Crossings is an organisation in Newcastle-upon-Tyne set up initially for refugees and asylum seekers to meet and make music together. It has subsequently developed with a range of initiatives under its umbrella. Following a number of Monday evening visits to Crossings where we had many interesting conversations and saw a drama for International Refugee Week being developed, we made an invitation for up to 30 members with their children to come and visit Burnlaw for the day.
Several reasons emerged as to why this was thought a good idea. When describing its geographical position in the North Pennine hills of Northumberland, there was enthusiasm to leave urban Tyneside and to be closer to the natural world situated in a rural upland setting within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Secondly, there was an interest to meet together and to enjoy each other’s company in a new way. And not least the draw of walking and seeing, talking and listening, within an inspirational natural environment.
A coach was booked and the group came to Burnlaw on Saturday 14th May 2016. A walk down the 200 metre green leafed track brought us into the cobbled yard – once the original farmyard (a large part of Burnlaw dates from the 1600s). Hot and cold drinks were served, and very soon mobile phones were out for group shots and selfies.
Burnlaw is home to a number of adults and children. With some of its outbuildings converted to activity spaces, kitchen and bunk-bed accommodation, it is also a centre for home-made retreats, creative workshops, and celebratory events. But it still remains an upland organic farm – smaller now than years ago, when it would have had a much larger grazing acreage.
At this time of year its fields and woods are full of lush growing grass and wild flowers. We all walked together through various fields, crossed stiles, and climbed trees for the rest of the morning, ending up at the tree platform in a vast spreading sycamore. More photos, more conversation, jokes to laugh at, and a deepening pleasure of being in these surroundings. Fast moving cloud, but pretty good weather.
Back in the yard soup got served and was eaten together with food provided by the Samosa Sisters, part of Peace of Mind – affiliated to Crossings. On the uneven ground of the cobbled yard chairs rocked and caused a few smiles – adding to those already there from delicious food. Lots more pockets of conversation
We had also thought that this day would provide for a further description and presentation of how Make/Shift was developing and making progress. During the afternoon we gathered in the airy activities room in the Centre and showed a couple of short films that gave examples of previous work devised by Claire and Tim, and to use this to begin a discussion about themes around dance, choreography, potential cultural differences and shared experiences. We spoke about why we work with choreography as an art form to engage with the world, and how we have formed a relationship with film. Christo spoke about his relationship with film-making and a very interesting and valued discussion developed where individual voices were heard and experiences described.
We heard about the absence of dance where there is war; of where men may not dance with women, and where women will not dance if men are present; and the observation that the UK is perceived as a place of freedom for people, but the people do not seem to dance much to celebrate their freedom.
The clock ticked to the time of the coach returning and conversations continued on the walk up the lane to rejoin it. More photos and big waves of goodbye as the coach drove away.