A source of inspiration

When it was announced last week that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the European Union I was a little disappointed: much as I’m very Europhil and very supportive of building and strengthening relationships across Europe and especially across often quite random borders – the EU to me is a very abstract, anonymous and massive building with endless corridors that produces laws & policies and has a canteen where real people meet over a cuppa to disagree.

Somehow I felt a little betrayed by not having such a real person awarded the prize – someone inspiring who I can look at or up to and take inspiration from for my own struggles and decisions. I find there’s something very uplifting and reassuring about the existence of heroes and they remind me of what we are capable of if only we believe in it and are really, really committed to it. But like with our recently celebrated Olympic and Paralympic ‘heroes’ it also needs a good amount of luck, support, favourable conditions and a healthy spirit – leave alone years of hard discipline – to be able to show that level of dedication to a task. And how many so-called heroes pay a high prize for their achievements – if we only think of people like Aung San Suu Kyi or Nelson Mandela and the impact of their commitments on personal lives and relationships. And then what is with all the ‘heroes’ that are never noticed – the unsung heroes. There are those who do great sacrifices without ever seeing any recognition for it: think of the beautiful memorial wall in Postman’s Park that commemorates so-called ordinary Londoners who’ve give their lives to save others. Then there are those that do random acts of kindness and every-day-bravery without ever seeking any recognition for it: I think of people that bring up children as future peace-makers and leaders, that safe/serve lives in hospitals, that hold leaders responsible to (democratic) values – I think of the young woman in Walthamforest the other night who I overheard asking a dog owner to pick up his dog’s poo because she was concerned for the health and safety of children (and got abuse from him for her concern).

Yes, part of me takes comfort in the existence of heroes (maybe because I can delegate some of my responsibility to take power to them?) and part of me knows it’s an illusion: we are all able of stepping into our power and do things that inspire those around us and we are all able to fail ourselves and others, to feel timid and doubtful. Personal ‘sacrifice’ is noble, indeed, and it can also be intimidating or disempowering to those that feel less powerful or certain. And that gets me right back to the EU and the idea of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to an organisation instead of an individual: because organisations offer a great number of people the opportunity to do their bit to promote peace and justice in the world without personal sacrifice.

What really got me around to appreciate the inspirational power of organisations was our deep:black trip to Liverpool last Saturday: we were invited to do a workshop at the Street Doctors‘ annual conference. I left feeling very inspired by an organisation that is committed to doing what’s within their power to save lives: as junior doctors they go into prisons to teach offenders the basics of dealing with the immediate aftercare of knife and gun shot wounds so that hopefully the person’s life can be saved until the ambulance arrives. What motivates Street Doctors is to see the change in perspective that the offenders have of themselves: as young people and adults who feel marginalised and not valued in society they realise that they really matter and can save someone’s life – and in more then one occasion have done.

So organisations have their role to play, big time, to inspire people and help us to ‘let our story shine like a light’*

*Tina Turner ‘We don’t need another hero’

Tell us which inspirational organisations you know! And who would you award the Nobel Peace Prize?

A week of peace?

 Photo & art work by East London artist Lanre Oluwole, Peace Week 2009

16-23 September saw London celebrate the yearly Week of Peace. It was launched in Haringey 11 years ago in response to concerns around community safety with the idea to inspire Londoners to make a positive change in their communities. And by 2006 it had inspired all 32 London boroughs to come on board and launch their own celebrations which included performances, talks, get-togethers, prayers, school events and marches. Read the rest of this entry »


deep:black has been obsessed with crows recently: we’ve developed a project called CROW based on Rafik Shami‘s children’s book ‘The Crow Who Stood On His Beak‘ which is all about celebrating people’s talents and exploring difference within community. Read the rest of this entry »

Breathing Space

So, deep:black has been on a retreat. On a creative retreat. It did occur to us that ‘retreat’ is what an army does before getting ready to strike again, a time to recollect, reconnect and re-form. Well, in some ways doing business in the current financial climate is a bit like entering a battlefield, and our retreat was very much about gathering and reconnecting. Read the rest of this entry »

Artist Dates

At its core deep:black is an arts-based organisation that’s made up of artists and collaborates with artists to spread the arts more widely into areas that seem still a bit art-deprived. And that means both making the arts more accessible to people that would otherwise not have felt comfortable to get arty – and to integrate the arts in areas of work where arts are not easily used such as conflict resolution and mediation.


For us our creative foundations also mean that we’ve got to stay connected with our own creative selves. A great tool for us individually has been Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way which we’ve both been working through and feel incredibly nurtured and encouraged by. Read the rest of this entry »


It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in the unknown, the unfamiliar. Scientists transform the unknown into the known, haul it in like fishermen; artists get you out into that dark sea’ Rebecca Solnit

About Restorative Justice and the need for more culture change

Our deep:black roots are in the arts and in conflict resolution, particularly mediation. As a community mediator I’ve recently also been trained in facilitating restorative justice meetings, which feels like a great honour because I’ll be joining an age-old tradition of conflict resolution that’s been practised in most civilisations long before developing abstract legal principles upheld by complex justice systems. Read the rest of this entry »