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“Everything you need to know…”

 

Our meeting was all about putting things together. After we’d worked on individual poems about the city of Manchester and what it feels like for participants to call it their new home, we moved on to our final collective work. This poem was put together with ideas about what people wished they had known before they made their long journey to Manchester.

 

Everything You Need to Know

There is so much you need to know!

Everything is so different.

If only someone had sat me down

Told me how things were going to be.

 

I wish I had known practical things.

Where can I find free food?

Where is the market?

They don’t have markets like they do back in Africa.

It is not like it is at home.

 

Where is the hospital? The post-office?

Things work so differently here.

If only someone had told me

There is so much you need to know!

 

I wish someone had told me

That I would miss the sun.

The wind is so cold.

I never thought there could be so much rain.

 

I wish someone had taught me

Where to go to get the help I need.

I wish I had known that some English people would help me

Even though I couldn’t then speak their language.

 

If I had known, I would have not expected to be helped.

I would have learned English.

I have had to learn to help myself.

I wish I had known that there are homeless people in Britain.

There is so much you need to know!

 

Participant evaluations

The final part of the process was to have participants evaluate their experiences of the meetings and give us feedback on what worked and didn’t.

These are their comments:

 

The creative writing was really enjoyable. Normally my mind is blank. This helped me to put things down.

It made me so happy to learn new things.

Meeting a number of times has helped me to understand how people speak and taught me how to speak to more people.

I would like more sessions. Another programme of six like this would be good.

It made me feel more confident. I feel happier.

It gave my mind a break.

Talking together makes me feel happiness.

It was helpful to aid my understanding and writing skills.

It has helped me talk about different, difficult matters.

The mixture of group work and independent writing was interesting and good.

A certificate at the end of the programme would be good.

 

Even though some of them had very poor English language skills in both the written and oral forms, we still managed to produce some phenomenal work. This was from the heart, touching on topics that were often very difficult emotionally and mentally to deal with. And yet they did, with bravery and honesty.

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