Citizens of Everywhere… in the Community: Perspectives on a Workshop
Citizens of Everywhere recently ran a workshop with Moving On With Life and Learning (MOWLL), a Liverpool-based charity that supports adults and young people with learning disabilities and mental health concerns. The 90-minute session, devised by a group of PhD students from the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Liverpool Hope, was designed to be a creative way in which to discuss the meaning of citizenship and definitions of Britishness with members of the local community.
As an organisation based in Liverpool 8, and with service-users from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, it was a great opportunity to hear different perspectives on what citizenship means, what we consider British values, and how the role of the citizen is affected by our changing political and cultural landscapes. Through creating collages, writing poetry and debating topical issues, this Citizens of Everywhere workshop opened the eyes of both participants and volunteers alike.
“We all know how selfless support workers have to be, especially when working with vulnerable groups in the community such as women, children and the less able. They put so much into their work, and the challenges that they face must not be ignored.
Recently, I helped to run a Citizens of Everywhere workshop with MOWLL, an organisation that supports individuals living with mental health concerns and disabilities. For me, a special moment came during an activity in which participants were asked to create a collage of images they associated with British values and culture. The support workers were required to show the service-users images and to ask them what they meant to them. In one of the activity groups, I observed the support worker briefly. She was so skilled in aiding her service-users in choosing images and making sense out of them, but without imposing any pre-determined meaning herself.
Because the work of support staff is paramount to improving and assisting in the lives of those with disabilities, their training must be rigorous. If the current and future governments aim to achieve long-lasting community cohesion through shared British values, then training in the care sector is crucial. If we truly want everyone to be a citizen of everywhere, then support, guidance and advocacy are vital values that we must all follow.”
* Aslı Kandemir is a final-year PhD student in Sociology at Liverpool Hope University.
“During our recent Citizens of Everywhere workshop with the disability and mental health charity MOWLL, one of the participants instantly became, for me, the most memorable part of the experience. He had been working on his vision board, cutting images out of magazines and sticking them down to create a collage. All our participants had been invited to explain the appeal of the images they had selected, and how they represented what they understood as British values and culture.
During the workshop, there were, of course, some frivolously funny contributions. Some participants swooned over various princes and public-schoolboys, while others declared their love for Yorkshire Tea and Coronation Street as integral to their conception of national identity.
But this one participant had chosen a small yet poignant photograph which provided a channel to express his patriotism: three beautiful young women with dazzling smiles joyously and triumphantly waving Union Jack flags. What struck me was that the participant didn’t look beyond the tri-coloured flags the girls were brandishing. He didn’t notice that they were young Muslim women dressed in hijabs, he didn’t acknowledge any form of difference between himself and them. When he looked at the photograph, he recognised unity, not difference. Unity that transcends the boundaries of age, gender, race, religion and (dis)ability. Simply, he saw – and celebrated – the world in different colours.”
- Catherine Tully is a 2nd-year PhD student in History at the University of Liverpool.