By Ardis Önnerfors –
On the 22nd & 23rd of October the Rumpus Room team got together for a group work weekender with the aim to check in with our young people’s committee. Present at the weekender was all of RR’s admin staff and facilitators, Youth Arts Bursary recipients Emelia and Maya, and the young people’s committee (except Ara, who was missed!)
We held this weekend at Milk, a social enterprise in our neighbourhood which provides space for community groups. The change in venue was really appreciated, especially because of their amazing kitchen facilities and natural light. The days ran from 11-2, and included a hot meal cooked by Camilla and Emma.
Day one was all about reflection and unpacking our current ways of working. We began by a collective read through our agreed safer spaces policy then I (Ardis, new at Rumpus Room!) kicked off the weekend with a facilitated committee check-in.
At first this focused on members’ overarching feelings about the committee and it’s dynamic, then moving on to analyse what has and has not been working. The discussion was productive and brought up a lot of action points along with tangled emotions, including the words; ‘rushed’, ‘loving’, ‘trusting’, ‘pressure’, ‘hopeful’, ‘overwhelmed’, ‘safe’, and ‘inspiring’.
An overarching theme of the discussion was that while it has been immeasurably important to have built such solid trust with each other and focusing on creating a safe space, it has meant that fewer of the projects discussed have gotten done. In the future, we hope to more clearly delegate roles, learn some new facilitation skills and structure meetings in advance, in order to make more happen.
After a break we reconvened for a workshop with Ailie Rutherford from the Feminist Exchange Network about mapping our economy. The idea behind this is to expose non-monetary exchanges (community support, informal care etc.) that capitalism relies on to function, but are made invisible in order to muddy the question of where power lies.
Through using symbols, Ailie showed us how we could map Rumpus Room’s many exchanges. While we participated in this creative exercise we discussed these and clarified questions such as how RR is funded, how sustainable those models are, what we all get paid, how it is important to say no and admit to reaching capacity, and how to value artistic work.
This all led us to recognise a throughline; the tension of wanting to resist labels and models imposed by capitalism, while still having to work in this reality. In the middle of this, our lunch was served and we ate white bean & tomato stew and peanut butter & sweet potato stew. We recognised how Rumpus Room’s nurturing space can often be turned inward and questioned how we can work to expand our care and love to the wider community. We ended on thanking Ailie for an illuminating workshop and voicing appreciation for everyone’s thoughtful contributions 🙂
On the morning of the second day an exciting person was introduced – Jules who was doing visual note-taking for us for the day! The results of this will be treasured by us for a long time, and it was very exciting to watch the notes grow and reflect the conversations as they developed.
The morning workshop was called “Collective Access & Care Workshop”, facilitated by one of our Young Arts Bursary recipients Emelia Kerr Beale, and introduced the team to the concept of access riders. This is a constantly evolving and changing document which expresses your needs in various realms (transport, communication, payment etc.) related to work.
It is not a practice limited to people with official diagnoses or who use the word ‘disabled’ to describe themselves – we all have access needs. Emelia explained that these are not only helpful in ensuring that the organisation you work with knows what accommodations to make, and in introducing accountability. They are also a useful exercise for yourself, which encourages you to sit down and formulate what those needs are.
However, writing an access document can be both draining and triggering. It is difficult to face what needs might have been ignored for a long time, both by employers and by yourself. We collectively read some examples of access riders, and there was general agreement that it is really inspiring to see people assert their limits and boundaries so clearly, especially in environments where this is often discouraged.
Seeing these documents made us realise that we are worthy of advocacy, that our needs deserve to be listened to. This was an emotional lesson to learn! As action points coming out of this workshop we agreed to actively encourage future collaborators to send RR their access riders, and for the young people’s committee to have a meeting where a group access rider can be written together.
After some mushroom and chard pie with salad we continued onto our final workshop. This was facilitated by another of our Young Artist Bursary recipients Maya-Rose Edwards, and tied together some of the important discussions that the weekend brought up about the running of both Rumpus Room and the young people’s committee, framed by our deep dives into both financial and access considerations.
We discussed the future and how we would like to see Rumpus Room grow, and decided on this being more like mycelium than linear, to expand outwards instead of upwards and avoid becoming faceless and impersonal. Maya shared examples of artist’s manifestos to inspire us to make our own. When it came to writing this up we avoided a template but instead used the prompt “I’m for a Rumpus Room that…” in the middle of a big piece of paper as a starting point for our own messy list.
After writing down some values and ideas we walked around it and read these out loud. Just a small extract of these include: “allows ‘mistakes’ and works with them”, “cares about our body clock”, “is celebratory”, “nurtures youth potential”, “feeds”, “has a laugh”, “disrupts the structure”, “knows its neighbours”, “feels safe”, “is multi-generational”, and “works to eliminate fluorescent lighting!”.
The session ended with a big applause for Jules’ illustration of our discussion, and quite an emotional check-in. We communally voiced how grateful we are to be part of this project, and of this trusting space that we have created together. It felt like an exciting note to end the weekend on, and we can’t wait to get to work implementing all of these conversations into future projects!