The first Tuesday of every month, a group meets in the communal area of the Fitze Millennium Centre. They chat, catch-up and check-in on how each other are doing. But there’s something a bit different about this group.
“We’re all human beings. We’re not robots, we all have feelings and different views. What we’re doing is just trying to understand what’s going on.”
One person always in attendance is Elisha. He is staying at the Fitze Millenium Centre and started these meetings last year. They are spoken word events, which offer a space to explore ideas and viewpoints in a safe, creative way.
“I got into spoken word through a friend, and for me it is about finding your own, unique voice. The meetings at the Fitze are a chance to address different issues and have open conversations about them. Spoken word can take lots of forms, but whatever it is, it gives people the chance to speak. People don’t always feel like they are being heard, and you never really know how they are feeling unless they say. That can make a big difference.
The topics can vary, depending on who comes and what people are feeling. I write some down in advance, but we also see what’s on people’s minds when we get there. We’ve discussed mental health, racism, religion, how to create change in society, all sorts.
I can be nerve-wracking for people, but I always say that’s a good thing. Nerves can carry you far from where you want to be, so it’s good to master them.”
At these gatherings, Elisha often guides conversation to make sure everybody can speak. The format has worked so well that other people are now trying to replicate in other Evolve services across London. He explained how open and honest communication can change not just our own lives, but the lives of people around us.
“We all have things to learn, we all make mistakes, and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up or criticise others when they get things wrong. That doesn’t help anyone. We should try to have open minds and understand what everyone else thinks as well as yourself. People can be quick to judge, and you never know what other people’s experiences have been unless you ask. All we do is give people the chance to speak, really.”
These spoken word evenings are a chance to talk about anything – whatever people care about and whatever is occupying their minds. They are also, Elisha says, a powerful example of the influence of language, both in our own lives and wider society.
“With lots of topics, we often still use certain words and inflammatory language which can cause problems. We say things that we wouldn’t want to have said about us. We must educate ourselves and learn the history that shapes us.
You have to stop, and really think about what you’re saying. Sometimes we get stuff wrong – we’ve all been there, but again we’re all just people, no-one is perfect and being open with each other really helps. We see inflammatory language in politics all the time, and it does damage. It can demonise. We can all make an effort to avoid doing it ourselves by being honest and having empathy for others.
We’re all just trying to figure this life out. It isn’t meant to be easy, but by listening and working together we can make progress. We’re on all on our own journeys, with our own destiny, and we can all carry our own pride as we go along. Finding your voice is part of this, and that’s one reason these sessions are so valuable.”