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Home is Movement

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After attending Safe Ground’s MOVING. HOME. Symposium (Thursday 8th September 2016) I was left, as I imagine many others were, with my mind spinning full of thoughts and questions about the nature of this concept we call ‘home’. I was blown away by the breadth and depth of what was discussed, and by the thought provoking, energetic and sensitive chairs. It felt like the symposium was part of a continuing conversation about the challenges and joys of home, so I would like to contribute some thoughts.

For me the concept of home has become increasingly important in recent years to so many different people, in a multitude of ways; from someone dislocated by time in prison, or unable to find affordable and appropriate accommodation, or the displacement caused by gentrification, or refugees fleeing their homes to find new homes in a new place, or a changing political climate in the UK – to mention only a few. Each person negotiates the conflicting pressures and feels their way through the potentials in their own way. I came away from the symposium with a stark realisation that an ideal of home that is portrayed in popular culture is quite different from the reality that each of us lives with. There were so many differing perspectives and experiences of what home is, could be or isn’t, that there could never be an agreement over it, and neither should there be.

Home contains many dualities – safety/ violence, here/ there, place/ emotion, nation/ housing, private/ communal, static/ fluid, present/ future, and securitisation/ openness. Despite these distinctions we often seem to start conversations about home from the idealised version; the image of a young boy looking through the window of a perfect family home and knowing he doesn’t have that, or the person feeling more at home with the idea of homelessness, rootlessness – or indeed the many idioms repeated about home. So why is the conversation framed from this ideal that in reality excludes most people? Where did that particular understanding, that has become so normalised, develop from in the first place? Perhaps the ‘resistance’ spoken of by Kelly Foster, one of the panellists, needs to include the fight to take back and open up the meaning of home to make it a more nuanced, complex and sometimes difficult ‘tapestry of experiences’, as a fellow panellist Deanna Rodger put it. To separate home from housing, to recognise the histories of homelands and the exclusions of the past and present.

Something else that stood out strongly for me, sparked by the introduction to the conversation of ideas about the bureaucratic processing of ‘home’ or the utilitarian use of home in law, was how the political and economic changes in this country and globally are reducing the possibilities of what home can be and of who gets to decide that. We shouldn’t underestimate the challenges that this is causing, not just to arts organisations and charities, but also to individuals and communities. The experience of ‘discombobulation’ and uncertainty is a reality for many people through regeneration and the displacement it causes, prison service reforms, the consequences of Brexit, social housing and housing association changes, global migrations. Just as identity and belonging are always formed in relationship to others, home is too.

We must remember that there is something really important about the desire for personal belonging and security, fulfilment and self worth and the yearning that drives people. So this brings me onto my word for the day. Charlotte Weinberg, Executive Director of Safe Ground and wonderful host for the day, asked us each to write down a word on the back of a postcard that comes to mind when we think of ‘home’. For me this word is ‘movement’. Sometimes movement is a choice, sometimes it is forced – but it always changes possibilities. Movement not just through space but through life too – our personal perspective of home changes over the years. The fluidity of home is so important and so there should be more recognition that home doesn’t stay in one place, physically or emotionally. Maybe home is found through that movement, or maybe we don’t need to ‘find it’ at all.

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