Kirkland, J. Potter, S. Affleck, D., 2014. Dear Homeland: CAT At The Edinburgh Festival. Reformulation, Winter, pp.9-10.
The Edinburgh Festivals are a place for art, comedy, poetry, theatre and events that draw people from around the world. A city of close to a million people attracts another million during the month of August every year. Where better than to take our cognitive analytic skills than onto the streets of Edinburgh during this festival season?
Our aim: To help people connect with and share our cultural roots and social identities. We do this by helping each other write and share letters to our homelands.
The idea of homeland is not predefi ned. Writing a letter invites us to be in dialogue with our homeland or homelands and to have a conversation. So we set up a website (dearhomeland. com), we booked a venue at the Fringe and put on two lunchtime ‘shows’ and we followed this up with an evening workshop.
But we need to go back a little. Last year (2013) at the Festival we went onto the streets of Edinburgh and asked people about their national identity. Our background was the Independence vote and we were followed by a reporter and featured in that weekend’s Sunday Herald (18.08.13). As the reporter Russell Leadbetter observed, ‘Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Thursday Lunchtime. An endless throng of tourists, performers and pavement diners.
Few notice the four strong team of therapists and psychotherapists - one an Englishman in a kilt - weaving their way through the crowds….here to map our national psyche; to ask native Scots and overseas visitors what they think of the country, and to work out their hopes and fears for the nation.’
On that evening we held a workshop and worked with people living in Scotland to write letters to Scotland and make CAT-informed maps (tentative SDRs) of their relationship with Scotland. The daytime was exhilarating, the evening workshop was moving, the mapping and talking in combination proved to be a powerful experience for those who chose to read out their letters to Scotland. Inspired, we have continued to develop our ideas. This year we aimed to gather letters written by people to their ‘homelands’ starting with those attending the Festival from all over the world. Our idea being that we all have a ‘Scotland’ in our minds and memories and connecting with it, with feelings of pride and shame, connection and loss is an important part of our shared humanity.
To begin the process we developed the website: www. dearhomeland.com. Its aim was to gather interest, letters, postcards and share the concepts with the online community. Letters were already posted on the site by the time we set out on the streets of Edinburgh assisted by other colleagues Alistair Brown and Rosalind Johnstone. Here we continued to explore letters, or shorter postcards, with those on the streets.
Our debut at the Fringe involved two shows at the iconic theSpace@Venue45. During the two lunchtime shows we developed these ideas further with the reading of letters and the exploration of a response. Audience members shared in our dialogue.
We wondered has your letter to your homeland helped you to be more in dialogue with your life story? Can we map this? Can we help take your dialogue further? What is your identity? Are you more settler or more nomad? Where do you want to be?
Whilst the lunchtime shows were in the spirit of the Fringe, developing, improvised and experimental, the evening workshop took on a more traditional aspect. Working in pairs, people helped each other write letters then began to explore what they had written. They each took it in turns to map the letter; where is your good place, your feared place, your stuck place? What transpired was fascinating: Whereas last year people’s letters were for public sharing and they felt able to read out their ‘Dear Scotland’ letters to the wider group, this year they were for private discussion. The letters were rich in multiple meanings, revealing and raw. They were best read and discussed with an attentive listener and not ready or designed for public consumption. The workshop concluded with us talking about the process of the letter writing. In this we have learned that ‘Dear Homeland’ can become indirectly, ‘Dear Mum and Dad’ or ‘Dear formative and early reciprocal roles’. We learned that the act of writing these letters was powerful and moving and began conversations about being in or out of dialogue with one’s past and where one is at the moment, using CAT ideas to enable this dialogue. We have decided to continue with the website and grow these ideas and would welcome letters from the CAT community. We will be offering a number of ‘Dear Homeland’ workshops around the country in the year ahead and if you would like to invite us or try out these ideas please get in touch. We can be contacted through our www. dearhomeland.com website.
Dee Affl eck is a CAT psychotherapist, co-lead of the Scottish CAT Practitioner training course and has recently completed a PhD supervised by Mikael Leiman. Jamie Kirkland is a CAT practitioner and Clinical Psychologist working in Forensic Mental Health Services, occasional kilt wearer. Steve Potter is a CAT psychotherapist, Chair of ICATA and teaches and supervises a wide variety of groups both internationally and in the UK
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