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POETRY AND ENGINEERING

UPDATE FROM BRISTOL, 22.02.24


Thursday saw heavy downpours of rain and most hotel residents retreating to their rooms, but we were able to welcome a small, steady flow of people at the table with a gentle bubble of conversation around us in the communal space, often hearing the words ‘Home Office’ in discussions held in Pashto, Arabic, Amharic and Kurdish, among others.


For the residents who remain at this Bristol contingency hotel, the sense of stasis in the asylum system and simultaneously witnessing the constant changes in the staff and resident population appears to be a tension that can be somewhat tolerated by those who we meet at The Community Table. There is rigidity and fluidity in the systems, in groups, in individuals and both have their values.


The immediate and short term future is uncertain, and yet there is an art of survival here, where those separated from their families are doing all they can to maintain a crucial sense of hope. We often hear how people have created a rhythm and routine across their week so that they can keep occupied, engaged in life, to meet others and to learn, and through conversations we witness the ability to withstand events and endure circumstances, learning of people’s skills, talents, training and education.


‘I want to try new things’ said an engineer, a regular participant who tentatively used the 1980s Letraset while providing very gentle guidance on which block to extract next from a game of Jenga. The perfectly assembled towers created today gave us little room for play in contrast to other weeks where the loose and more flexible structures have allowed for ease and less tension. A man who had just returned ten books to the University of the West of England’s library on advanced business strategy, scrolled through his phone to show us thousands of words of poetry that he writes when travelling on public transport: ‘without this I’d be lost’.


Current Bristol project Funded by National Lottery Awards For All.


Words by Amy Wilson & Sarah Robinson.




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