Friday 20 September 2013
St. Christopher’s School hosted Wrexham Schools Peace Day again this year with around 120 pupils from six visiting schools taking part along with St. Christopher’s pupils in a full day of activities and workshop sessions on peace related issues.
Assembly for Peace
The day began with all the pupils gathering in the sports hall where the Deputy Head welcomed everyone, Phil Main did some introductions and Rev. Brian Matthews, the school chaplain, took an assembly. Rev. Matthews talked about the message of peace in the Biblical prophesy of turning swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks, and also about the Autumnal Equinox which coincides with World Peace Day, using Phil’s head to represent the sun!
Pupils from St. Christopher’s school, Bryn Alyn and Rhosnesni high schools, Bodhyfryd, Brynteg, Holt and Rhosddu primary schools then divided up into smaller groups to attend workshops for an hour until lunchtime.
The workshop sessions
Ben Griffin spoke about his life as a soldier in the British Army where he was latterly in the SAS, why he refused to go back to Iraq for a second tour of duty, left the military and has now set up the first UK chapter of Veterans for Peace.
Owen Everett of Forces Watch ran a session exploring the ways in which the military interacts with young people, for example in schools, at public events, on TV, in games and so on. Pupils were encouraged to critically examine the military’s agenda and consider how appropriate its engagement with young people is.
Local Quaker Michael Still spoke about conscientious objectors in World War I and how they were punished and ostracised for following their consciences. Most were not afforded conscientious objector status, some ended up being treated extremely harshly in prison.
Jane Harries of the Alternatives to Violence Project explored some ways in which pupils can effectively deal with conflict in their own lives, for example by using ‘I’ language to discuss conflict (e.g. ‘I feel…’ rather than the accusing ‘You made me feel…’) and trying to find ‘win-win’ solutions that everyone feels able to sign up to.
Katie Saxby held a circle session in one of the tipis out on the school field, looking at ways to live in peace with each other in our everyday lives and introducing forum work – a practice used in eco-village and peace village community projects to resolve conflict.
Michelle Murphy and Helen Newton were in the other tipi, making Peace Malas with the children. Peace Malas are bracelets with 14 coloured beads arranged in a double rainbow representing 14 major faith traditions, a single central white bead representing the wearer and a final single bead is used as a toggle to bring the bracelet around the wearer’s wrist representing unity, harmony and peace.
Back inside, Bhupinder Kaur Virdee-Lace’s practical cookery session explored the philosophy behind Sikh seva: food serving peace. At the end of the session, children who had not taken part were invited to join the cooks who shared their chapattis and dhal so that everyone had something to eat.
Sophie McKeand worked with a group of children to explore the language of peace and work together to create a shared poem: “If peace was a bird…”
Clodagh Cherry of CAFOD looked at issues of trade justice with her group of pupils, who played the ‘Banana Split Game’ to learn how profits from banana production are divided between the various parties involved from grower to shop.
Phil Main and Joey Dickenson held a singing workshop, including preparation for a signed singing performance with the children in the sharing session at the end of the day.
Everyone came back together at lunchtime, in the sports hall and outside in the sunshine.
Leni and Katie, with help later from Michelle and Helen Newton, created a calm corner where pupils were treated to head, shoulder and hand massages, as well as learning simple techniques and practising these on each other.
Everyone was invited to draw round their hand, decorate their handshape with their name, a peace message or picture and add it to the ‘Hands Up for Peace’ rainbow.
Helen Still and Ben looked after the badge-making stall. By the end of the lunch hour many pupils were wearing peace symbols as well as a range of other creative badge designs. Helen, Maria and Leni worked through the sharing session to clear the backlog of badges waiting to be made up.
At the next table, children were invited to write or draw on the theme ‘Envisioning Peace’.
Stalls along the opposite wall of the hall offered information about many peace and justice issues and campaigns: Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, No Trident Replacement, Campaign Against Arms Trade, Forces Watch, Drone Campaign Network, Cymdeithas y Cymod, CAFOD and more. Messages on the tablecloths referred to the impact of war on children: “Remember all the child victims of war” and “War kills children and other precious living things”, while peace flags graced the gym bars behind.
Outside, a large banner ‘Real Peace for All the World’ stretched along the fence, above and behind it another: ‘Violence breeds Violence. No More War.’
Frank and Humphrey with others kept an eye on the Give and Take free stall and explained to curious children that everything on it really was free – a practical demonstration of gift economy and abundance through sharing. Children had brought items they no longer needed for the stall and everyone was invited to take anything they wanted from it.
Free soft drink refreshments and donated fresh fruit were also available.
Mel and Maria set up a couple of tables offering face-painting.
More peace symbols appeared, some of them inside hearts.
Mel, Richie and Laurie of Mountain Music had arrived earlier with drums and percussion instruments to offer workshops. One group of children spent the end of their lunch hour learning rhythms and drumming in the tipi.
All the morning workshops with the exception of the Peace Mala session were repeated with different groups in the afternoon. In addition, there was a large drumming and percussion workshop in the sports hall with many of the younger pupils at St. Christopher’s.
When these had finished, everyone came back together in the hall to share what they had learned.
Time was short as transport arrived to take visiting pupils back to their schools, but we heard feedback from most of the sessions, some of which was extremely powerful and moving; the children who had written poems performed them;
Michelle and Helen’s group sang a song they had prepared and Phil and Joey’s group sang and signed theirs.
We hope that every pupil who participated in the day will have taken something positive away with them towards the peaceful world we all need to help build.
Many thanks to St. Christopher’s school for their hospitality and accommodation, to all the visiting schools for taking part, to the workshop leaders and volunteers who gave their time and skills so generously, to everyone who made the day possible in one way or another. We also received some financial support this year from Cynefin y Werin and the Co-operative Community Fund to help with unavoidable expenses for this event and for the Peace Day in town on Saturday.
For more pictures from the day, see this flickr set.