Key learnings from the programme

'Key learnings from the programme' was a panel discussion led by OSCH member Maya Chowdhury, with guests Helen Featherstone (National Lottery Heritage Fund) and Parvinder Marhawa (British Council).

This panel discussion opened up the OSCH collective for evaluation by both the panelists and the audience.

This panel managed to retain my attention for an entire hour of discussion (a massive feat) and also managed to engage the rest of the audience, provoking questions produced by both the topics of conversation covered, and the candor with which the panelists posed/answered the queries brought up by the attendees.

It's rare that you get to experience and listen to honest confessions of structural racism within a space that has such an obvious colonial past that has been ignored and covered up for many years. Hearing the panellists answer the disarming questions presented by Maya honestly through recognising the difficulty of existing as a person of colour in heavily "white" places, especially heritage sites, was both refreshing and validating to hear.

The discussion attempted to talk about what the next steps are using the legacy

OSCH has left, though this is probably a discussion that should be had by the panellists in a room where they are not out of funding. Parvinder brought up the situation of funding coming with conditions and restrictions, whereas self-produced projects allow for "spinning out off and creating new things, which can be more transformative". However, for projects such as OSCH, there is only so far one can get without funding. As well as there only being so far one can get with funding in terms of the restrictions that come with the funders you work with. These being considered, this panel allowed me to not only evaluate how much good OSCH has done but also how much work is left to be done. Both as young people, who seem to be the only people leading this without refrain or considering room for softness, but also the effort which must be put in by the people with the power to provide resources and support.

The problem with all future projects is that they may try to replicate the success and work of OSCH, however, they will fail to do this. Not due to lack of effort or sufficient resources (though that may definitely be a problem), but due to the fact they are not us. The success of our project cannot be replicated, measured, or compensated with numbers or money (though, that would be lovely). Our relationships have outgrown the realms of OSCH work. Maya wrote a poem for Hawwa, for goodness sake! You cannot replicate the bonds and support system that we have created, which have been crucial in our progress both personally, as OSCH project members, and in providing us with skills that we have been able to transfer into our work lives.

Poetry night

Right now, I truly believe that the "success" of adopting minimalism into every aspect of our lives has begun to drive me insane. Not that maximalism is the key either. But in a world of Rupi Kaur-style writing, I had become starved and deprived of real poetry. Poetry which expresses feelings and situations with the number of words with which they demand to be considered. Despite this only being the second poetry night I have attended, OSCH or otherwise, I am certain that I would never find such a loving, open-minded and inviting space such as this. Each poet came with their own styles of writing, performing, and their own topics that they wanted to cover (however briefly). From the staging and setting all the way up to the hosting and performing, each aspect of this event was executed smoothly and efficiently to create a space that invited reflection and conversation within our own t lives and within the institutions in which are working.

I've gone back to uni now and (as an English student) all my tutors ask me if I like poetry, and I just don't know what to say. They ask me if I enjoy the poems of "the greats", but what they really mean is "the great white men". And sure, I can appreciate those writers for what they were and for the significance they held there in their time and place. But I don't exist there with them. I look at the names in the poetry anthologies being handed to me, but I don't recognise any of them. What I recognise is the poems of my friends, and the depth and pain in their voices when they perform for us at poetry nights. What I recognise is the tension in the air brought on by a room full of people, sitting in absolute silence, hanging onto every word as though it were a lifeline tether. The way in which these people I get to call my friends refuse the flowery language of traditional poetry and present the audience with a truth that is just digestible enough for it to pass through us, albeit painfully.

OSCH film screenings

The OSCH film screenings event was a chance to not only view the film created of the poetry night held by OSCH in 2022, but it was also a chance for each member of the panel to discuss and express how they found their way to working with OSCH and the museum.

The discussion was centred around the importance of projects such as OSCH to make spaces more inclusive, accessible, and representative as well as allowing cultural spaces to have nuance in the narratives they present (something which they been avoiding for centuries).

It also gave the panellists a moment to appreciate the work that OSCH has allowed them to do and take part in. From colourism workshops and co-curation to zines, blogs, and creating a Manifesto for Change, OSCH has given each of its members a chance to showcase their skills and expertise in different areas as well as allowing them to develop them further to apply into their own lives.

The event created an open forum for the panel to discuss the fear they had before joining such a white-dominated field, as well as Hawwa's never-ending hatred for museums (fair). They understood the challenges that would come with the de-colonising of spaces that cling so desperately to their purified history, and the narrative they have been preaching to the world for years.

A manifesto

The OSCH manifesto/resource is the final project put together by the young people of the collective which "aims to highlight significant reflections and legacies of OSCH through collective's perspectives" (directly quoting the PowerPoint presented on sector day – thanks Hawwa). I (being part of the creation of the manifesto, yay) feel that the manifesto is a very real and authentic project through the way in which it gave each of us involved a voice through which we could be as truthful as we wanted, without fearing reprisal, when narrating our experiences.

The Manifesto essentially consists of four main ideas and values (connection, curiosity/critique, intention, and sick and tired) which were established through a number of discussions that took place through the first few weeks of Manifesto workshops (facilitated by the talented Toreh O'Garro). We had decided that whatever the form the outcome of the project took, these were the four core ideas that we wanted to be presented and be felt by the audience. The manifesto allowed us to evaluate the work and love that has been poured into the OSCH project for the last four years, as well as allowing us to have a physical embodiment of this.

However, I truly believe that we, the young people of OSCH, embody the legacy it leaves behind to its full extent.

Radical Readers

The Radical Readers event was an discussion led by OSCH Co-Ordinator Dr Sadia Habib with guest Nooruddean Choudry, author of 'Inshallah United'. The event comprised of questions brought by Sadia concerning Choudry's book, which attempts to explore the intersecting themes of faith, football, and finding your place in a culture by which you feel alienated in most circumstances and settings.

The event also featured the reading of excerpts from 'Inshallah United', read by members of the OSCH collective. This allowed the book to gain a voice with which I was familiar. These moments placed the words of the book into the significant context of my friends voices, and allowed me to understand the book as one that could have significance to any reader. But also, after years of not being given the opportunity to see ourselves in the books that have been given awards and the books which we study as part of the British curriculum, I also think it's okay for us to gatekeep the books in which we see ourselves a little