Speak to me...

24 September - 22 October 2021

Barrie Llewelyn, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing introduces the project

My idea was to partner Syrian and Sundanese refugees, who have been resettled in the Pontypridd area, with local English speakers, including some of our TESOL students, in a series of creative writing workshops.  I wanted to build on the work of Dr Mike Chick, and others, who are dedicated to finding innovative ways to assist the refugees with the acquisition of language skills.

            More and more of my work links creative writing and wellbeing. It seemed there would be no better way to add value than to help people write poetry as part of their language development.

            How wrong I was.

Over five weeks, participants were given prompts in the form of games and activities to explore themes of celebration, food and friendship. The partners exchanged their stories. And something unexpected happened.  The partners became friends.

Every week as people entered the room with smiles and greetings, the importance of creating poetry receded while I witnessed and took part in something much more valuable: the understanding of each other’s cultures and the break down of barriers. Everyone involved grew in confidence and expressed themselves ever more comfortably. For my part, I was reminded that no matter how different our roots, cultures or faiths are, we are all very much the same.

The group worked with visual artists, student sound technicians and a photojournalism student to produce an exhibition, which showcases the achievements of the project. Speak to me… is funded by Literature Wales’ Literature for Wellbeing Fund and USW through English Research funding.    

Four extracts of conversation

Beverley Humphreys, opera singer and broadcaster, describes the impact of working with the refugees

Four years ago R.C.T County Borough Council gave us a beautiful gift - the privilege of welcoming and supporting 50 refugees from conflicts in Syria and Sudan. Devastated lives, shattered dreams, hearts stripped of hope, with at first, no English words to ask about this strange new country or express their fears and confusion.

Growing to know and love each other has taught me so much about the resilience of the human spirit. They have enriched my life, broadened my horizons.

Sharing tears, laughter and stories, together we now have a renewed hope - the glimpse of a new horizon. 

List of Participants:  

Fooda Al-Ali // Firas Almaghribi //Nisreen Almaghiribi //Batoul Al-Numeiri //Omar Al-Numeiri // Hamza Al-Numeiri // Hoda Alsayed // Abdul Anees // Mohammad Anees // Renda Kojo // Idres Mahmoud // Maya Mzyan // Adam Almaghirbi // Rosa Almaghirbi // Yara Almaghirib // Ellie Baker // Jason Glover // Cerys Jones // Ladislav Pecha // Naomi Preston // Agata Szefler // Megan Roberts  // Jackie Sprinks // Michael Todd // Nerys Todd // Rick Wilson // Eleri McConnell // Alice Todd // Jessica Todd

Artists // Marina Iodice // Robert Oros

 Sound technicians // Magdelana Ploskonkova // Victorial Szabo // Natasha Sethi // Dingni Wu // Mark Sandler

 Photographers // Arhantika Rebello // Louise Richards // Barrie Llewelyn // Robert Oros

Special Advisors // The amazing Beverley Humphreys // Dr Mike Chick // Steve Johnson

 Special thanks to // The Chaplaincy at The Meeting House // Debenhams, Cardiff // Jane Finucane // Taylor Hebert // Naomi Preston // Chris Nurse // Peter Lambern