“Playing With Fire: peer to peer survivor writing” is funded by Arts Council England. Giving me time and mentorship with Kirsty Logan to work on my book ‘Peachy’, to hold a writing workshop and produce a reading event as a platform for survivor writers.
My book Peachy is set in the suburbs of Auckland, NZ in the late 70s and early 80s, as disco is ceding to punk, and tells the story of an uneasily queer kid, growing up amidst gang violence, homophobia and rape culture.
“Playing With Fire – peer to peer survivor voices” is a platform for survivor writing where we can feel supported, learn skills, and see each other. Developing hybrid live streamed and in person formats, Playing With Fire trials a model for beyond the pandemic, making a change towards inclusion. When people talk about ‘Going back to normal’ I hear ‘being isolated at home again’. I want to make sure that myself and others who are similarly disabled are not excluded when that happens.
The peer to peer survivor workshop
I wanted to hold a peer to peer survivor workshop for the longest time. I obsessed about it, craved the space, but could not figure out how to do it without all of us as survivors triggering the F* out of each other. The idea built over time. I’ve been part of collectives and peer to peer communities for decades. I’ve learned a lot about how to hold non-hierarchical shared spaces.
On the 6th and 7th March 2021, I ran two digital workshops for survivor writers. Originally planned as a single workshop, due high demand an additional day was added. That weekend was astonishing, exhausting, nourishing, exciting. I’d forgotten in all the work of preparation that this was also MY first time to share a space with other survivor writers. Listening to others speak, slowly things started to fall into place. I loved being with the group, holding the space, but it also massively expanded my own understanding of myself as a survivor.
‘Playing With Fire – live reading from survivor writers – took place on April 24th online, hosted by Live Art Development Agency featuring Jet Moon, Dolly Sen, Elinor Rowlands, Ayotomi IF, Andie Macario and guest readers from the workshop.
A Free zine of the featured writing was posted out to the first 100 pre-registered participants, so you can read along with us and connect on the page. Download the PDF here.
Playing with Fire live reading event was launched in digital format on Saturday 24th April 2021 on Zoom – you can listen to the recording here.
As I said in my third blog post for Spread the Word:
The project Playing with Fire gave me a community of writers. People I could identify with and who also gave me a sense of there being a big audience for survivor writing. I learned there are many, like me, who persist and use writing to get through the day. Who push against invisibility, to shout, chant, rhyme, thread together the lines of existence, to anchor ourselves and to reach out to others.
I have plans to continue Playing With Fire. I’m thinking about what I want and need in a community of writers, while digesting all that I’ve gained so far. A big thank you to all survivor writers who have been part of this. I feel eager to meet more of you!
Linocut by Jenna Andreotti
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