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Rauf Bashir

East Lancashire

I got involved in the Shapes Of Water, Sounds Of Hope project via two organisations; Building Bridges Pendle and the Free Spiritual Centre – the Sufi group who led on the Sufi chanting.

It’s been nearly a 13 month journey. Laurie Peake, the director of Super Slow Way, came along to one of our Sufi chanting meetings. She introduced herself and Super Slow Way and talked about getting more people from this area involved in arts-based projects. She also expressed an idea that she had to work with Suzanne Lacey, an artist in the States, who’s a specialist in community based arts projects. That was the beginning of the relationship between two very different organisations. 

Suzanne Lacey came here, looked at the physical space and the communities and what niche she could identify which would capture a sense of togetherness. She drew it down to this mill site; the history it represents; the communities working there. Shape Note singing within the Christian community and Sufi chanting within the Muslim community came up as two prominent things which had never come together in any form, yet were integral aspects of their respective communities. So all those elements came into this particular initiative. 

Personally, it’s really been a really enriching journey. We started off with lots of great ideas, and saw how they developed, with anyone involved at any level being able to influence how things shaped up. When we had the main event, we had the chanting and the Shape Note singing, and we had a community banquet which was all about people coming together and sharing the same space, sharing each others’ backgrounds, local history, aspirations for the future. Everyone involved, to any degree, was like, wow, we’ve never had anything like this in our area. For the organising team, all those months of work resulted in what was a day full of various amazing aspects which will never be forgotten.  

Photo: Stephen King

From the perspective of my role with Building Bridges Pendle and Community Development, this project gradually brought together different organisations, who have different roles and histories in the local area, to work together in a way that we’ve never worked before. Through that journey we’ve developed this relationship, and friendship, and mutual respect, and an openness and a willingness to continue that close working cooperation between ourselves. It’s not primarily motivated by coming together to lay the foundations of organisational funding and sustainability, it’s about keeping the focus on benefiting our community and developing organically on that basis. We have an action plan; we’re sharing resources, we’re sharing staff expertise. That’s what came out of this. It was this project that brought us together, so that’s really, really positive.