Respites is a carefully curated series of day-long gatherings, exploring ideas and activities about rest, pleasure, contentedness, critical thinking and creativity. It is aimed at being a generative and respectful series of engagements with people who need and deserve more respite than they receive.  Each Respite sees a group of specially selected people share their expertise in workshops and breakout sessions, covering everything from meditation to martial arts, from poetry to music, aiming to create a cohesive and generous experience for those who attend.

Respites is curated by Ayesha Nathoo, Lynne Friedli and Steven J. Fowler, and is supported by, and part of, the Hubbub group, in residence at Wellcome Collection.

Respites #1 - A claimants’ day off : February 29th 2016 at the Hub in Wellcome Collection

The first Respites - for those whose experience is defined almost entirely, and relentlessly, by the psychological pressure to seek and find work, with an ever increasing set of debilitating sanctions should they not be able to do so, this day was designed to be a haven - a day of talks and workshops about a various set of ideas and practises, a space for them to share, learn and feel the respect every human deserves in our society.

"The first Respites brought together people claiming benefits for a day of exploration, creativity and solidarity at the Hub at Wellcome Collection, where myself, Ayesha Nathoo and Lynne Friedli met, all being residents and where Respites, as a concept, was conceived. We spent many months developing the project, really trying to maintain the open, pragmatic and inviting aesthetic we had agreed upon from the first, and the extraordinary expertise and intelligence of both Lynne and Ayesha made me absolutely confident that the day itself would be a success. 

The day itself was structured with a series of workshops which those attending could drop into at their leisure. A careful balance was given to the contents of each, and how they sat around each other, taking the group from relaxation techniques to martial arts, which I had the pleasure to lead, into poetry, theatre and finishing with meditation. There was a sure sense of community from everyone involved, most having never met each other before, and a firm sense that the indirect aims of the project, to support without generalising everyone with their circumstance, to provoke and engage, without ever being heavy handed, created an environment of kindness and generosity. 

In due time attendees expressed their insights and frustrations at the situation they experienced but this was part of the day and it's achievements. Rather this was expressed when it was good for them and everyone else to do so, and otherwise, we were just all people, getting to know each other, sharing a beautiful lunch, talking a whole day through with physical and intellectual ideas and pursuits. It was really a lovely, intimate, careful experience for me, one I savoured and felt very pleased to be a part of, to have begun new connections with people and to learnt much in a short space of time." 

          SJ Fowler