Modelling The Voice of Belonging Peshkar in partnership with Fatima Women’s Association3 min read

// Amina Atiq

// Amina Atiq

YDF24

I started the day with a typical rainy, dull Northern trek from Liverpool Lime Street station to Oldham, Greater Manchester. It was my first workshop at Fatima Women’s Association with Peshkar. It was also my first time working in Oldham, a town known for the weaving and woolen industry. When I arrived outside the Metro Link, I could see the trademark of the hillsides and agricultural district. I love visiting new places, also it is important to my practice as a workshop facilitator to study the place that my participants call home.

I had arrived at Fatima Women’s Association just after dusk and as I walked in, I saw the prayer mats laid out on the corridor floor and trying to find a place to pray can be daunting. I felt my Muslim identity was safe here. I was then approached by staff, as the centre’s Development Worker, Shabana, greeted me with the warmest welcome, ‘the Poet from Liverpool is here’.

The workshop started with the hospitality of a Yorkshire tea. I was warm and settled and ready to start and the young women started to arrive in groups. We handed them all new journals and pens so they could start journaling their creative work and thinking. I started with a brief introduction, highlighting my journey as an artist and stating that social injustice is the essence why I am a poet but also that joy is the voice of my destination.

Before starting the main body of the workshop it was important to hand it over to the participants and find out more about them. We did an icebreaker of poetry to introduce ourselves in six words. My example, ‘A Yemeni teacup with bursting stories’ . The girls worked together, counting their fingers and asking each other, ‘Who am I?’ I loved watching their interaction and their friendship. The organszation and staff have done a tremendous role in building trust and kindness in the room.

The rest of the workshop was an exercise to form questions in groups, ‘What questions to ask an artist?’ They noted questions around pay,sustainability, inspiration and challenges. Myself and Shabana who also works as a makeup artist alongside her role at Fatimas. As we answered the questions taking turns, I asked the girls to practice their active listening skills and note taking. The task was to make notes of anything that is highlighted to them as a learning or/and inspiration. Their most highlighted statement was the idea of valuing yourself.

The workshop came to an end and I had used my full voice but next week is all about them and their stories. I have tasked them to bring a physical object that has meaning to their lives, identity and belonging, such as photographs, a piece of clothing or a gift etc.

I am looking forward to hearing their stories and developing a narrative around their identity. My hope is we build a confident, resilient and joyful space through the medium of creativity, storytelling and photography.