Bristol, December 2023
The door that we normally enter the hotel through had been closed and the adjacent one had been opened, giving us an experience of disorientation and being in a world where everything is the same but different. Throughout this session, we found other strange orientations such as an upside down miniature globe and an upturned overhead projection of one of the large maps with journey lines collectively created in Northern France.
While people gradually joined, a newly arrived doctor thanked us for providing the table, that it was so vital for the mental health of the residents, especially those who had been there for a long time. He used the table as a place to meet other newly arrived people and share the information he had gathered on the asylum system, as well as bringing new friends and acquaintances, linking them in with our offer of space, play and connection.
As we continue to see new arrivals at the hotel, we simultaneously wonder about the men we’ve not seen for a while. Sometimes someone will reappear after months of us not crossing paths and the cycle continues of meetings, gaps and greetings. We told those at the table this was our last session before the New Year, an intervening time for rest and re-growth, and we noticed a theme of circles across the table, in projections and in selected postcards.
The dark, cold mid-winter generally keeps people indoors and the added strings of light along with the projectors help to alter the quality of light in the communal space that the table sits in. The lights brought in a luminous, playful element to the table, referencing many cultural festivals, and we noted that the name and word Noor meaning ‘light’ was spelled out on the table. Noor/nour is an Arabic and Hebrew name and it is also used in the Bible and the Quran to refer to God’s light or guidance. The Community Table offers glimmers of absorption and ways to encounter hope as the evenings draw in and daytime grows shorter as we arrive at the Winter Solstice.
Words by Sarah Robinson & Amy Wilson.