On Belonging, Connection and Place: Migration and Movement… – Emma Louise Pratt

Sharing stories of travel and home: meditative works resulting from a residency project working with a community group in Trumpington, Cambridge.

The Wednesday Group

In response to a desperate need for housing in the UK, Cambridge has expanded by thousands of homes in the last six years, growing at a rate of 11,000 people per year. The rate of housing and new people arriving to take up residence in these areas has left us with many wants and needs in terms of community or sense of place. Even simple infrastructure is still missing. Our community in the South of Cambridge is very diverse, most of us migrants and the vast majority of us have not lived in this particular area for more than five years.

Our Weekly gathering Emma Louise Pratt ink and gouache on watercolour paper 2020
“Our Weekly Gathering”, ink and gouache on watercolour paper, 2020

It’s up to the people in the community itself to come up with answers. One response within our community is a “playgroup” – a place to go for carers of young children at home. Each Wednesday, a group of volunteers set up this play group in our community hall. Within months of starting, the numbers were reaching 50 families in attendance. I usually go on a Wednesday morning to help set up and advise about language as a significant proportion of people that come aren’t confident with English, our lingua franca. Our observations of the group told us that this was much more than a “play group”.

“I Sign My Name” Watercolour on watercolour paper 2020 37.5 x 56 cm

A We-ness.

We come together, to not be alone. Many of us are isolated linguistically and culturally, or through the simple job of raising young children at home. We live our isolated lives in boxes, either stacked on top of each other or side by side, dislocated from family groups and old friends. Isolation in all its shades has been a keyword in many conversations the volunteers have had with the people who attend the Wednesday group.

June 2020: Covid-19 and Lockdown

The Covid-19 pandemic has put a halt to any gathering. So, our Wednesday Group has ceased to gather. Some of the coordinators have tried online gatherings to sing with the children, but this is not an easy medium and people are tired. We wait.

“You Come from the Great Ocean”, acrylic, ink, marker, watercolour on watercolour paper, 2020