My experience as a Returner
18 / 04 / 19
28 / 09 / 18
F&BF, it’s been almost 3 years. Where has the time gone….? I came on board as Programmes Coordinator for the Schools team in November 2015. A new and different step for me, coming from a participatory arts and theatre background. I was asked to reflect on a highlight and leave with some words of wisdom for those inside or due to wander into F&FB’s lair… kidding 😉 F&BF is honestly one of the most welcoming, supportive and open places I have worked. The fact that a significant part of the staff were interns at some point (myself included) is testament to this.
The office feels a bit like a cosy village (against the backdrop of massive fast-paced London) of passionate, creative and inspiring individuals that all have their own interesting journeys into interfaith and intercultural work. We do stretches, warm-ups and name-games during our weekly Wednesday team huddles. Some love them more than others. Everyone takes part. It’s an organisation of stories, encounter, reflection and visioning. This work never sits still as discourses around faith, belief and identity (and its socio-political repercussions into lived experience) are ever shifting.
Complexity is where it’s at in this field and for F&BF. Intersectional awareness and inclusion are central to this sort of work. There’s no point to trying to negotiate this externally, if that critical reflection isn’t happening inside the organisation too. This is an ongoing process, and I feel there’s a core reflexivity and integrity at F&BF towards grappling with complex questions, led by staff at all levels of the organisation. I value the organisations’ interdisciplinary approach to bring people of diverse faith and (non-religious) beliefs together. I really value that its grassroots and also actively works to facilitate connections to influential people and places of power, for example through the phenomenal ParliaMentors programme. (How I wish I knew about this as a student!)
A true highlight for me was being able to bring together my passion, conviction (and hidden agenda) to further develop encounter-based interfaith work in schools and community spaces through creative participatory arts models. I was given the green light and a budget (very important) to produce an entirely new area of work called Amplify, which, yes, I definitely consider my work-baby. F&BF offers such a rich variety of programmes across the board and over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible team members, young people, facilitators, teachers, artists, interns, volunteer speakers, academics, (faith) community leaders and change makers.
Also, just the sheer variety of spaces I’ve gotten to work in, from schools around London and beyond, to conferences, community centres, parliament, arts organisations, mosques, churches, temples and synagogues, embassy residences, even Sweden, for a few days. I’ve also really enjoyed building partnerships with schools, communities, and arts organisations. A current and exciting one being the Public Acts partnership with the National Theatre. And, I’m going to do a shameless plug for this exciting project in my goodbye blog, right here, right now (we’re recruiting, get involved!).
All in all, it’s really tricky to sum it all up in a blog – also too many words for our current screen-attention spans. So, I’ll just leave you with a few words of F&BF wisdom. For those interested in getting involved… Expect cake and nibbles to be present in the office. Especially after trainings and events, don’t bring in your own lunch. Expect something awkward on your birthday and just sit through it. We have tea mugs with staff member’s faces printed on them, which will stare you down from the kitchen shelf. It is a bit strange. Always remember when you’re kitchen fairy! (Note to self.) And keeping it real, you’ll become part of a special, ever-growing community. Enjoy the journey to the fullest!