Nuturing Digital Connectivity and Creativity with our ROOTS Groups

Journeys Festival International Portsmouth producer Claire has always worked closely with our ROOTS group. In a blog post, she appreciates the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic and needing to find new ways of maintaining these strong relationships.

COVID-19 has impacted nearly all of our usual ways of working, not least our regular meetings with our ROOTS Groups. The ROOTS Groups are comprised of individuals from the refugee and asylum-seeking community in each city (Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth), who act as advisors and ambassadors for our work, and we value the opportunity to consult them during our normal meetings.

The last few months have found us all learning new ways to keep in touch and share opportunities, and the ROOTS Groups are no exception! In-person meetings have moved to video calls, projects we were planning have been halted and others have taken their place instead.

Given the new challenges facing communities at this time we have adapted our priorities and ways of working with the ROOTS Groups in order to support them better through the crisis and provide new outlets for creativity and connection.

At the start of lockdown we ran regular mindfulness and relaxation sessions for interested individuals, allowing the group to carve out some time for stillness and to clear their minds of the stress and worries of everyday. The sessions were incredibly well received and participants were taught a routine that they can continue to practise within small groups or individually.

We’ve also been looking for ways we can create more connectivity and opportunities for activities and engagement from home. Our recent Global Kitchen cook-a-long event seemed the perfect opportunity for this - you can read more about the event on our blog post here.

In Portsmouth we worked with our local British Red Cross team to provide our ROOTS Group members with supermarket vouchers for ingredients and we all cooked along with Linton in our own homes. The results look absolutely delicious and we’re just gutted we couldn’t sample them all too! A huge thank you to our partners, British Red Cross, for supporting the project.

Another initiative we’ve introduced over the last few months are Creative and Wellbeing Packs, containing basic art supplies, which were sent out to members in all three cities we work in. The items are for members to use as they wish (we suspect many will be keeping children entertained!) with the suggestion of two possible projects that people can get involved in.

The first, ‘Drawn Together’, asks members to draw and post back to us a self-portrait or still life of objects that they feel represent them. These will be posted on to ROOTS members in other cities, to help introduce the groups and begin some cross-city engagement. We hope this will be the start of the three groups working together more closely on certain elements and projects!

The second suggestion for members is ‘The View From My Window’, the results from which will be shared in an online exhibition as part of Journeys Festival International 2020 (28 September – 18 October), so keep an eye out for them!

While this has been a period of rapid change and response to the current circumstances, some really positive results have come from our new way of working, such as improved connectivity between the ROOTS Groups in each city, and we hope to continue and expand these elements as we move forward.

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