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Everything you need to know about surviving in Manchester


Our names are Tasneem and Harriet, and together we are WordPlay Community Arts ( We have been running creative life-writing workshops for City of Sanctuary Manchester to support their Everything You Need To Know project, which seeks to offer helpful advice to new arrivals in the city. These blog entries will share our experiences of working with City of Sanctuary members, the poems and creative writing produced and the issues raised by the discussions we had.Between April-May 2016 we delivered six workshops that built confidence, friendship and empathy.
The inclusion of personal experiences of surviving in Manchester were hoped to be helpful in building powerful creative life-writing pieces. Our first workshop was on the theme of “Orientation”. We began with a really simple exercise called the “Story of your hand”. We asked participants to examine their hands carefully, to notice any scars or marks, jewellery, which tell a story – this could be an accident, a wedding, a life-changing incident. We asked them to think about what they use their hands. Do they use their hands to comfort, pray, teach, reprimand, express themselves. A person’s hand can unlock many histories and emotions. The participants drew around their hand, and then, used writing or visual representations to tell these stories. We then shared our stories and hands with the rest of the group.


Let us share some of it with you (we’ve left the names of our contributors/participants out deliberately):



With this hand I slap myself ‘coz I am so bad. Why I am like this man?


Sometimes just a line of writing is enough. When this specific participant shared this with the group it was painful to hear. There was a lot of conversation following this reading. It captured the writer’s real sense of frustration and anger at what he thought was his failure to be and do more in spite of his circumstances.



This is Babak’s hand.

He work this hand.

Bad work and good work together.

But now have a problem for life. And that is so hard for me.

Because he can’t work and use this hand.

But Jesus is here, and he loves me. And he helps me. Amin.


My right hand helps me to eat, to clean my house, to open the doors and close them. With my hand I can use the computer and the phone. I cook with my hand. My hand helps me to take a shower and to do my make up. I touch everything with my right hand.


La Magie de l’Homme n’existe pas du tout

Tout tout de suite.


This is my right hand. It was in 1997 that this hand was hurt when I was working with a machine.


There were more pieces of writing of course, we’ve only shared a few, but what is interesting is how quickly the simple exercise got people sharing their various stories.


The story of your hand is an exercise that can be expanded to enhance conversation and memory sharing. It is an easy ice-breaker that can be done in many different situations.