Putting the World to Rights at the Wall of Peace
This simple idea stemmed from a personal experience at a special service for peace that I attended last year. We were asked to use post-it notes to pin prayers for peace onto a wall and I asked myself: ‘how can I take a similar idea into the community?’ Answer: I could ask people ‘when you think of peace – what do you see?’ The perfect opportunity for this presented itself and the Wall of Peace in the Foyer at the Library during the Books by the Beach Festival April 2015 (when lots of visitors come to events there) was set up.
I also created a Facebook page to start the responses off by printing these out to pin on the wall at the onset of the event. (https://www.facebook.com/jmfairweather.co.uk). In addition, I received contributions via text and email from friends – including two from friends holidaying in Berlin (with photos of The Berlin Wall attached)!
The first day was quite slow as library users came and went, barely looking at the wall, and festival goers looked over suspiciously on their way up the stairs to the concert room where their chosen writer was speaking. I encouraged all those who glanced my way to come over and discover what it was about. It was an interesting day watching people’s first tentative steps to make a move towards the wall. The highlight of this particular day has to be a spontaneous truce between two people taking place at the wall – which made it all worthwhile.
On the second day, people were beginning to get used to me standing there, waiting to catch their eye, and they were more relaxed about coming forward – without being prompted in some cases. The same people tend to come in each day, as well as an additional mix of folk, and the regulars ambled over for a chat so I was able to coax them more naturally to complete a response through that. This second day saw varied individuals at the Wall of Peace, thus – to all these people in turn – I was a stranger, a friend, a confidante, a listening ear, a puzzle solver, a bag holder, a loo director, a pathfinder, a writer on behalf of those who couldn’t hold a pen, and so on. People have such fascinating complexities and I found it challenging to see who would walk in and talk to me next. I ended the day needing to trim the contributions down to make room for more. As an added bonus, I made several connections and contacts to help develop this project further.
On day 3, I felt I was coming to the end of my energy and was grateful for the ongoing cover support from the Scarborough Flare Committee – and a friend who continuously checked in to help out – which stopped me flagging.
As the library was closed to the public after 3pm on day 3 and the whole of day 4, we had to try not to encroach too much on loyal event goers and wait until they showed an interest before approaching them. However, many of them were happy to take a card and several brought them back to the wall as they left the building. So the end of day 3 saw more trimming and tidying of the contributions in preparation for the last day.
By day 4 the wall was pretty packed after a last trim and tidy before the final event of the Festival. Many event goers returned for the finale (Val McDermid) so most of these had already contributed a peace card though there were a few people writing cards as I left that event with more promising to return – therefore, the display will be left up until Friday 24th April.
The Peace Wall was a beautiful experience of community working together and a great team effort. I met some intriguing people with diverse opinions about peace – all of which will make for a good melting pot for the planned follow up performance from the responses. It is exciting to be part of something that started with a simple idea that the community embraced by their willingness to participate and develop together. I am looking forward to preparing the performance with fellow local writers and performers.
A notice will be available on social media, in the library and Scarborough News giving details of the performance date and venue a.s.a.p. It will be a free event with voluntary donations going to the Scarborough Amnesty Group.
(Please do call into the library up to 24.4.15 to read the responses and/or add one of your own.)
Julie Fairweather 21.4.15
Photos on Day 2, 3 and 4: