During the audience Q and A we discussed difference, holding space together, creating safety by sharing emotional labour and where our boundaries lie, how we weave care through our lives and organisations and how this can be towards a more just world. We shared stories, struggles in a sensitive, vulnerable and joyful space.
As is a tradition for all our anchor events we finish with an open mic because we understand the importance of creative expression and creating a platform of care for voices to be heard. This was an extra special open mic hosted by Jeanne van Heeswijk and on the theme of Resistance!
As this event finishes we are left with touchstones of joy and care in the struggle to finding solidarity in precarity. We are inspired by Haven for Artists, an organisation who have continued to exist, against the odds for 10 years, building belief in possibilities for us. While we do not shy from the realities of underfunding in the arts and the devaluing of wellbeing and whats needed to collectively imagine, while we recognise what austerity and hostile politics does to our capacity to be together, we celebrate our dedication to exist against the odds. To exist in spite of and create respite from the forces that be to keep us apart.
At this event we celebrated a year of continually creating a space of public imagination towards a more just world, a year of learning how our collective longing moves us towards change, a year of building infrastructure as care, creating access to the imaginary. It's safe to say we have built a strength together which we must draw on now as we face an uncertain future.
Dear Beruit, Keep in touch! And to all those across borders, across differences and next door, you are welcome to celebrate with us, take part. Watch this space!
Blog post by Josie Tothill, inspired by the event and discussions at Together Towards a More Just World, and words of Jeanne van Heeswijk, Federica Cologna, Bobby Sayers and the collective action of the whole CWC.
The Event Together Towards a More Just World was Commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and supported by the PLACE Programme, a partnership between Edinburgh Festivals, Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council and Creative Scotland. With additional support from British Council and National Lottery Awards for All Scotland.