Benefits from "More in Common" pilot - CultureLabs

The way in which people continue to be inspired by Jo Cox to bring people together across divides more than three years after she was killed is testimony to the fact that those values are enduring and unshakeable.

Inspired by her ethos, PHM launched More in Common pilot activity as an opportunity to work with the residents of Greater Manchester and think about what it means to live in a multicultural Britain today and how Brexit has changed that dynamic and feeling in the country. Together, we will be gathering to celebrate diversity, challenge racism and xenophobia – removing barriers brick by brick. This project is an attempt to help bring communities together in the spirit of her ‘more in common’ values of unity, tolerance and respect. We hope to inspire more people to join us to carry Jo’s banner of love as now more than ever, Britain needs to embrace, celebrate and find strength in its diversity.

This is clearly demonstrated by participants’ motivation to sign up for this project:

“I had always thought that what is most special about this country is the way everybody can enjoy living together irrespective of where they are from. This, unfortunately, have been changing over the past few years and I think it is even more important in these times that people come together and spend time getting to know each other”.

The more we got to know the participants’ motivations, the more we were certain that More in Common is very much needed within our community.

From the stories and quotations we are going to tell it’s evident the huge need for people to meet with the ‘other’ person. Whether this otherness is defined by their country of origin, race, political affiliation or even anyone beyond their predefined social circles.

During one of group discussions, two participants got engaged in a side discussion around domestic violence. One of them is a white British and the other is a British of Pakistani heritage and wears a hijab. She was telling about her experience being a domestic violence survivor and how she managed to establish her life after the traumatic experience and is now trying to spread awareness around this topic. The ‘white’ women, was fascinated by her story and she honestly revealed her lack of knowledge around this and said that was the first time she’s ever been in an in depth conversation with a Muslim person despite being over 50 YO. For her, this was the reason behind her interest in the project. 

Manchester, like other area in the UK, is a hub for tens of community centres and refugee support groups. However, it is a rare opportunity for those active communities to meet each other’s. Even for whoever is receiving a service from a charity or a solidarity group, to get to meet people from beyond that group of service users which eventually strengthen isolation and loneliness particularly among those with limited financial resources. 

These are some quotations picked up by participants about their motivation to join More In Common:

“As I am not originally from the United Kingdom but have only been in the country since the last 2 years as well as I don’t have any other platform for now to meet new people, and help myself understand more about my surroundings, different cultures, what different people from everywhere might have got. This will give me a chance for networking with some beautiful people & I would feel more comfortable & confident having to step out on my own for any sort of things like studying, finding a job, exploring more options etc.”

“I am a local person who is interested in getting a view of Manchester from an outside perspective, and of the UK in general. In this increasingly rabid anti-immigrant society we live in, I believe it’s important for me to understand that there are many different people in this world and explore how to act together to resist hate and reconnect with the people around us.”

“I am looking for outlets to meet a mixture of people. I mainly only know white and straight people and I would like that to change.”

“I want to learn new things and want to learn about Britain”

A story from "More in Common" - storytelling

Manchester pilot - more in common

What has been the impact of Brexit on immigrant communities in the UK? A work with local migrant and non-migrant communities to explore how we have “more in common”.

The project is creating opportunities for different communities in Greater Manchester to meet, discuss, and explore what they have “in common”.

Who is involved in the activities?

PHM targeted a diverse group of participants that included residents across different migration experiences such as refugees, asylum seekers, second generation migrant communities, naturalised citizens, migrant workers, migrant students, and ‘native’ citizens.

More in Common is an opportunity to work together with the stimulus of Jo Cox – the politician and passionate advocate for multiculturalism murdered by a far-right terrorist, that stated in her maiden speech to Parliament that “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us” – to think about what it means to live in a multicultural Britain today and how Brexit has changed that dynamic and feeling in the country.

The case study is partly envisioned as a celebration of different people’s voices and points of view and partly as a reflection of social and political changes happening. Therefore, it represents an opportunity for participants to have a voice in the creation of cultural heritage and artistic outputs within the museum space to champion diversity and to engage a broader audience within the debate of how much multiculturalism is valued in Britain.

PHM’s existing relationships and collaboration with NGOs and community groups was necessary to help us spread the announcement to recruit participants from a diverse background, among these the Jo Cox Foundation (https://www.jocoxfoundation.org/).

The current group of participants is a mix of age groups and genders, although participants identifying as women are much more than those identifying as men. The ethnicities of participants are also very diverse both within the British people (many come from mixed heritage or minor ethnicity groups in the UK) and non-British participants that include Hong Kong, Poland, Syria, India, DRC, Sierra Leone, France, Iran.

Some of them are asylum seekers or refugees while others have different migration reasons and stories.

Many participants told us after meeting the group that this is probably the most diverse room they have ever been into, but most of them consider themselves to be Mancunians. In the word of one of the participants:

“I am keen to get involved in projects that promote Manchester friendliness and dialogue between different nationalities who made the city their home.”

Manchester has a long heritage of activism and PHM – as well as Jo Cox’s memorial wall – represent the ideas that worth fighting for.

What do the activities consist of?

Following a launch event at the People’s History Museum, people had the opportunity to sign up as project participants. The key messages we used to explain what the project looks like were:

Do you believe that we can live together in a multicultural society without labels?  Are you looking for a space to meet a diverse range of people?

Be part of a group getting together at People’s History Museum every fortnight to meet, discuss, and explore what you have in common.  You can choose what you want to do and how you will spend the time together.

Working with an amazing facilitator, Magdalen Bartlett, the first 4 fortnightly gatherings are intended to build the group and get to know each other’s interests and skills.

We had clear objectives for those gatherings, however, we kept the plans flexible as we needed to adapt to what we managed to achieve in each session and build on it. The objectives included: getting to know each other; setting ground rules; exploring motivations of participants to get involved; brainstorming suggestions/ ideas for the fortnightly gatherings to be used for voting and making final decisions; introducing the next level of engagement through the smaller groups gatherings, we decided to call them Mini More in Common; and finally, making decisions on how to proceed, both in terms of fortnightly gatherings and the mini groups.

The Mini More in Common was an opportunity for participants to establish smaller groups of who shares a similar interest. Once founded, the mini group will decide their own schedule and frequency of meetings. We managed to start forming these groups before suspending the meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A glimpse into the future

The journey and experience of the participants will be celebrated and shared with the world in an exhibition in memory of Jo Cox. The exhibition will feature Jo Cox memorial wall with a new virtual memorial wall projected in the exhibition space.

The participants will work alongside museum staff to produce content reflecting their journey together whether through photos, text, personal account, etc.

However, participants will mainly focus on producing their own creative outcome that they’d have developed as part of their mini projects. The type of outcomes is varied: a photo / text collage, oral histories, fabric-based installations, theatre plays. All content will be digitised and a digital exhibition will be launched as a legacy for the project. Finally, as part of the national campaign by Jo Cox Foundation to celebrate Jo’s life, we are hosting a Great Get Together event organised by the project participants.

 

Discover further details of the pilot on CultureLabs platformhttps://recipes.culture-labs.eu/#/workspace/recipes/644