Writing in the park

“It’s nice, really nice. Writing and sharing. And it makes us remember how lucky we are to see around us… the nature. It means a lot but it’s a little bit hard to explain.”

– Pathways Workshop Participant

The Pathways Project was designed to research the potential benefits of walking and writing together. We were particularly interested in how walking and writing might support refugees and asylum-seekers in Nottingham to make connections with their local landscape; engage with new forms of creative exchange; and overcome barriers to inclusion while fostering meaningful collaboration.

As the Citizen Scientist, I worked with Community Engagement Assistant Fahim Karimi – who has lived experience of the asylum-seeking process – and Refugee Roots, a Nottingham-based charity that helps asylum seekers and refugees navigate the complexities of building a new life in the UK. We worked with supervisors Dr Sarah Jackson (Nottingham Trent University), Professor Joanna McIntyre (University of Nottingham) and Jasmine Banton (Refugee Roots) to design, build and deliver a series of short walks in green spaces across Nottingham for participants from Refugee Roots.

During the sessions, which took place after English lessons on Wednesday afternoons, we invited participants to walk, talk and write all about nature and the spaces around them. Over the course of five weeks, we explored the Arboretum, the Forest Recreation Ground, Rufford Abbey Country Park, Elm Avenue & Corporation Oaks, and Wollaton Park. We wrote about nature, sounds, movement, belonging, and home, and spent lots of time listening to each other’s ideas. Each week, the group also produced some fantastic writing!

As a freelance poet and creative writing facilitator, I do a lot of work with marginalised groups, supporting people to find solace and joy in creativity. However, this is the first time I have ever looked at my practice from an academic standpoint. When I first started, I felt very intimidated by the academic research side of the project, but the support I received from Sarah and Joanna, and the wider Co(l)laboratory team really helped put me at my ease. By the end of the project, I realised how much I enjoyed reading and learning from academic texts, and how valuable it is to put my own work in a broader context.

During the project, we found some evidence that writing and walking workshops can help refugees and asylum-seekers living in temporary accommodation to make connections with their local landscape, and engage in new forms of creative exchange. But for me, the most important outcome was the connections we made, and the fun that we had together. The feedback from the workshops was overwhelmingly positive and many of the participants wanted the sessions to continue.

This research is hopefully the start of a much longer collaboration between Refugee Roots and the Universities for Nottingham, exploring how writing and walking can help refugees and asylum-seekers to connect with their local landscape, explore their creativity, and engage in activities that help to overcome barriers to inclusion too.

“Being together feels more beautiful than being alone.”

– Pathways Workshop Participant

Further details about the project can be found here: https://ufncollaboratory.ac.uk/walking-and-writing-with-asylum-seekers/