The Woking Debates, which Woking Quakers support, aim to encourage active participation in our community by looking at underlying issues facing us. The debates continued throughout 2020 despite the pandemic by switching to the Zoom online platform. This year five talks have been planned so far on the following subjects:
16 January: Are we giving vulnerable children the help they need?
20 February: Woking in 2050: Dream or nightmare?
20 March: Is knife crime and gang culture a growing problem in Woking? What is being done?
17 April: What value is arms and military expenditure to the UK?
15 May: Air pollution: A hidden threat to Woking?
Please get in touch with us if you would like to attend any of these and we will send you the link nearer to the event.
We normally take part in the ceremony in Jubilee Square and lay a wreath along with several other local groups and organisations. As this was severely limited this year and not open to the public, we decided to lay ours later in the day.
On 5 September the 44th Woking Debate considered the question, has Covid-19 made the return of austerity inevitable?
The speakers were Ann-Marie Barker, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Woking Council, Jonny Cope, a Conservative, Sharon Galliford from the Green Party and Sue Atkins from the Socialist Party. There was a surprising amount of agreement amongst them that austerity is not an inevitable outcome of Covid.
They all advocated greater investment by the government although differing on the focus for this: Ann-Marie Barker felt that we need to change our priorities to match the changes in the way people work since the pandemic with money invested in sustainable transport, housing and social services; Jonny Cope felt that providing more opportunities for people to learn new skills and greater investment to provide jobs in green industries was important to replace those lost from the hospitality sector: Sue Atkins felt that the concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands needs to be addressed with a major shift towards helping the least well-off; Sharon Galliford recommended much greater co-operation, an overhaul of our financial systems with less emphasis on competition and a greater understanding of the value of voluntary work, and a ‘green new deal’.
On 19 August Anne Jones from Mediation Surrey gave us an introduction via Zoom to the work being done, largely by volunteers, to address conflict between neighbours and within families in Surrey. Trained mediators provide impartial support and facilitate meetings in which those experiencing problems can express their concerns in a calm and mutually respectful atmosphere, often resulting in a greatly improved situation for all parties.
Two of our members are already volunteer mediators and if you think this is something you would be interested in you can find out more at https://mediationsurrey.org/become-a-mediator.
The August debate via Zoom considered the question of whether we are giving immigrants a fair chance to start a new life in our country.
Councillor Ayesha Azad, deputy leader of Woking Borough Council, was a child immigrant to this country. She believed that we have a fair immigration system in place and has found our society to be open, tolerant and dynamic.
Donovan Blair was born here but his parents came from Jamaica. They instilled their values in him but he has never felt truly accepted. The Government has created a hostile environment and sanitised history. Attitudes are improving but these are complex issues.
Kayte Cable has set up a small charity in Woking and Guildford to provide support for unaccompanied and trafficked children and young adult refugees, often escaping civil war, many of whom suffer from mental health issues and whose needs are not adequately provided for.
Waleed Hassan, an immigration solicitor, said that the rules are discriminatory. He believes that politicians are using immigrants as scapegoats. They already have to pay £3000 to apply to come to the UK. For a family, this can come to £30,000 over five years as well as needing to contribute to access the NHS.
The 42nd Woking Debate and the second on Zoom took place on 4 July to consider whether we should be striving after economic growth or happiness and fulfilment as our fundamental goal. The four speakers covered several different perspectives.
Primo Masella, who works in the HR department of BP, explained how the company has changed from being hierarchically organised, to putting its employees’ well-being at the heart of changes in its way of working.
Dubby Stemp, who has a masters degree in positive psychology and is training as a psychological well-being practitioner within the NHS IAPT service told us that in the World Happiness Index the UK comes 13th while having the 6th highest GDP and the USA comes just 18th with the highest GDP. Costa Rica comes 15th for happiness while down at 77th for GDP.
Kruawan Sookcharoen, who has been on the staff of the Buddhist temple in Knaphill for the 15 years since it opened, is coordinator of DIS UK. Kruawan said that to achieve happiness we have to let go and become detached, practice generosity and reduce our greed, which can be achieved through meditation. She then led us in a short meditation.
Our monthly study sessions on Quaker Faith and Practice continue on the second Monday in the month. The June session offered the opportunity to share thoughts on the subject raised in: QFP 27.03 Can we settle the question, “Is the Society of Friends Christian or not?” John Lampen, 1985 ; and thoughts about the Yin and Yang aspects of Christ in QFP 26.58 Damaris Parker-Rhodes 1985
The first Woking Debate using the Zoom app took place on 9 May. There were 28 participants which was a very encouraging start and gives us hope that we can improve on that at future events. There were four speakers on the topic, ‘What good is football?’, three of whom were directly involved in the sport, being a director of Woking Football Club, a professional footballer and a referee, and a local borough councillor with responsibility for leisure activities.
All spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities that football provides for character building and teamwork for the participants and friendship and companionship for them and for their supporters, both individually and as families.
There was agreement amongst the speakers and others that, at the local level, there were few incidents of racism but more needs to be done to encourage LGBTQ+ players and officials to feel safe enough to be open about themselves. Much more is being done to encourage girls to take up the sport and a corresponding improvement in the quality of their performance at all levels was commented upon.
Since 22 March we have been meeting virtually each Sunday, using the Zoom app, and have all been pleasantly surprised by how successful it is proving to be. The screen shot was taken after meeting when we had a short period of sharing.
As well as being able to see all the regular faces at Meeting, it has been an extra delight to see those of us who have been unable to get to Meeting for some time or who are currently in another part of Europe or even in the USA even though this can present quite a challenge, given the time difference!
It has made us realise that when we are able to meet again in person this may well provide a way to offer an additional meeting for those unable to come to the Meeting House.
On 14 March the Woking Debate took the form of a play, “A Rock and a Hard Place”, written and performed by Journeymen Theatre. Based on a true story, together with real life experiences shared by other women, the play explored the complex nature of domestic abuse, ranging from coercion in its many forms to women’s deaths at the hands of abusive partners.
The play also revealed the impact of funding cuts on the refuge system and on the support available for women caught up in a cycle of abuse. It appealed to all of us to recognise and highlight this major human rights issue in our own communities.
Our first, and until further notice, only shared lunch of the year was held on 2 February. Afterwards Sheila Coles told us about Irish Quakers and their association with Mountmellick work, a special type of white-on-white embroidery.
It was particularly used to decorate household items: work bags, tablecloths, dressing table sets, handkerchief sachets and nightdress cases, etc. While a total of over forty different stitches have been recorded from old pieces, it was most usual to use only ten or so and some of the best work makes use of only three or four. It was of particular significance to Quakers as it epitomised their testament to simplicity.
The first Woking Debate of the year took place at Christ Church on 11 January on the subject, “The Climate Emergency: what can we do?”. It was very well attended, and extra chairs had to be brought in to seat everybody.
The debate was opened by three speakers who each brought a very different perspective: Norman Johns, chair of Woking Environment Action, talked about local grass-roots activities; Danny Hubbard from Extinction Rebellion put things into a national and global context, and Dr Justine Huxley, the CEO of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, brought a deeply spiritual “call to action”.
On 22 December last year, Irene attended a Woking Extinction Rebellion action outside Christ Church, when carols were sung to traditional tunes but with new, awareness-raising lyrics! There was a good turnout of singers who were accompanied by an excellent brass quartet.