A Human Love Story @ The Wandsworth Fringe 2016

In April and May 2016 I was proud to be asked to contribute to Wandsworth Fringe 2016, funded by the Wandsworth Council, and bring A Human Love Story to South London.  Focussing on working in the areas of Totting and Battersea I spent the months of April and May meeting with groups and individuals exploring what our love stories might be and what they might mean in relation to our communities and ourselves.  Without a specific starting point I made contact with various community groups in the area and was really excited to connect with CARAS in Tooting and Love to Learn in the Katherine Low Settlement in Battersea.   Within these groups I met with many individuals from refugee communities and the people who work amongst them, talking with them about what love and belonging might mean to them and what their love stories might be.  It was a profound and humbling experience to meet with these inspiring and beautiful people and hear their stories: stories of love, of 'home', of family, of 'belonging'.  Each story was shared with openness and real courage and it was then my challenge to help bring some of these poignant and beautiful stories to the festival with as much truth and honesty as I could muster.

Love Stories from Tooting and South London

Here are just a sample of some of the compelling and powerful love stories I gathered during my time in Wandsworth.  These stories have now been gathered into a living collection, some public, some held privately according to the wishes of the individuals, and are to be shared through our project and locally.  

"No one can live here without love. Everybody needs it.  If you see someone from a different place and if you meet them, you should treat them nice, you should give them respect. We should treat each other the same. We're not different, we're the same people."

"We're the same people.  People are just the same.  And i'm proud of who I am."

"It's not about place, happiness and that internal feeling of belonging.  It's not about the location."

The Audio Visual Installation under the arches of Putney Bridge

Over the weekend of May 21st and 22nd during the festival I created an immersive audio visual storytelling space under the arches of Putney Bridge.  Within this subterranean space, that was flooded in the days prior to our installation, I created an environment where people could descend, sit on huge granite blocks with their feet in the dirt, and view and hear local love stories as they echoed under the arches: a collection of stories gathered during the previous months, set to imagery from the surrounding area as a London day passed.   

The Future

From the responses of participants sharing their stories and individuals experiencing the installation I am convinced of the value of this work in this context as a way of drawing communities together, building understanding, raising questions, opening up discussions as to our communities and how we create deep and inclusive community.  The storytelling experience gave many individuals self-esteem, allowing them to express their truth and their humanity and giving them a platform to share that with others.  It was a gift of empowerment and I saw the confidence it gave people and its ability to allow many individuals to grow outwards, using their experiences and their language to engage with others.  I am hopeful that I can continue this work.  I would love to extend and deepen this project, bringing together a living collection of stories that can be held locally for the community and used to draw all strands of this diverse part of London into a conversation.  I would hope to install this collection locally and provide a space and process for people to continue to contribute their stories, allowing the living archive of stories to grow.