By Sukh Ojla:
Workshop 1: Held at The Woodville on Wednesday, 14th October 2015.
Prior to this workshop Abdul Shayek, the workshop facilitator, and I had met to discuss the themes I wanted to explore in the workshops and the format I wanted them to take. The dilemma I had was that I didn’t want the subject matter to be too specific or too general. I wanted to be open to hearing from the participants and this can be difficult if there is a strict workshop structure.
My aim for these workshops was to create a safe and positive environment for the participants to share their stories. Having facilitated workshops in the past I knew that there is an element of uncertainty involved. It’s not always a definite as to who will attend or which way the workshop will go.
Having spent the best part of the last decade living away from Gravesend one of my aims was to see what has changed within the community. Are family structures still the same? Is divorce more widely accepted and are young British Asians still expected to marry within their religion?
There were two participants for this workshop, two women in their 40s and 50s. It was clear from the outset that they both felt a pressing desire to speak to us about their personal lives and their histories. Abdul and I felt it would be more beneficial if instead of a running through a set of workshop exercises we let them share their stories and then have more of an informal discussion about the themes that cropped up.
It was interesting to hear from this demographic as I’d never had the experience of speaking with British Asian women of this age. I discovered that although I was familiar with the stories of their parents, people who migrated to the UK in the 1960s and 70s I didn’t necessarily have much of an idea what difficulties and issues their children faced once they’d reached middle age.
After they shared some of their stories it was easier to pick out the recurring themes and to expand on them. Alcoholism, the recent and ongoing influx of Punjabi migrants to the area and their own marriages seemed to crop up a lot.
This workshop was hugely useful and I feel got a great deal from it not only from listening to these women’s stories but also they were interesting from a character study point of view.