London Link Singing Citizens Shanty by Boff Whalley (after Roll the Old Chariot Along)
Report back coming soon!
London Link Singing Citizens Shanty by Boff Whalley (after Roll the Old Chariot Along)
Report back coming soon!
On a slightly drizzly Sunday (27th January to be precise), 31 young people and 7 adult volunteers gathered in Westminster Meeting House for the first ever joint London Teenage Meeting and London Link Group Winterval extravaganza!
Buoyed by biscuits and the hopes of a New Year, Friends regathered and exchanged stories before gathering for worship planned by the Clerks of London Teenage Meeting. Some classic icebreaker games followed, before most decided to brave the rain and take a guided walk around the surrounding London streets.
Having worked up an appetite, we all then took a culinary adventure and made our own pizzas. Whilst some were more artistically presented than others, all were delicious and there was more than enough vegan cheese to go around. Special shoutout goes to the kitchen clean up team who left it sparkling.
Far too soon, it was time to say goodbye and we parted with bonds strengthened and looking forward to seeing each other again in March.
We were in a new space but, as with last year and the year before, setting up the Quaker Homeless Action Christmas Open House included a lot of fun, laughter, a yummy lunch (pizza, cake and cookies!). This over a six hour day of hard work lugging boxes, moving furniture, sorting (mostly new) clothes and (mostly tin) food, scrubbing and cleaning the loos and shower cabin, putting up tents (inside!) and making and decorating the hall and night space (a smaller portacabin).
With the new location, at the International Church near Goodge street, there were new challenges. The ‘chain’ (of people passing delivered boxes and food stuff) had to be longer. It led from the street, down cold metal stairs, to not just one but many different locations! Some stuff went straight to the kitchen, other stuff continued through the hall up a few stairs to a storage space on a stage, and other stuff was detoured to the room that would later become a ‘shop’ of food and clothes.
A different chain was made to direct stuff straight to the big hall. The hall was much larger and when we arrived couches, chairs and tables were piled near the entrance. Walls were bare and the space felt drab and unwelcoming.
When we finished six hours later, tables were laid out ready for the next day’s arrival of lonely and homeless people. They would have a warm, friendly place to eat, play board games or cards, and paint or draw. With lots of heaving, pushing and pulling, welcoming spaces had been created by moving comfortable lounge chairs and the couches into position, and seasonal decorations put on the wall. A Christmas tree with bright lights and baubles graced one side of the room, and throughout the room chains of peace doves had been threaded together and hung by patient and nimble fingers! (The origami doves were donated by Quaker Peace & Social Witness staff at Friends House.)
Down the hall, the room that had been overfilled with scattered boxes of clothes and piles of food was now sorted into an orderly ‘shop’ with items stacked on and under long tables. In the week to come, homeless people would be guided through to choose food and suitable clothing.
The Open House shelter ran 23rd to 30th December. Unlike other winter shelters, this Quaker space welcomed guests with dogs and was open and serving food around the clock.
Quaker Homeless Action has come to rely on the energy and commitment that London Link folk give to setting up the Open House shelter over Christmas. Noel, from QHA, profusely thanked all the young people for giving up their first Saturday of their Christmas holiday. “Without you, we’d really struggle to get this set up on time,” he said.
Here’s looking to next December! This is an event when London Link graduates (those beyond the 18 year old limit) are welcome! And if you’ll be 18-years old or older next December 2019, you could also volunteer with QHA when the shelter is open and welcoming homeless and lonely people over the holiday season.
We also managed to get into The Friend, 2nd February 2019.
Day breaks, the light piercing the thin cotton veil in front of the library window of the old Meeting House. The smell of slightly charred toast fills the air, expertly mingled with the scent of too-much-Lynx. Quiet whispered jokes and chides quickly turn full volume before 8 AM, jarring the dozing out of whatever simulacrum of sleep they attempted to steal while splayed across a tiny couch like a crash test dummy. It’s London Link residential weekend.
Collecting the lion’s share of the young people at a Pizza Express near Waterloo on Friday evening, three volunteers (this author included) corralled the parade onto the train after a hearty meal, bound for Salisbury. Arriving at the meeting house well after dark, and having eaten already, we began to introduce ourselves to one another through a series of games led by volunteers. With everyone firm friends, the allocation of sleeping space became the next priority, and some enterprising young people elected to try and cobble the meeting houses various couches and armchairs into a bed. Impromptu blankets were fashioned from yoga mats, aprons, and everything in between. We all participated in that evening’s epilogue, which was set in the beautiful small garden behind the Salisbury meeting house, with enough benches for all.
The morning saw a full vegetarian cooked breakfast, much to the delight of young person and volunteer alike. We formed small groups and set off for the delightful market in the centre of town. Volunteers could be seen wandering through the artisanal cheese stalls and local bakery tables of the quaint market; Tiger and Tesco captured the imagination of the young people more thoroughly. The whole group rendezvoused at the Meeting House and enjoyed an enlightening talk by Chris Mould, who worked for many years with the Trussell Trust. He shared stories about his work in food banks and with young people, and helped start conversations with such large questions as “What do you want to do with your life?” Afterwards we shared a large lunch of vegetarian Bolognese, gathering our strength for the excursion to come.
Venturing out of the meeting house after our pasta lunch, we journeyed the 10 minutes to Salisbury cathedral. By this time, the weather had turned sour, and many lamented their lack of waterproof jackets and shoes. The meeting house generously provided umbrellas, which the lamenting gladly accepted. Upon arriving at the cathedral, we formed two groups and were duly shown the intricate features of this historic building by the volunteer tour guides there. Some young people expressed some fear at the notion of ascending 68 meters up medieval and Victorian staircases and wooden beams, but all made it to the top to take in the marvellous (if wet) view.
By this time, everyone was damp, and a bit tired, and so the general call for tea and biscuits was well received. We walked a short distance across the cathedral grounds to find a very warm reception at South Canonry, the home of the parents of two of our volunteers! Helen, with expert assistance from her young grandchildren, had whipped up enough chocolate muffins and tea to slake the thirst and quell the rumbling stomachs of 18 teenagers – no mean feat. The young people enjoyed playing classic games like pick-up sticks and ring-toss in the drawing room, since the weather precluded any fun in the garden. Once we’d warmed ourselves on the soft sofas, and the muffins injected us with much-needed energy, we gave a large thank you and a fond farewell to the Holtams and departed South Canonry for the meeting house. Soggy once more upon arrival, we spent the rest of the evening enjoying a dinner of potatoes and aubergine chilli, and various games and free time.
The following morning, a continental breakfast of toast and cereal replaced the full cooked breakfast, and the entire group set to work cleaning the meeting house and getting it ready for the arrival of Salisbury Friends. Many a parent would doubtless shed a tear of joy at the sight of a dozen teenagers hoovering, scrubbing, and tidying. Once we finished cleaning the meeting house, Friends began to arrive. The group was given the option of staying for the full Meeting for Worship, or embarking out into the downpour on a walk around the town. Those that braved the rain joined the meeting towards the end, along with the few children who attended the children’s meeting. Each young person and volunteer added their name to the visitor’s book, which dates from 1938, and after notices, we shared a delicious curry lunch kindly given to the meeting by a local chef de cuisine. After our Friends had left we found ourselves with a few hours remaining before we had to catch the train, and played a variety of games in the main meeting room. From there to Salisbury station and beyond, as we said goodbye to another residential weekend.
It was this author’s first experience of London Link, and of the residential programme. I was delighted to find a rich community of young Quakers, with clear history and deep friendship amongst its members. Despite this bond that had been forged over many such events, I was readily welcomed into the fold and embraced with genuine kindness. I am deeply grateful for the experience and for the efforts of my fellow volunteers, as well as the help and fun created and shared by all members of the London Link Group.
Naturally, we would also like to extend our warmest thanks to Nick & Helen Holtam for opening their home to us, as well as Salisbury Friends for trusting us with use of their beautiful meeting house. We hope to see them all again soon.
Report by Alex
On the 13th-15th Of July 2018 a total of 20 Young Quakers and 5 volunteers met at St.Albans Quaker Meeting House.
After journeying from London and further afield on Friday the first priority was food, food, glorious food. We had some jacket potatoes with a tomato/veggie mince. As this was demolished we played some name games; we had a few new people including 5 young people from the local area meeting (Luton and Leighton).
After our dinner had settled we played some games, Newspaper hockey (being this author’s favourite) and sardines then we had an epilogue, some hot chocolate and then settled down for bed.
Saturday was another beautiful sunny day, we started it in the best way possible with a veggie cooked breakfast. After this was cleared up we made packed lunches, had a bit of free time and then walked to the grounds of St.Albans Cathedral. There we had a picnic in the shade and relaxed for a bit chatting, playing uno and generally enjoying the sunshine. We then split into groups and either went round the town, seeing the sights or doing a bit of shopping, some of us went to the local swimming pool.
As many have done before, we gathered under the market clock tower in St.Albans.
From there we walked back to the meeting house where Michael and Katy ran a session on ‘well-being’, discussing some of the training that they had recently received via an FSSE training day. We talked about what strategies people used to relax as well as remembering to celebrate our own successes, to this end we all wrote something that we were proud or glad of having done, we then gave out the stationary packs that Children and Young People section of Britain Yearly Meeting as prizes for everyone.
Some games were organised including Empire, Sardines (again), Bannagrams, cards and various others until it was time for dinner. The dinner was London link’s first furore into mass curry making, we had Saag, Aloo and brinjal bahji curries with rice to choose from.
After dinner we had another first for London Link group – an informal ‘open-mic’ session,
we had lots of fun and excellent performances, ranging from telling jokes, playing the piano, the titanic on the kazoo and recorder and a rap about Junior Gathering.
At the end of the night we gathered round the piano and had a sing song, an eclectic mix of Beatles, rounds, Quaker songs and rounding off with Taizé which lead into epilogue.
On Sunday we were all up early to get the meeting house ship shape, ready for the local Quaker meeting, we packed our things away and had breakfast, and then what can only be described as a-power-ballad-driven-cleaning montage happened much to the delight of everyone (especially the volunteers I think).
Some of the group stayed in Meeting for the whole hour while others went with a group to the park.
Some lunch and free time and all too soon it was time to go home.
We’d like to thank St.Albans Meeting, the volunteers and the young people for a fantastic weekend.
Michael, Katy, Sally, Simon, Philip and Amy