In October, Xenia welcomed a special guest to our Saturday morning session at the Hackney Museum; Diane Abbott, Shadow Home Secretary and MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington joined us for the first hour of the workshop. Coincidentally, the theme for the session was political dissonance and making our voices heard, the perfect discussion to have with your local MP present!

As it was coming up to Bonfire Night, we discussed the relevance of the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot and how this was a way to speak out against the government. We then spoke about the ways in which the women of Xenia could make their voices heard, including peacefully protesting, voting, and writing to your MP. The participants shared stories of what governments in different countries are like and how those in power can sometimes limit our abilities to influence how a country is run.

Having Diane Abbott listen to what the women had to say, many of whom experience isolation and hostility, was really special, and the participants were very appreciative of her taking the time to come to a session and see how we are creating an integrated community together. Before Diane left, she explained to the group what her job as an MP involves and told us that, 30 years ago, she became the first black female MP, which at the time coincided with the 180th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain. Diane saw this as a symbol of change, which gave her hope for the future of the country. At Xenia, we create a space in which women from all backgrounds can share their experiences, for that reason it was brilliant to have Diane, herself the daughter of Jamaican migrants, tell us her inspiring story.

At the end of the session, participants each wrote a letter to their local MP, explaining what things they would like to change in the UK. The concerns that the women wrote about included how difficult they found living in London on the minimum wage, living too far away from free ESOL classes, and struggling to find a job because they wear a face covering. The session was a great way to show participants that they do have a voice, and that they should use it loud and clear to help make a change for the better. We will deliver the letters to Diane Abbott and other MPs before the end of the year.

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