The story so far

I PACKED THIS MYSELF is a project working with migrant workers and local communities in Cornwall, which started in 2006. The aim: to break down prejudice and increase understanding

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

St Enoder, a meeting and a workshop at Richard Lander

Early for a meeting at Pentreath, a charity working on mental health issues. Take a walk around the graveyard at St Enoder and see snowdrops, clearly not deterred by the cold snap.
A good meeting with Tamsin and Magda at Pentreath - they are developing very active and engaged groups of BME women in the county. We wonder whether there are ways of linking up our work - it's not quite clear how  at the moment, but we agree to keep in touch. Very nice to see Magda, who featured in our film Short Stories from the Edge, a couple of years ago.
Then to Richard Lander School, Truro. A very inspiring quote in the carpark. "Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I will move the world." Archimedes.

And the spirit of the sculpture continues inside the school.  Citizenship head Vicky Downing is passionate about her subject and has inspired her class of 26 very able year 9 students who are taking their GCSE Citizenship two years early

Ewa comes with me to the workshop, with her husband, Waldek. We are all  hugely impressed by these children who have volunteered to come into the workshop after school - and will come again in a couple of weeks when we return to follow up. They are lively, engaged and articulate. We talk about the experience of migration and the things people carry with them in their cases when they set out on significant journeys. We talk about the suitcases created with migrant workers in Cornwall. 
And Ewa has brought a bag with things that she brought to the UK when she first came here four years ago. In it are a selection of objects. A book of Polish history.  A piece of amber, given to her by her grandmother. A wedding present, and a CD.

The students write lists of things that they would take if they decided to leave - or had to leave - Cornwall to start a new life.  Lots say they would take family photos, mobile phones, iPods, jewellery, favourite books...
Vicky starts a discussion. 
Why do they think that sometimes there is hostility against migrant workers?
Answer: "Because some people think 'they are taking our jobs'".
Fair enough - but isn't it the fact that migrant workers are often doing jobs that local people don't want to do?
Answers: "Yes, but people want to do 'interesting' jobs." "We have so much spoonfed and given to us, we think everything should be." 

What do people think about the role of the press - in particular the tabloid press? It seems to help drum up racist attitudes.
Answers: "People might be hateful because they don't know them (migrant workers). It's our responsibility to find out about other people."

Am only sorry that I missed seeing my old friend Russell Pascoe who has taught music at the school for many years. Next time. We are due back in a couple of weeks to continue the discussion.