By Linda Wooston (BC2004)
Last year I participated in a Meyler Campbell fishbowl where I was coached by Nancy Kline in front of 50+ of the Meyler Campbell network. I only said yes as I knew it was something that terrified me, though I did know I would be in good hands with Nancy. I wondered afterwards what the session looked like to the observers, when at one level so little happened then at another so much happened. It was a real turning point for me. I decided to go for a big topic that was on my mind but had no idea where I was going to go with it. Right until the last moment I was debating in my head whether I should go for something safer like my role as Master of Ceremonies at my niece’s forthcoming wedding . I’m glad I took the bigger question of my role in bringing about world peace and what more I could do. I know – it was big ask for a 50 min coaching demonstration……… Through Nancy’s incredible attention and seemingly simple questions I had many insights and went on to put many of the thoughts I had that evening into practice. The context to “world peace” is that a couple of years ago I heard Jeremy Gilley speak, the founder of Peace One Day, I cried as I listened to him as I sat at a table full of strangers. I was so moved that I wrote to him. As a result I have been coaching him ever since. (He is happy for it to be known that we work together).
You can see him telling his story in a TED talk that went on line this http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_gilley_one_day_of_peace.html
One of a number of things that came out of the fishbowl for me was the connection to the Olympics. Peace One Day is going to be an integral part of the cultural Olympiad, and on Peace Day this year (September 21st) Jeremy will be announcing the goal of a global ceasefire and a 70% reduction in violence on September 21st 2012. It’s a big goal. Brazil will carry forward the message of peace in to the 2016 Olympics. I hadn’t realised as I thought / talked about it that the watching audience could see the BT Tower circling over my head out of the window with the countdown to the Olympics in bright lights. What struck me in the fishbowl was that activities would take place on Peace Day all over the world, from humanitarian activity, to football games, dance, music and so on. What about in the shadow of the Olympic stadium? Where post code gangs meant that many were living in fear, young people wouldn’t cross a postcode boundary for a job for fear of violence. So as a result of the spur of the fishbowl, I arranged a cup of tea with Jeremy, the Head of Youth and Children’s work at Community Links and the Community Links co- Founder. Community Links is an outstanding organisation in Newham, in the heart of the Olympic area . Some weeks later Jeremy and I found ourselves in a community centre with a group of young people and youth workers. It was fascinating, inspiring and sometimes tense. A boy called Vincent, I think about 11 yrs old, looked at Jeremy and said “it ain’t going to happen”. Jeremy told the story of Afghanistan where there has been a ceasefire on September 21st for 3 years in a row resulting in 4 million children being vaccinated safely by aid workers. If the Taleban would agree to a ceasefire for a day surely we could do something in Newham. Vincent was resolute. It was dangerous out there, nothing would change it, people wouldn’t change. After further dialogue with Jeremy, Vincent said well…maybe we could give it a go. A few weeks later Community Links screened Jeremy’s documentary for all the children and youth workers and now every youth and children’s group across Community Links is involved in Peace One Day activities and are launching a year of peace. The young people who we met at the Community Centre are all being invited as guests to the Peace One Day concert at the O2 arena to thank them for being prepared to give peace a go.
Last week Community Links organised a ‘Peace One Day’ football tournament bringing young people from different areas together (photo). This week there were riots and the world has witnessed terrible sights in England. I’m in South Africa at the moment and everyone is talking about what’s happening in England. My hope is that the riots will strengthen the desire of the young people in Newham to bring about peace in their communities and will not be seen as young Vincent’s prediction coming true. Time will tell. In the meantime I’m glad I said yes when I was asked whether I would consider being a fish in a Nancy Kline fishbowl.