Throughout the week, Thomas Bodley, a local resident and student at St Joseph’s College has been writing his own thoughts on the three events he attended.
Film Night – Monday 17th July
The opening night of this year’s Thornton Heath Arts Week saw the screening of ‘Forgotten Children’ a series of four documentaries originally shown on ITV. The challenging and often harrowing film looked at some of the problems facing refugee children fleeing war-torn areas looking for safety in Europe. The majority of children did not necessarily want to come to Britain but were sent by family members using people smugglers to escape war in their own countries such as Iraq and Syria.
Afterwards, there was a panel discussion involving a number of people who work with refugee children. On the panel was the Bishop of Croydon Jonathan Clarke, who introduced the film. He spoke of a child who had a legal right to join his uncle in England. Because he did not know this he hid beneath a lorry and lost his life when he fell out and was crushed.
Also on the panel was a volunteer from Croydon Refugee Centre which has been running for 20 years and representatives of the Refugee Council, Off the Record, Migrant Help at Brigstock Hostel and musicians and broadcasters who had volunteered in the Calais ‘jungle’.
We learnt of a charity called phonecredit4refugees and people were invited to donate. Another panel member, Asad, a cricket coach who runs sessions at Thornton Heath leisure centre wants to start a refugee cricket team. He said it was important for refugees to do normal things.
Overall, I thought the event was interesting and thought provoking. I felt sorry for the refugee children, especially those who had lost parents. There is an event scheduled this Sunday in Grangewood Park where refugees and local people can meet and play games.
Well Versed Ink poetry and art night – Thursday 20th July
We arrived at Costa Coffee at 7pm to be greeted warmly by Darren of Well Versed Ink. It’s been running for 3 years and the group of poets who have performed in Boxpark.
Darren played a game with the audience where he read out quotes and we had to guess if it was Hip Hop or Shakespeare-it wasn’t always obvious! The Wu Tan Clan’s lyrics sounded particularly Shakespearean!
The first poet to speak was called Dialectic Dee, the second was called Natalie. They both gave powerful performances. As the poets were speaking three members of the Living Free Collective did artworks based on the poetry. Then there was an open mic session with contributions from Shanice and Trish.
Darren talked about an initiative where Well Versed Ink went into schools, getting children to write poetry and perform it. Then his godson read a poem which I thought was really good, rhyming Darren with McClaren.
Thanks were given to Karen Barnett, organiser of Thornton Heath Arts Week who helped to get Well Versed Ink started, and to Darren for organising and MCing the event.
We looked at the paintings done during the performance. Pria from the Living free collective commented that the theme of the evening was love and relationships.
Question Time – Friday 21st July
We arrived at the Salvation Army hall to set up food and drink for the event. The humble tea, soft drinks and crisps were enhanced by a splendid array of African-Caribbean foods.
The proceedings began with a local musician called Skillington accompanied by Bernette on bongos – see bandcamp.com, YouTube ‘Skillosophic’ to hear his music.
Paul Macey introduced the panel members for the evening: Richard Green – regeneration manager from the council, Shaniqua Benjamin – poet and activist, Andrea Perry – Editor of Thornton Heath Chronicle, Jamie Audsley – Labour councilor for Bensham Manor and Anjali Borat of the Living Free Collective.
Those on the panel had very different ideas on the role of art in the regeneration of Thornton Heath. Richard saw art as a way of raising people’s aspirations of the area while Jamie saw art as something subversive, calling people to account. Shaniqua, meanwhile, championed the cause of young people in the area.
The event took on a celebratory character while everyone enjoyed the African-Caribbean food following the reading of a poem by Shaniqua and agreeing ideas for future art events in Thornton Heath.