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FeaturesRural Voices

Rural Voices

Through ‘The Inclusion Agency’, writer Louisa Adjoa Parker has been trying to increase understanding between different ethnic groups and seeking out their experiences in the West Country.

Earlier this year The Inclusion Agency (TIA) launched a project which aimed to gather stories from Black, Asian, mixed and other ‘non-white’ people from the south west and other rural areas. The aim of the project was to give a voice to people living in rural areas who are often discriminated against, and to increase understanding between different ethnic groups. The project was funded by Arts Council England and the Literature Works Annual Fund.

TIA have been working to adapt the project in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, and now will deliver the work online—by gathering stories remotely, running online writing workshops, holding online ‘sharing’ sessions for participants to chat with each other, and creating a fictional audio piece, inspired by stories from West Dorset. The project aims to celebrate storytelling, diversity, resilience and legacy. TIA now hopes it will offer some support to BAME people in isolation.

TIA was founded by writer and consultant Louisa Adjoa Parker, and Louise Boston-Mammah, who also works for Development Education in Dorset (DEED). The pair have worked together on many Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) heritage projects over the years, and through TIA they hope to deliver further diverse arts and heritage projects in the region, as well as supporting organisations to become more inclusive.

Where are you really from? is a pilot project that builds on research Louisa carried out in 2018-2019 during her South West Creative Technology Network fellowship. She produced a blog and podcast which showcased her findings.

Louisa says, ‘When the coronavirus pandemic caused the UK to go into lockdown, I felt as though issues such as inequality and racism didn’t seem to matter so much when people were dying in large numbers. However, it has emerged that the virus has impacted disproportionately on those from BAME backgrounds. Although there’s been a strong sense of our country pulling together, racism and inequality sadly haven’t gone away.’

The new project will gather stories of black and brown rural life and share them widely, adding in literary elements including poetry and fictional audio. The project is supported by partner, Little Toller Books, a Dorset-based publisher of books about nature and rural life.

Other artists who will be working on the project are audio technicians and sound engineers Gary Pickard, Matthew Walker, Femi Oriogun-Williams, and poet Saili Katebe.

TIA are keen to hear from people with African, Asian, mixed, and other ‘non-white’ heritage from any rural part of the UK. They are especially keen to hear from people in the West Dorset area over the next few weeks.

Check out the project films:

For further information about the project, and to find out ways you can get involved, get in touch via the website or email Louisa from TIA:

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