Qalam: Creative Writing Walk

Oct 04, 2017

Qalam, meaning ‘Pen’ in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Sindhi, is a creative writing collective seeking to explore creativity through words. The project launched in July 2017 with a creative writing walk, following the River Lea through Luton.

All journeys begin with a single step and this one began at the source of the river in Leagrave. A group of amazing and dynamic women came together with the intention of rekindling their love of words through inspiration from people and places. Following the River Lea through rural and urban spaces gave everyone an opportunity to, not only connect with each other but also to the surrounding environment in order to explore the connection between writing and walking. 

Having most likely been named after the Celtic god of light, the River Lea was truly a means of illuminating a path for self-reflection. The day began with brief introductions through sharing interesting facts about our names and all the history and heritage which is connected to them. As we started our walk, the organic and fluid manner in which everyone interacted with each other proved that, regardless of our faith, culture and background, sharing an experience as though we were nomad travellers on a quest, brought about the most beautiful conversations. 

We stopped near Limbury Park for our first group exercise facilitated by Imrana Mahmood. Sitting in an intimate circle, everyone had been requested to bring with them an object which we felt held a particular significance and to share this with the rest of the group. The delicate and trusting way in which everyone shared the struggles, experiences and memories which were attached to those objects was truly profound and moving. There were objects which held sentimental value such as a watch or a ring, and there were those who did not bring their object with them but chose to speak about its significance in the space in which it is usually kept, and others felt they had no attachment to any one object in particular as a way of counteracting the materialistic nature of society. The words and feelings expressed were interspersed with tears and laughter which brought the group closer together.

We began walking again and the next stop was to have lunch at the newly restored Wardown House, a perfect setting to share food and conversations. As with most journeys, it seems food always causes the most delays, after all walking can make people very hungry!

The next group exercise was facilitated by Shana Kiely and was based on Neuro-linguistic Programming, which required everyone to contemplate in silence whilst being led on an imaginative journey, exploring an existential experience in relation to water and the connection between the human senses. We were then asked to participate in free writing to put our thoughts and feelings on paper and were encouraged to overcome any inhibitions we may have in our writing and to trust our own instincts. 

The next stop on the walk was to visit the Tributary exhibition by artist, Abi Spendlove at The Storefront, a part of the As You Change, So Do I commission by Luton Culture. This beautiful body of work was also based on the theme of the River Lea and it proved to be a great inspirational resource for writing. Having had the opportunity to engage with the artist and her work, we then went outside and sat near The Cultural Quarter, providing us with an opportunity to reflect on the whole walk and to write a short piece to then share with the rest of the group.  

The writing that was shared was beautiful and deeply insightful. Some had been inspired by the River Lea itself, others by the conversations they had had and some by the Tributary work. Artist Mentor, Amerah Saleh, also performed a spoken word piece which left everyone mesmerised. All in all, each member had found an inner voice which they were confident to share with the group which was so amazing, because it is only by sharing a part of ourselves with one another, that we can truly actualise a journey of self-discovery.

Below is a poem written by one of the members of the group, Rosa Gallo:

Ebb and Flow 

"I am born, I rise, I grow, I flow 
Buoyant, boisterous, vibrant
I rush on As a turn approaches
I slow Glimpsed faces, fragmented words, sparkling impressions, shadowy reflections
Some merge with me and some go. 

Unexpected pebbled ground rattles me, shaking and churning within 
Confused I forget which way is forward
As it passes I resume and amble on picking up speed. 

A smooth stretch brings me to an almost standstill
My journey now sooo slow. 

Before long onward bound again I am born, I rise, I grow, I flow
My destination far ahead At the next turn, the next rattle, the next slow.

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