Ann Lewis shares Disley Friends' initiative to connect with their local community
When intolerance, hate crime and anti-Semitism raised its head in 2016, Disley Quakers felt led to figure out what they could do in the community to stand against it. We wanted to build bridges with people we didn’t know. We had contacts with some of the churches and the Women’s Institute, so out of a very small beginning grew a group called Disley Community Together. This led to planning a ‘taster’ day, where people could come together to do something positive for others.
From the moment we met, everything fell into place: using the Disley Community Centre; asking for a grant from the parish council; having free afternoon tea and cakes on Sunday 18 June, inviting the Chinese, Indian and Turkish restaurants and bakery to come, plus the nearest synagogue, plus the Ahmadiyyah Muslims, who had held a coffee morning in Disley; having a corner to knit or crochet squares for a charity, With Love from Layla, which takes blankets to Samos, and asking them to speak; having another corner making appliqué squares to add to a huge quilt called ‘Piece for Peace’ being created by an Israeli/Palestinian women’s peace group; asking the Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) Choir, the Disley Children’s Choir and the Disley Community Choir to come and sing; having activities for children – games, Giant Jenga, planting sunflower seeds, making friendship bracelets and having henna tattoos; visiting various Disley groups and the school. All of these things came to pass.
The parish council gave us the Community Centre for free, plus £100; an application to Cheshire East Council brought £100; Quakers gave £100 and Cuppa An’A Chat gave another £100 for the next event. All the cakes were donated, as well as a huge box of prawn crackers and Chinese lucky biscuits. We discovered that 18 June was one of the days when Brendan Cox asked people to honour his wife, Jo, by organising a Great Get Together, so we were thrilled we had chosen that day ourselves and could join in. There was a solemn silence whilst we remembered her commitment to ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’, which was exactly our starting point.
The WAST choir opened the afternoon singing of home, hope and friendship. We knew they were singing from their hearts because of their own appalling experiences and we were moved to tears by their courageous spirit. The children sang some lovely songs about friendship and helping everyone. ‘Take a look around you / It may well astound you / How some people just get by./ We can turn a sorrow / To a bright tomorrow / Now it’s up to you and I’ from ‘I’m gonna be your friend.’ And the Disley Community Choir sang beautifully, including ‘Shalom, Shalom’ after the silence for Jo Cox.
It was a coming together of the best in us as human beings, an expression of what we all long for: peace, friendship, kindness and tolerance. One of the feedback comments said: ‘We should, in view of all the recent tragedies, have more events entitled “Communities Together” to keep reminding everyone that we should, as human beings, have more togetherness and “treat others as you would have them treat you”.’
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