There is to be an open lantern workshop on Saturday, from 10.00am until 3.00pm. Gilly and I aren’t going to be there. It is an opportunity to hand over the reins to the core group, with the support of school staff. So this morning, we began with a team meeting, to go over the logistics and best practice. It was also an appropriate forum in which to discuss the Facebook incident…
It was interesting for Gilly and I to transmit some of the the subtle details of our practice. As well as the obvious practical issues re lantern making, we talked about the importance of communication. Gilly said
“You might have noticed that Mary and I are always scanning the room, looking out for the lantern that needs help. You need to be doing the same and talking to each other about it.”
We talked about the quality of welcome for participants should have and how it might prove problematic. For example, having to welcome someone you really don’t get on with and then having to demonstrate how to make a lantern. Why should we make the effort? What is this event about?
“Friendship” said one parent
“Everyone getting along together” said another
“There was someone in today I don’t talk to but I did because it’s lanterns”
So we then had the perfect moment to bring up the Facebook scenario, with no great fanfare or kerfuffle and mentioning no names. There ensued a frank conversation, with contributions from all sides. Smaller conversations happened throughout the day, with some important points made:
- that you cannot judge people based on what they look like or the religion they follow. (This wasn’t just about the mosque lantern. It transpired that one of our number, a Spiritualist, had been taken to task by a vicar for not being the right kind of Christian…)
- you don’t know who you are offending.
- that comments on Facebook are public. They have no vocal tone or facial expressions to accompany them and so are open to interpretation and cannot be easily rescinded.
- That at its heart, the Lanterns event is about ‘a community of all different races’ coming together for a parade.
- That it is better to have open conversations about differences than to talk behind hands, in corners.
- That it’s good to look at progress to date. As an example, one parent, Janette, related meeting two girls last year. It transpired one of the girls now lives in the house that Janette grew up in and a friendship has ensued. Coming from very different cultures, they would not have met but at the lanterns workshop…
And then, at 9.30, in came years 4 and 5. Some of these children were coming to make their third lantern, having been in year 3 for the first parade. Younger children make stars on sticks in their classrooms or come with parents after school to make a small, torch lit lantern. The experts from Years 4 and 5 came with some ambitious ideas, and so made, amongst the usual house shaped lanterns, a couple of army trucks (one carrying the emergency stock of stars), and a terrace of houses representing friendship.
We were joined by half a dozen education students from Durham University who all got stuck in and helped the children and simultaneously made a lantern of their own. Alex, one of the medical students on placement here, came back today and brought with him another couple of fellow medics, both very tall young men.
They stayed for the whole afternoon and, along with the education students, helped us build the frames for the big Year 6 lanterns for tomorrow. They are all coming for the day next Thursday and staying for the event. The medics told us that Tilery is considered a plum community placement…
Sarah Jackson, a Creative Agent for Creative Partnerships, is working with Mike White and I in Teesdale. She came to volunteer for today and will be back next Thursday, having never experienced workshops of this ilk. She commented
“I really enjoyed it and great to see how conducive the workshop is to creating conversations between different people.”
It was quite a day…