IN THIS TOGETHER
July 13th, 2020
Words by Alev Kayagil · Artwork by Various Contributors
Living in a city like London makes me feel small and oftentimes lonely. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and, though the city was just half an hour’s drive, I had never been exposed to big city life before moving to England. Living in a place like London was intimidating, and it took me a while to find a group I felt comfortable sharing my stories and thoughts with.
A year into living there, I heard about Creating Ground, a non-profit organization based in South London that uses creative arts like puppetry, painting, drama skits and singing to encourage its diverse members to share stories of their own cultures. The women I met, many of whom had been in the UK for just a short period of time, used these mediums as a way to share their personal stories, telling tales of their journeys from their home countries to the UK, sharing memories from their childhoods, and talking openly about their faith and the hardships they were facing in adapting to life in London.
Though I consider myself somewhat lacking in the artistic skills department, joining the weekly workshop where we wrote stories, made photo frames, worked on stone art and tried our hand at collage-making, made London feel just a little bit smaller. Chatting to the other women there, working individually but as part of a collective, made me see that art offered an escape. That kind of a break from life seems especially important now, and really any time someone has to adjust to a big change or a new environment.
Though we have. all had different experiences living in the UK, I realised that we were similar in wanting to find friendship, acceptance and belonging here. Throughout lockdown we have continued to create work even while apart, and so I’ve shared a selection of these with each artist’s accompanying story. I hope they make wherever you are feel a little bit smaller, too.
There are times during this lockdown when I am anxious, confused and scared, but because the sun will always rise in the morning no matter how dark the previous night has been, I strongly believe that my family, my friends and I will all rise above these tough times. Once all of this is over, I will reunite with my family and friends and give them all a big hug. I hope this event will change the world by making families and friends conscious not to take for granted the precious time they get to spend with one another. And I hope that the spirit of caring, sharing and kindness that has been exhibited by people and communities during this pandemic continues even after lockdown, too. To keep my spirits up I am listening to uplifting gospel music and communicating with families and friends via WhatsApp and FaceTime video call.
The first thing I am excited to do after lockdown is to have a serene moment in church and thank God for bringing us this far. I would love to see people continuing to show love, kindness, oneness, support and appreciation for everyone because everyone is important in their own little ways. When I see the sun I know it’s a bright new day and that keeps me alive with all the uncertainties of life. Being part of this community has been therapeutic for me.
The first thing I will do when lockdown ends is breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate, thanking God for protecting my family and my loved ones. I hope this event will change our orientation, our priorities and show us what is valuable in life. That it will open our eyes to human suffering and needs. It took this virus for the problem of homelessness to be taken seriously. It also made the key workers and medical staff be appreciated. This is pandemic, global, spread by an easily contracted virus, makes me aware of how vulnerable we all are. In order to keep my spirits up, I read and meditate. I interact with my family.
The first thing I really want to do after lockdown ends is to travel home and see my family. But it will not be easy. So I will have a big, hot coffee with some nice cake and meet up with all the people that I know and miss. I hope that all the governments of the world keep helping people as they are doing now. They gave us the proof that they can do it. I also hope that people will keep themselves and others safe, as they are doing now. The only thing I am doing now to keep my spirits up is reading the Quran and sleeping.
The lockdown is not such a new experience for me. I felt quite similar when I first arrived in the UK as an au-pair, and did not know the language, did not know anyone. It was harder back then. My husband and I were on our own, with our baby just born, and our families far away. We had no chance of seeing them. It was harder than it is now. We are used to this. We are used to not being able to hug our parents. We are used to limits. When the lockdown ends, we will go to see our families. Then we will take a train to the seaside, maybe to Paris. We will visit Geoff and Delia and let Marian play in their garden. We will have an epic picnic with my students. I do not know if the world is going to change - maybe there will be more solidarity at the end of this experience, maybe not. We live at a slower pace now, work a bit, play a bit, cook and eat a lot and do not stress ourselves because we know that we are in this together.
Alev Kayagil works in the NGO sector and dedicates herself to grassroots change and impact. She is Turkish with a few hints of Canadian and is passionate about connecting and bringing people together in creating change and making a local impact. She currently lives in London and is working on her artistic skills. You can find out more about the projects at Creating Ground here.