‘I hope my stories will be heard by other people who do not know how UK’s hostile asylum policy is pushing refused asylum seekers to the periphery.’ (Leah, Nottingham)

From November 30th– December 2nd 2018, 12 people involved with NACCOM member projects across the UK (DASS Project in Glasgow, Action Foundation in Newcastle, BIRCH Network and Hope Projects in Birmingham, ASSIST Sheffield in Sheffield, Abigail Housing in Bradford, Nottingham Arimathea Trust in Nottingham, Share Tawe in Swansea and CAST in Southend) came together for a two-day residential weekend to improve confidence and develop skills in ‘storytelling for impact’.

The training was delivered by People’s Voice Media, an organisation based in Salford that run a European-wide ‘Institute of Community Reporters’ network. This is made up of individuals from local communities who tell stories in simple but impactful ways using digital tools such as audio and camera. Stories are then collated and used for reports, events and campaigns either at a local or national level, via the Community Reporting website.

After being introduced to the idea of ‘community reporting’, our group developed a ‘best practice’ guide, including respecting boundaries, developing trust, getting consent and understanding who will see the story.

We then collected a series of ‘snapshot’ stories and ‘dialogue interviews’ focusing on themes around ‘destitution’, ‘experiences with the Home Office’, ‘housing’ and ‘me and my community’.

Leah from Nottingham said; ‘The facilitators of the workshop gave us an insight of how story-telling can connect people through sharing their experiences. A collection of methods was introduced which included peer-to-peer interviews, establishing rapport with the person you are interviewing and how to record snapshot stories. As a participant, I realised that being in a group of people who are suffering the same injustice gave me courage to engage and speak-up with courage and enthusiasm. The workshop included discussions, role playing, basic interviewing and recording roles which helped me to tell my own stories in my own way.

Although reflecting to my own experiences was challenging, the interaction with other failed asylum seekers helped me to tell my stories without pressure. The technique that was used for story telling created an atmosphere of belonging. I benefited from practical skills training which helped me to tell my story about my everyday experience with Home Office without rehearsing. The overall objective was to acquire basic skills training in story-telling and recording other people’s stories.’

Victor from Sheffield said; ‘The experience has really been uplifting and opened up a new avenue of reporting I wasn’t aware of. I found the training we did extremely useful in the sense that it’s much easier to plan stories, video record them and upload them onto the website. Although I like writing, the impact of a 2 or 3 minute video can be very effective especially to an audience that has no time to read long articles.’

Charity from Birmingham said; ‘Coming to an event like this, you don’t know everyone and you don’t know the people you are going to meet and spend a lot of time with. But from the first night we felt comfortable and relaxed and by the end everyone was friends. If I am not comfortable, then I am not able to speak. But at no point over the weekend did I feel judged. Speaking about my experiences, sharing intimate stories that some people had never shared with anyone before, this gave me a big sense of relief. We have had people come to speak to asylum seekers before and do interviews for reports or research. But this was a totally different experience because it was for myself and for my fellow asylum seekers. You wanted to hear from me, what is my experience, and that is very different.’

Nico from Glasgow said; ‘For me, the weekend was educational and eye opening. I think it is important for people’s voices to be heard. People sometimes feel very angry about their experiences in the asylum system, but there isn’t the place or the resource to do anything about that. I have got experience in Glasgow of speaking to people but sometimes it is like I have been talking to the wrong people because the stories don’t go any further. So this weekend was good for me because it was a chance to share stories and experiences more widely.’

Since the weekend, People’s Voice Media has produced a short film summarising stories which can be found here:

[button link=”https://communityreporter.net/story/naccom-experiences-refugee-and-asylum-seeker” bg_color=”#2291b3″ window=”yes”]MINI FILM MADE BY COMMUNITY REPORTERS[/button]

Meanwhile, we’re exploring further training and support for the group to enable us to gather more stories about the asylum process and collectively raise our voice for change. On next steps, Leah writes, ‘Because I feel confident to use the skills I gained from the workshop, I would like to maintain and boost my confidence further by spending some time interviewing destitute asylum seekers whose experiences can never be heard or explored with any great interest by the media.

Meanwhile Victor explains, ‘I’m planning to do two stories of people who’ve agreed to appear on video and online about their asylum experiences’.

Charity writes; ‘I know a lot of people in my community and I would like to go out and do more interviews and gather more stories. Now I have received this training and I am a registered Community Reporter, it brings value to the interviews I would like to do. There is increased trust and expectation about what will be done with the stories. Before doing this training if I was interviewing people I would have done a lot of things wrong. Now I feel equipped to take my ideas and put into practice what I have learnt.’

Nico is also keen to take further action, writing ‘Now I am a Community Reporter, I want to go back and develop stories in Glasgow. There are so many people’s experiences that could be shared, and being someone who has gone through it will help to build trust and confidence with the person being interviewed’.

Want to know more? Get in touch at [email protected], or for general information about community reporting visit https://communityreporter.net. Here you can also find lots more stories- just search ‘NACCOM’.

Funding for the residential and People’s Voice Media training was provided by the Big Lottery Fund Awards for All.