Tag Archives: community

Learning and working together

As always, it’s been a busy few months for Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service! Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to:

Mental Health Facilitators / Ayurvedic Indian Head Massage training

Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016

This is a joint project in Church Street, in partnership with the Mosaic Community Trust, to train local residents – particularly those with English as a second language – to become mental health facilitators and massage therapists through a qualified training programme. In turn they are able to act as champions for their respective communities.

As part of the programme a ‘Community Celebration Day’ was held in December at Church Street Library – many people, including GPs and practice managers from the local health centres, attended to discuss patient participation and how local people can play an active role in terms of their care needs.

The project has 15 students and they will be graduating as massage therapists this month! The training will equip the participants with relevant skills to work as therapists or freelance in a salon. Some students demonstrated their newly acquired skills at the event in December and at Church Street’s New Year’s New You event in January.

A World In A Suitcase (AWIASC)

A World in a Suitcase is a storytelling project funded by the Wellcome Trust & WAES in collaboration with an author and a former BBC producer. Its aim was to foster closer relations, understanding and tolerance between communities through sharing their ‘World’.”

Myrna Shoa and Timuchin Dindjer have run six workshops with our English Speaking Clubs members at Church Street Library, using multimedia arts and story-telling prop materials.

Participants have created a visual record of their stories through collages, drawings, words and photos. All these culminated into an exhibition at WAES which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Steve Summers.

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017 – click to view the rest of the images

Employment and Training Project at Queen’s Park Library

A great partnership has been forged with Queen’s Park Community Council and Paddington Development Trust’s (PDT) employment programme to introduce a new service at Queen’s Park Library.

The PDT Employment Adviser, Shah Alam, is based in Queen’s Park Library every Tuesday (10.30am-3.30pm). Shah works with Westminster residents, long term unemployed and job seekers, men and women over the age of 19, on a one to one basis. He sees them for a series of Information, Advice and Guidance sessions, a minimum of six and at a pace set by the client. Sessions can cover motivation and confidence, skills and referrals to training, CV creation, job search and applications, interview techniques and practical support.

SShah at Queen's Park Library, giving employment advice and supporthah is enjoying meeting with different community members, people with different needs and expectations from a job and who are balancing different responsibilities of family and childcare and other commitments. Contact Queen’s Park Library to find out more.

Parenting Seminars at Queen’s Park Library

A series of parenting seminars were organised and delivered at Queen’s Park Library, in partnership with Westminster Early Help Team & Parenting and Fast Co-ordinator, Madhu Chauhan.

Parenting seminars at Queen's Park LibraryFifteen local people have attended the seminars over three weeks learning about raising resilient happy children, instilling positive behaviours at home so they become happy, well-rounded and able to achieve their full potential.

Feedback ranged from great to excellent after all these workshops!

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

Another successful event was held at Pimlico Library in partnership with Westminster Bangladeshi Association (WBA) on 16 February to commemorate International Mother Language Day – a day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The event attracted over a hundred people into the library. We saw children making collages with signs and symbols of their native countries, with images of healthy food and key healthy lifestyle messages in different languages. Children also took part in a colouring completion and poetry performance as well as speeches about the importance of cultural diversity in language and why it is important to learn English in this multicultural city of Westminster.

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

This event was also supported by various organisations such as My Time Active, Westminster Memory Service, Health Information Co-ordinator and Health Trainers.

A Volunteer Success Story

Magdalena works at Queen’s Park Library helping out with Basic Computer Sessions and the English Speaking Club. She also helps colleagues with shelving.

Recently, she has acquired a job as she has been growing in confidence through her volunteering with the Bengali Service in Westminster Libraries. Congratulations Magdalena!

International Women’s Day

The Bengali Service also marked International Women’s Day with an event at Church Street Library, with some high achieving local female guest speakers to inspire the local women of Westminster as well as service providers ranging from  the education, training, employment, health and wellbeing sectors.

Watch this space for more news!

[Mahbuba]

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Queen’s Park Celebration

Henna painting at Queen's Park Library's Community Cultural Celebration, February 2017Queen’s Park is an area known for its diversity, and on Thursday 9 February we held a Community Cultural Celebration in the library which recognised the wide mix of people who live in the area.

The event – part of the Made in Libraries festival – began with face-painting and badge-making for the kids and continued with henna, Indian head massage and jewellery-making.

Chinese calligraphy master Mr Zhu particularly impressed the crowd with his beautiful translations of people’s names, and the evening was rounded off with some lively African dancing provided by local health and well-being group Healthier Life 4 You.

Mr Zhu's calligraphy at Queen's Park Library's Community Cultural Celebration, February 2017  Mr Zhu's calligraphy at Queen's Park Library's Community Cultural Celebration, February 2017

North African, Caribbean and Bangladeshi food was on offer, courtesy of local businesses Timgad and Guava Nights, plus the libraries’ ESOL conversation class. Not surprisingly this proved very popular! The library was absolutely packed with a mix of old and young, familiar faces and curious newcomers all keen to sample the activities. To say the atmosphere was lively would be something of an understatement, although fortunately the Learning Centre was available for those who wanted an escape from it all.

Picture from ‘Women of Colour - an Exhibition of Samplism’ by Toby Laurent Belson. Queen's Park Library 2017

Complementing the event’s theme was ‘Women of Colour – an Exhibition of Samplism’ by the local artist Toby Laurent Belson, which runs until 7 March. Toby’s vivid collage pieces, which depict women of the African diaspora, are stunning and make a visit to Queen’s Park Library even more worthwhile.

[Lucy]

Improbable Impro

Church Street Library & Improbable Theatre present:
IMPRO FOR ELDERS & LIFEGAME – A Double Bill Performance
Funded by Arts Council England and Create Church Street

Impro for Elders flyer front  Impro for Elders flyer back

Church Street Library has proudly embarked on this fantastic adventure with award-winning Improbable Theatre. Impro For Elders is a free weekly drama group for older residents of the Church Street area. During ten weekly rehearsal sessions a well-assorted group of energetic and sharply witted ladies and gentlemen is working towards two public performances, created from scratch, based on the practice of Improvisation. It will be performed at our local theatre The Cockpit in a double bill with Improbable’s show Lifegame (details below).

In the very capable hands of Workshop Directors Andre Pink and Caroline Williams, the group is shaping their understanding of Improvisation, exploring some of the great pillars of this ancient practice, such as Space Awareness, Space Substance, Imagination, and Voice to name but a few. Going by what I have witnessed so far, they are certainly having a lot of fun! Paraphrasing Andre after his last session

‘the group is doing amazingly well! They are effortlessly playful, always willing to take risks, which is vital when improvising and moving together on stage’.

Some comments from the participants so far:

Tony:
“As the rehearsals go on we are now more aware of where we’re heading.”

Joy:
“It has been a very inspiring experience getting to know people with such fascinating lives. Most especially to witness a sense of trust developing within the group. It feels we’re now able to communicate with our own eyes and body.”

Peter:
“Overall, quite a powerful experience from meeting like-minded people to the various drama games which make me conscious of what I’m doing and perhaps my own identity.”

Considering only a few of the group have had some drama experience in their lives, whilst a couple of others performed as professional musicians, they are quickly learning how to use voice and movement to act out autobiographical stories, thoughts and ideas, whether sharing their own or conveying the ones of their fellow performers.

Lucy Foster, Improbable Participation Director and Impro For Elders’ co-project manager, defines improvisation as a tool for social change:

“It is a deeply democratic art form that fosters a sense of community and empowerment amongst its participants and audiences alike and, in an age of increasing digital complexity, is determinedly live.”

Through the initial stage of recruiting performers, Improbable has promised ‘the sessions will above all be fun with lots of theatre games and lots of laughing’ – well I can wholeheartedly confirm this has been fulfilled beyond every possible expectation! There is a lot of sparkle in the room and I trust the trailer will prove that.

(Filming by Debora Gambera and Susie Italiano, video editing by Lucy Foster)

Find out more and book tickets to one of the performances by visiting the Church Street Library events page.


IMPRO FOR ELDERS: The wisdom of making it up as you go along.
LIFEGAME: Part chat show, part impro show.
Lifegame has been performed around the world since 1998.  A different guest every show, a different show every night. In this special version of Lifegame, a member of the Impro For Elders group (also a resident of the Church Street area) will be the guest. What are the stories that only a Church Street local could tell? Join us to find out!

About Improbable
Lead by Artistic Directors Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson, Improbable is a theatre company that defies categorization. It presents shows on every scale from sumptuous productions in the great opera houses to tiny improvisation gigs in the tiniest venues; it is at the forefront of arts activism through Open Space and creates groundbreaking participation work. At the heart of its practice is improvisation. Following the Eldership Project at The Southbank Centre in 2014, Improbable continues to explore improvising with older performers. In March 2017 a new show Lost Without Words at the National Theatre works with a company of older professional actors to teach them how to improvise.

[Debora]

 

The latest from Westminster Community Information

Seals Argue like a pro

Feel like there are one or two things to discuss at the moment?

Want to sharpen up your debating skills?

Westminster has not one but three debating clubs within easy reach; the Society of Cogers, the Sylvan Club and Debating London. You can just go along and listen or get more involved and take part in debates.

Two of the groups meet in pubs, which may be of interest, and one offers debate training (for a fee). You can find them listed on the Westminster Community Information web site.

Debra on the Community Information stall in Paddington LibraryPaddington health event

In late April I attended one of the regular health events at Paddington Library.

Here are some of the things you asked me about:

  • A young man wanted to know about knitting groups in the borough
  • A Malaysian lady who wants to start her own business running classes in Malaysian martial art (silat) and Malaysian cooking asked about business resources
  • A lady wanted to find a diabetes support group
  • A mature student was looking for social groups in the area.
  • An older lady was asking about handyman services and draught-proofing grants.

I will attend other library health events in the future and look forward to seeing you there and answering your questions about community information in Westminster.

[Debra]

Who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Performing a celebration of Peter and the Wolf for BBC Music Day 2016 at Westminster Music LibraryCertainly not the musicians, children and adults who visited Westminster Music Library to help us celebrate BBC Music Day 2016!
This was to be a double celebration as 2016 marks the 125th birthday of Sergei Prokofiev. Regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century, we decided it would be a fitting tribute to honour him with a special music workshop.

So it was that some excellent musicians from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra together with a bunch of our local residents and school children were all invited to perform music based on his much loved composition, Peter and the Wolf. With a grand finale concert for family and friends to finish off the day, this was set to be a fun and exciting challenge for all.

BBC Music Day 2016 logoBut before the musicians tune up and the music gets going, what is BBC Music Day? It’s a nationwide celebration of everything we love about music, aiming to bring people together from all backgrounds, all ages and across musical genres.

We reckon we have a bit of experience with this in Westminster Music Library, and it’s also something we feel rather passionate about. Let the show begin!

In 1936, Prokofiev was commissioned to write a new musical symphony for children. The intent was to cultivate “musical tastes in children from the first years of school”. Intrigued by the invitation, Prokofiev completed Peter and the Wolf in just four days. The debut in May 1936 was, in the composer’s words, inauspicious at best: “… [attendance] was poor and failed to attract much attention”. Since that rocky start, it has been performed the world over, recorded countless times, made into a classic Disney film and even been narrated by the late David Bowie.

It’s a great way to discover orchestral music as each character in the story has a musical theme played by a different instrument. There’s quite a menagerie of characters; a bird played by a flute, a duck played by an oboe, a cat on a clarinet, grandfather on bassoon, wolf on French horn, hunters on timpani drums, and lastly, Peter’s theme played by the strings in the orchestra.

Performing a celebration of Peter and the Wolf for BBC Music Day 2016 at Westminster Music LibraryNot having the space for a full orchestra some improvisation was needed, but with the addition of our talented participants there was plenty of scope to create a fantastic re-working of the piece. Everyone had a part to play from cellists to percussionists, and we were very lucky to have among our local residents someone with thespian experience willing to be narrator.

Once both adults and children had rehearsed both separately and together, we were ready for a final run through and show time. Our final working held one or two surprises, not least a very loud and completely wild belter of a chord to symbolise the wolf’s demise. This – we learnt from Jon our brilliant RPO leader – is known as a crisis chord, luckily it didn’t send our audience into a state of shock, although I’m only gradually getting my hearing back…

[Ruth]

Humming in Harmony

“The power of music to integrate and cure… is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication.”
– Oliver Sacks

Humming in Harmony for Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

Westminster Music Library’s five month programme of mindfulness workshops – Humming in Harmony – clearly demonstrates how true this statement is. These simple workshops, designed to improve mental health and beat isolation, connecting and bringing people together through music, have received lots of very positive feedback.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

Created by Sergio Lopez Figueroa, a qualified piano teacher and composer, Humming in Harmony uses the human voice and the power of vocal harmonies in new ways to relax the mind, whilst providing an opportunity to get away from our hectic digital lives.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

So what happens when we hum? I asked Sergio to explain:

“Music is energy, so by focusing on pitch or frequency and through conscious breathing, we feel the vibration, and over time improve concentration and focus by listening to ourselves and others simultaneously…. gradually we develop the ability to use this energy to interact with others, and to experience the benefit of tension and release in musical harmonies, and in our bodies and minds. From structured to open sessions, we can experience free expression, lead or follow as we please. We are each responsible for co-creating the best experience for the whole group, which makes Humming in Harmony different from other similar practices”.

It sounds simple enough, no qualifications or experience necessary, just turn up and start humming, and this is the really good part –  singing and humming not only brings people together, it’s also a great way to relax, unwind, de-stress, improve listening skills and pitch recognition, and helps develop correct breathing techniques.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

So with Mental Health Awareness Week fast approaching, last Saturday, Sergio – with a little help from Westminster Music Library – organised Mind the Body, a day of public health awareness activities focusing on music. Sergio demonstrated how the power of music can facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing, how it encourages communication, self-awareness and an awareness of others.  The day included interactive presentations by health practitioners, case studies, a film screening and Q&A session, and a creative Humming in Harmony improvisation led by Sergio on piano.

As you can see from the comments below from some of those who came along, I think it’s fair to say people got quite a lot out of the day:

‘Something I would normally never do – it’s a complete change to my usual hectic life.’

‘Excellent workshop, made me concentrate. Therefore, think positively in the present and left cares behind.’

‘Uplifting! Great help after feeling low.’

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

And from Sergio himself:

‘Thanks for Westminster Music Library’s support in offering the time and space to start a new initiative like Humming in Harmony, and the efforts you’ve made to generate awareness. The event on Saturday was very successful. We discussed issues about health, showed some interesting videos, and had two humming sessions. Having the piano was a real bonus, the improvisation with keyboard and humming was very well received. Participants were asking when the next sessions are as they are keen to continue.’

I’d better check the diary…

[Ruth]

A green oasis and a lot of fun

On guerilla gardening by Richard ReynoldsThe community gardening bug has bitten! We’ve posted before about the Marylebone Library garden, but did you know that not far away there is another band of green fingered enthusiasts making a beautiful green space around Church Street Library?

[I can’t help noticing that this book is available to borrow from Church Street Library… coincidence? Ed.]

Meeting on Saturdays from 10.00 to 11.30am, but with people popping by for maintenance tasks throughout the week, the project is led by volunteer head gardener Mike Wohl. Here are some pictures taken last week in the sunshine – Mike’s the one in the blue t-shirt:

All are welcome, no expertise needed – come and water the strawberries, plant some cucumbers, bring your little ones and get your hands dirty!

[Debora]