Sidcot Festival of Peace 2016
Sunday 19 June saw the inaugural Festival of Peace at Sidcot School. Hosted by the school’s Centre for Peace and Global Studies the festival explored the theme ‘The Nature of Identity’.
Held in Refugee Week, and taking place on Father’s Day, the afternoon event celebrated family and community, exploring ideas about identity, belonging, and our place in the world. At a time when many communities around the world face the harsh realities of displacement and seek refuge, the festival was a timely reminder to reflect on, and engage with, ideas of home.
The Sidcot Festival of Peace hosted leading edge speakers including zoologist, presenter and natural history writer Sanjida O’Connell and acclaimed poet Matt Harvey. The event included a stirring mix of drama, art, music and dance, all seeking to provoke reflection on the festival’s theme, while a unique ‘Human Library’ provided the rare opportunity to actively engage with the stories of refugees and others working to relieve crisis across the globe.
In addition to his eagerly anticipated ‘Let Your Life Speak’ seminar at Sidcot on 25 May, the Centre also hosted Mark Edwards’s world acclaimed photographic exhibitions, WHOLE EARTH? and HARD RAIN, during May and June 2016. HARD RAIN was held in the Sidcot Arts Centre during May, and WHOLE EARTH? – displayed outdoors from 1st May until 30 June - provided a powerful illuminating backdrop to the Festival of Peace, and a potent reminder that we can all be part of the solution for a more peaceful and sustainable world.
Hear what BBC Somerset's Trudi Harris thought of the festival:
Hear BBC Bristol's Richard Lawson's interview with Sidcot Students and staff:
Next year's festival will be even bigger, and even better! If you're interested in getting involved please email email@example.com
Find out more about the festival’s speakers and watch their performances below.
Speakers and Presenters
Sanjida O'Connell: Who am l? How we find ourselves in others
Sanjida is a novelist and a non-fiction writer. So far she’s had five novels and four works of non-fiction published. Her novels are Theory of Mind (which was one of the winners of the Betty Trask Award), Angel Bird, The Naked Name of Love, Sugar Island, and, most recently, Bone by Bone.
Sanjida also presents wildlife programmes for the BBC and used to be a science documentary director. She writes about science and environmental issues for newspapers and magazines.
Matt Harvey: That's not very Quakerly
Poet and lyricist Matt Harvey was first official Poet-in-Residence at the Wimbledon Championships (“brilliant” – the New Yorker) and has been commissioned by – among others – the Science Museum, the Open University and the Energy Ombudsman. He has been a familiar voice on Radio 4 since 2001 when he co-wrote and co-starred in One Night Stanza. He also served seven years as regular poet on Saturday Live, hosted two series of The Wondermentalist Cabaret and wrote and performed the adventures of superhero Empath Man.
Matt is the author of The Hole in the Sum of my Parts, Where Earwigs Dare and Mindless Body Spineless Mind and two picture books for children, Shopping With Dad and Beastie and the Boys. With composer Stephen Deazley he collaborated on children’s song cycles A Little Book of Monsters and The Songbook of Unsingable Songs and with Thomas Hewitt Jones he wrote The Same Flame and the hit musical Rumpelstiltskin.
For three years he wrote the Desktop Poetry slot in the Guardian, and currently writes a Qwerty Something column for Resurgence Magazine. His most recent book is The Element in the Room – energy-inspired poems written while Poet-in-Residence with RegenSW (for which he was nominated for a P.E.A. Award.
From the street to the stage, from the studio to the news room, rapper and activist Potent Whisper is reputed for using rhyme to create discussion on, and response to, some of the most pressing social and political issues of our time.
In addition to having collaborated with UK music legends Congo Natty and Lara Lee, Potent Whisper continues to receive consistent support from BBC Radio 1 / BBC Radio 6 Music, The Guardian, The Independent and has delivered TV performances on various news channels including Russia Today and London Live.
Potent Whisper is perhaps best known for founding the anti-gentrification community campaign 'Our Brixton' that fuses art with direct action.
"I recognize the power that I hold as an artist. I ask myself what I could and should create. I realize that as an artist, there is no creation more glorious or worthwhile than to create the world that I want to live in. I approach all of my work with this mindset; from my music, to Spoken Word, to workshops, to activism." – Potent Whisper
Walk a mile in my shoes – an empathy project
Taking place in the yurt village, each story telling yurt offers an informal space in which to connect to these powerful stories.
2016 story tellers:
Abdul Kamara shared his story of ‘blood diamonds’ in his home country of Sierra Leone – describing the conflict and resulting bloodshed that arises from an insatiable desire for ‘bling’ in the West. Abdul has first-hand experience of negotiating with rebels to bring about peaceful resolutions and has insight in to the global trade for precious stones that creates war.
David Friese-Greene shared his story of science and innovation with regards to serving the natural environment and the very real challenge of feeding people. His story focuses on soil, one of the most important of all resources and one for which David wants the world to sit up and take notice. David has been working in very arid regions of India and Africa to encourage the use of biochar to help improve soil quality and increase fertility. In some places crop yields have increased by up to 40%.
Jonathan Gosling shared his story about finding his own way in life. Raised in a large family in North London he rebelled in his early education, organised student unions in secondary school, and sought solutions to social injustice in science and revolution. As founder of the UK’s first community mediation scheme, he discovered a different stance: ‘being prepared to talk to all sides’. This has its own challenges, which later took him into academia where he eventually became a Professor in a leading university. Jonathan’s early life centred on adventure and travel immersing him in the cultures and stories of each place that he lived, from philanthropy in Egypt to social activism in Ethiopia these experiences shaped his life path and brought as many questions as they did answers.
Maliha Berridge shared her story of her work with Avon and Somerset constabulary working to provide support and guidance to those at risk from honour based violence and forced marriage. Maliha also works internationally, rescuing British Asians who are taken by force into enforced marriages. Working with immense sensitivity on the issue of shame and compliance, she works closely with the Asian community to protect the vulnerable.
Yemi Hailemariam shared her story of injustice and heartache as she fights for the release of her partner Andy Tsege and father of her 3 children. Born Ethiopian, Andy fled a brutal regime decades ago and built a life for himself in the UK. He is now a well-known advocate for reform in Ethiopia - and in 2009, the country’s current government punished him for his activism by sentencing him to death, in absentia. Andy was abducted from an international airport in Yemen in 2014 and transferred to Ethiopia where he remains in solitary confinement, uncertain of his fate.
Mark Edwards Exhibition: WHOLE EARTH?
WHOLE EARTH? Is based on the premise that the future belongs to today’s young people and that students and universities everywhere can play a major role in making society more sustainable. The exhibition provides the kind of evidence students needs to join the debate about their future. But it's not prescriptive – it's an invitation to students and their tutors to articulate the kind of world they want to live in, and, through Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS – see below) bring them together to show political and business leaders support to take the difficult long-term decisions that underpin security for all. See more here