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Tea & Chats – Gathering the thoughts of a City

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By Sandra Rodríguez

I can’t count how many voices and stories I listened to over a cup of tea. The Tea & Chats were exactly what those words literally mean, informal conversations with a very clear objective: listening to the people in Dublin who kindly agreed to share their thoughts on Arts & Culture with us. The spontaneous nature of the process allowed honest conversations where people felt comfortable talking about their ideas, concerns and desires for their city.

However, it was a very challenging process. The primary challenge was about building trust, gaining people’s confidence to open the doors of their community centres, their youth & elderly clubs, libraries and sometimes their own houses. Doors opened, they would let in complete strangers who happened to be facilitators-cum-gatherers of people’s deepest reflections on their communities, their lives and their understanding of culture.

The citizens spoke of disconnection, division, lack of communication between themselves and the new Dubliners.

Some of those who took part in the Tea & Chats sessions had experienced a similar process before, but for the majority it was the first time in their lives they had ever been asked their opinion or were invited to make suggestions on how the life in their city could be improved.

The citizens spoke of disconnection, division, lack of communication between themselves and the new Dubliners, and especially about the absence of awareness of how and where to source Arts & Culture in the city.

I can say it has been such an enriching adventure: listening to people who had so much knowledge to share

The Tea & Chats sessions focused on active listening. Each of the projects developed as part of The National Neighbourhood initiative aims to tackle those missing elements through Arts & Culture.

 The citizen and the neighbourhood are the heart of each of the projects.

The Tea & Chats workshops, which started with Dublin’s bid for European Capital of Culture back in 2015, have been a very interesting learning process for all involved. As one of the facilitators, I can say it has been such an enriching adventure: listening to people who had so much knowledge to share, or people who wanted to express their fears, or those who lamented the loss of community spirit, but who also want to learn how to be active participants in their city, as well as how to feel included.

In other words, these ordinary citizens wanted to feel a sense of belonging and to be listened to.

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