Let’s Talk Rochdale perform at the Embassy of Utopia

3 July 2024 - News

As part of The Embassy of Utopia, a spoken word performance event by Manchester City of Literature where Greater Manchester residents shared their visions of an ideal world, we took part in workshops encouraging women of South Asian heritage to express their ideal world through the power of poetry.

In this second session on the 6th of June I (Amina Beg) facilitated a rehearsal inviting the group to curate a line-up for their sharing of Utopia on the 14th of June. We started with the English-speaking poems to set the stage before transitioning into Urdu and Punjabi verses. We wanted the women to express themselves safely and in a manner that was comfortable to them, plus I wanted to showcase the rich linguistic in Urdu-Punjabi poetry giving these ladies access to freewrite in their chosen language as part of their artistic expression.

One lady shared her version of utopia: would be wanting to be happy, peaceful, no fighting with relatives. I would like there to be no bills for the poor people who can’t afford it. I don’t want anyone to struggle. I want to go to a place with no internet, no mobile phones, like how life was in the 80s, 90s, 70s, where people used to go to each others house, doors used to be open and you could just walk in, and nowadays you have to make an appointment with them and ask them if they’re home first.

The workshop was received with eagerness to perform and enthusiasm from the participants. After the showcase on the 14th of June many ladies expressed how grateful they were for the opportunity to perform, with some sharing that it was their first time on stage! Others noted how this event has helped them get out of their comfort zone, by getting out of their house and performing has helped these women significantly with their mental and physical health giving them the agency to free-write. The way these women were so beautifully confident on-stage and presenting their ideal version of this world to the public was refreshing, emotional and executed poetically.

It’s really important to engage older women especially from the South Asian community as their stories are often overlooked or under-valued by society and cornered into domestic spaces. I wanted to change that by inviting this beautiful group of women from Let’s Talk to share and perform what the best world could look like. It’s really crucial to give space and power to older women as creative industries often lack this content, narrative and story-telling. The access to creative industries is already a barrier but this event captured the need for these community groups and space for older female groups. By giving these communities the skillset to write and perform this will help them develop their confidence. I hope these ladies are able to apply this in their day-to-day life – that’s essentially my utopia.

This is the second of two blog posts written by Urussa and Amina about community engagement work that took place during Festival of Libraries 2024. Please find the first one below to find out about the workshops on utopia from the Let’s Talk group.