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With a Clear Goal, Things Can Change

In April 2015 we had a Wide World Change Workshop here in England, led by Julian Weissglass,1 organised by me. It was very different from most big workshops we have here. Eighty-five percent of the people were working class and/or people of the global majority and/or Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or Cornish and/or young people and/or Jewish. I thought it might be good to share what happened to make it be that different.

A WORKING CLASS IRISH ORGANIZER

The Wide World Change Workshop three years ago, in Manchester, England, was dominated by the patterns which sit on white southern English owning- and middle-class Gentiles. I decided then that I wanted more working-class people to be there and asked Julian if I could organise the next workshop. He agreed.

AN EXPLICIT GOAL IN MY MIND

I started to think about what a workshop here would be like if eighty percent of the participants were working class and/or people of the global majority and/or Irish, Scottish, Welsh, or Cornish and/or young people and/or Jewish. I was so scared about having that thought that I didn’t even have sessions on it to begin with—just harboured it secretively.

At one of Tim’s2 workshops, in February 2014, I was feeling very good about myself and I asked Tim if it would be okay if I asked Colette and Sheila3 (the Regional4 Reference People for Ireland and for Northern Ireland) if they would like their Regions to be part of the Wide World Change Workshop. I also asked if it would be okay for an organiser to have a goal of eighty percent of the participants being working class or of my other target groups. (I said I would still make the workshop open to everyone—that I would work for the goal informally through personal contacts.) He said yes to both. I had lots of sessions with a few trusted Irish people about how scary it was to have my goal.

IRISH REGIONS PARTICIPATING FROM THE START

After sharing my vision with Colette and Sheila, I asked them if they would like their Regions to be part of the workshop and they said yes. (I had a close relationship with both of them and they trusted me.) When I wrote the flier, I put their Regions at the top and made it clear that if the workshop was over subscribed, my target groups would take priority.

A DAY ON ENDING IRISH OPPRESSION

The day before the workshop, we had an Ending Irish Oppression Day, open only to people coming to the main workshop. That meant that lots of us Irish people came to the main workshop and that we were less scared than usual. We were a big group and very loud at mealtimes. It’s not normally like that. (Perhaps we were too loud, in our delight at escaping English dominance, and not thoughtful enough of others—but this is a long journey we are on.)

ALLIES AT THE "ENDING IRISH OPPRESSION" DAY

I invited a very small group of English allies to the Ending Irish Oppression Day, on the basis that they sat at the back, listened and learnt, had all their sessions with each other, and didn’t look for contact with the Irish people. Most of them were Regional Reference People. It was good that they came. I think something could change in the relationship between the RC Regions in Scotland, England, Wales, and Cornwall and the RC Regions in Ireland. I’m still not clear on what that is going to look like, but I am sure this will be the start of that change.

ONE-TO-ONE RECRUITMENT

I was scared to have the goal of eighty percent working-class and other target groups. I kept it close to my chest,5 but I did tell people one to one when I was encouraging them to come. Everywhere I went, I encouraged people I was close to who were from my target groups. Lots of them didn’t see themselves as wide world changers—in fact, the very title put them off6—but I just made them laugh a lot about that and showed them how much I wanted them to come.

I asked Alima7 (a Black woman I know and love) and Liam8 (a young man I know and love) to be part of my gang for recruiting to the workshop, and they encouraged young people and Black people to come.

Each time white owning-class people applied for the workshop, I rang them up9 and explained that it was hard for working-class people and people targeted by racism to see themselves as wide world changers and asked them if they could recruit a working-class or Black person to come. They were glad to do that.

LOTS OF SESSIONS

Julian and I had lots of sessions leading up to the workshop—mostly on the Ending Irish Oppression Day. I also had regular sessions with Gill Turner,10 who led the allies that day, both of us being as open as possible with each other. Mostly it was just completely terrifying!

THE SCOTS

I have daily early-morning mini-sessions with Fionntan Hurley, an Irish man who has lived in Scotland for many years, so I shared everything with him. He leads a group of working-class Scottish Catholics with Irish heritage. Because of him, they came as a group to the workshop and got other Scots to come, even though the workshop was just outside London. (Normally the Scots wouldn’t come down here for a workshop.) They were strong and visible as a group and made a huge difference

SINGING BY GROUPS

Sheila Fairon was leading the singing and had the brilliant idea of asking different groups of people to lead the singing before each class. So lots of groups that might normally be a bit quiet and invisible got to be up front and visible. That made a big difference.

In the closing circle, someone asked people to put up their hand if the reason they were there was their relationship with me. Maybe half the workshop put up their hand. That still makes me cry.

What I learnt more than anything from this experience is that if you have a clear goal, you can make things change—even things that might appear to be unchangeable.

Terry Day

London, England


1.Julian Weissglass is the International Commonality Reference Person for Wide World Change
2 Tim Jackins
3 Colette Morisson and Sheila Fairon
4 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities)
5 "Close to my chest" means very private.
6 "Put them off" means offended them.
7 Alima Adams, a Co-Counselor in Cambridge, England
8 Liam Geary Baulch, a Co-Counselor in London, England
9 "Rang them up" means called them on the phone.
10 Gill Turner is the Regional Reference Person for Scotland and Northeast and Northwest England.


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00