The poetry of collaboration

By admin
Posted: 29/08/2019

We’re reflecting on the creative partnership between Headway East London & the Barbican Young Poets whilst sharing some new work from our members.

Working together is nothing new to us. In fact, it’s something we practice every day both in our Day Service and out in the community. Yet, there’s always something very special about bringing a new collaborator into the mix. The possibilities it throws up. The new discoveries it can lead to.

Earlier this Summer, we were thrilled to partner up with the Barbican Centre’s Young Poets on a writing project inspired by artist Daria Martin’s exhibition Tonight The World. Members visited the show, before working with poets Zahrah Sheikh, Annie Hayter and Tiçe Cin over the course of two workshops to reflect on themes and create written responses. Together, the group wrote about dreams, home, heritage, memories and the spaces in-between. This culminated in a public performance at both the Barbican Centre and Headway East London’s supper club series Headway Eats.


Zahrah, Annie and Tiçe reflected on the process: “What stood out to us when we spoke about the workshops with members was the value of documenting our lived experiences, and the possibility of other people remembering things for you. As well as the fear that we embark on when we revisit certain aspects of the past; as one of our participants John said, there is an adventure too in reliving memories and allowing ourselves to access our fantasies. As a group we wrote and imagined things together like the leaves on a tree; other people’s memories at the table were mixing together like autumn leaves in the wind.”

Member John contributed 3 poems to the final handout, and spoke about why the experience had been important to him: “When you first suffer a head injury everything gets scattered around, and unlike a broken arm that can heal, sometimes that part of your brain is lost (and the memory that was there too). It can reorganise and refocus itself, but you’re then in a weird land, because you don’t always remember what you were.

“Actually writing the poetry; getting my thoughts into a rational order and getting that down, I really enjoyed that because it concentrated my mind…. It focuses the mind on other things outside of yourself, outside of the box that you’re in”.

Here’s one of John’s finished poems:

John prepping for his Barbican performance

Volunteer and stroke survivor Tiiu also took part in the project and reflected, “I had a great time. I’ve always been a keen poet, but felt a bit rubbish at it! It was great to learn a bit more about poetry, and that it’s all about self-expression and getting things down on paper…. I really enjoyed writing about dreams, I seemed to have more vivid dreams just from being involved in the project!”

Annie, Tiçe and Zahrah added, “In such a short time, every person that we have met over the course of these workshops have taken us on a journey of sharing which reveals just how much can be made when we are given the time to sit with one another, talk and ‘make a thing!’”.

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Posted: 29/06/2020

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