OTW had not worked with a group of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants. There was no pre-existing group of any kind for the Place project. Because of this, the pre-planning for this project needed to address ‘finding’ people to take part.
OTW are part of Oldham Council and have close ties, therefore, with a range of council departments. The project began with a presentation and introduction to invited relevant parties in September 2011:
JAMES ATHERTON, CRAIG HARRIS: OTW
SALLY MACKEY: RCSSD, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
SHEENA MACFARLANE: Head of Heritage, Libraries and Arts
RACHEL WOOD: Arts Development Manager
KIM WADE: Gateway Community Development Worker Refugee Action, Manchester
MICHELLE ANDERSON and colleague: Asylum Services Team - First Choice Homes
DAYNA BRANNICK: workshop leader OTW
ADELE WRIGHT: ‘Children’s Locality’ Lead
BRUCE PENHALE: Head of Community Cohesion Support OMBC
JIM JOHNSON: Peshkar Theatre Co Manager
ZAIEM KHAN: Manager (Neighbourhood Oldham East)
STEVE CORBLEY: Library Service
JODIE BARBER: Senior Empowerment Officer, Oldham Youth Service OMBC
GERARD BOOTH: Director of Oldham Music Service
CHRIS SALT: Independent freelance/writer/film-maker
A number of events and publicity followed to attract a participant group including an interactive stall in Oldham Library. Postcards were placed in strategic places (such as the library).
In addition, documents were sent out to relevant contacts (see below)
Of most help were two existing organisations. One was a council-funded English speaking class in the adjacent library. OTW practitioners Craig and James ran three simple drama (and language-based) sessions within the English class space before inviting participants into the OTW building to expand into the Place project. The leader of the group, Keith, came too, encouraging his drop-in migrant adults. A second organisation was based in a local church, offering food, advice and a place to be for a few hours weekly, for those recently arrived in Oldham. Working closely with one of the organisers, Craig at OTW invited some of those making use of the facility. As described in Openers, the first session at OTW started with coffee, tea, cakes and conversation, to make the setting easier for those participating.
The support of local council departments and in depth local knowledge from OTW staff were critical in securing a group, particularly as there had been no precedent at OTW.