kate instructing dancers2small
Kate E Deeming and dancer rehearse for her Refugee Week show

By Kate E Deeming

(This post first appeared on our Refugee Week blog.)

I remember a book from when I was a child where a little girl’s friends are ‘too busy’ to play with her on her birthday.  The wee girl ends up creating all sorts of imaginings in her one-some until it is revealed the friends were actually preparing a surprise party and they live and play happily ever after.

Life’s kinda like that sometimes – everyone wants ALL the other PEEPS to be at their metaphoric party.  And due to various circumstances they’re not- so you are forced to make your own festivities.But maybe in the back of your head you wonder if it’s all a joke because really you’re a nice person and all this time it’s not that they don’t like you, it’s that they’ve been planning a big surprise and won’t that be a relief.Children’s literature is great.  

It teaches wee people qualities of sharing, multi-culturalism, bravery…largely the books are idealist and aspirational.  What a wonderful gift to give to a child.  (It is for this reason that someday I’d like to endow a world-class children’s library in Glasgow, the positive repercussions of it would be felt for generations.)

It must be like that for refugees to the UK or US.  They come ready to make a party, to celebrate and contribute to life here, and often are denied the most basic care, the right to work, are looked down upon and in extreme circumstance placed into detention centres.  I wonder if at the back of the individual refugee’s mind s/he thinks people are just joking and really they’re gonna wake up and realize that s/he is a good person.It can be impossible for a white person to imagine.  As a white American I have been raised with a cultural elitism.  Mostly subconscious, it is reinforced by the media not only in how ‘the other’ is portrayed but also in how ‘it’s’ not (absent). This is where life experience and community values become exceptionally important.  This is where engagement with folks from all backgrounds in a positive setting becomes essential (I can be thankful to MY parents for this exposure and openness).

Recording a soundrack for “HOPE”

This week Nathan Portlock (http://www.woodenfleet.co.uk/), our musician for the HOPE performance, travelled up to Glasgow from Birmingham to get some last recordings for our soundtrack.  The sounds and voices gathered from the day long workshop with folks from the Sri Lankan community will be integrated with sounds/music gathered from our last trip to Sri Lanka in the winter time.The day was an absolute riot.  With all the laughing and carrying on, it’s a wonder we got anything done.  These women are so talented. The more I get to know them to the more I adore them for their individual talents, indomitable spirits and exquisite dancing (and admire their parents for preserving their spirits in the face of so many challenges, I wish I could say the same for many groups I work with).

Nathan facilitated the ladies making rhythms with their feet, utilizing aspects of the room, and vocalizing in different ways.  In addition the young women used their ankle bells. Kavitha brought different instruments including her guitar and accordion type thing.  We ended the day with beat boxing where I was very impressed by the raps made by the girls!All these sounds will be woven into the final performance soundtrack – merging voices from the whole cross section of the Sri Lankan population here and abroad.

A “wee” Sri Lankan dinner… the perfect end to a great day

Later that evening we were invited to the home of Sushani and Prabath for a wee meal.  Wee?  HA.  Firstly there was the magical tray of appetizers that never seemed to go down despite the fact I kept eating.  After a while I thought the delectable munchies were the meal.  But NO, at about 10.30pm Sushani announces it’s time for dinner and marches out with ten of the most delicious Sri Lankan delicacies. I say ‘Oh my goodness Sushani, you must have been cooking all day. ’‘Oh no’, she replies, ‘only since one o’clock.’ When was the last time I prepared food in such a manner, invited people I don’t know very well into my home and catered to them?

I find it ironic and absolutely appropriate that leading up to Refugee Week I should be nurtured in such a way by such a gorgeous Sri Lankan Family. It reminds me that they are not exclusively Sri Lankan and I am not exclusively an American but collectively we are Glaswegians as this is our choosen home.  Living our lives here, sharing our lives here and how beautiful that opportunity and experience is. And so we ate, we laughed and we shared stories.  What a perfectly lovely evening to top off a perfectly lovely day.Visit Kate E Deeming’s website

Chris Pettigrew
Author: Chris Pettigrew