Sleep Out – A Vigil Saying “No” to ‘NRPF’ (No Recourse To Public Funds)

Hello thanks for coming by, my name is Joe Holtaway I’m an artist and a teacher and on this occasion an organiser. On Friday 9th October I will be sleeping-out on the street in central London in a prominent place to raise awareness for something called No Recourse To Public Funds.

Without any wish to write this with contempt for any individuals I am contributing my voice to those who are asking the Government to reform this policy that affects around 1.4 million people in the country today.

No Recourse limitations means people can stay in the country but have no access to benefits at all. Their only saving grace are NGO’s and charities, many of which are shut at this time.

I became aware of it working alongside people who are seeking asylum at a day centre in South London, gardening and singing. Some of these people are subject to NRPF.

You’ll see from the Guardian, Independent and BBC articles below, that many are already raising concerns of the precarious and stressful position it puts people in.

I invite anyone who would like to join me to do so that evening in central London.

All info is in the pack below – please read before attending to stay safe gathering for protest during the pandemic. Depending on restrictions and weather there may be changes – check back here on the day please – thank you – feel free to contact me with any questions

‘People will die’: Priti Patel warned immigration policy will force thousands back on the streets

Local councils call for ‘urgent action’ to ensure homeless migrants — some of whom have lived and worked in UK for decades — are not pushed back into destitution because of their immigration status

Independent 07 July 2020

The cruelty of Britain’s ‘no recourse to public funds’ immigration policy

Whether this is the cause of Mercy Baguma’s death or not, she should never have been forced into extreme poverty because of her immigration status, say women campaigning to end NRPF

Maya Goodfellow, Shaista Aziz, Sandhya Sharma, Chitra Nagarajan, Lola Okolosie and Elizabeth Jimenez Yanez

A collective of women campaigning to end NRPF

Guardian 27 August 2020

Poverty and destitution. That’s the reality for thousands of migrants in the UK since the pandemic started. As lockdown hit, migrants across the nation who often work in casual and low-paid roles saw their jobs disappear or incomes slashed. But unlike the rest of the country, they have no welfare safety net to fall back on, because a controversial immigration policy known as No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) means they cannot access benefits.

BBC 18 August 2020

link to info online – link to download below

Oli is 17

Hello dear Oli, cuz, fam, my little man is 17

Proud of you and all you are doing Ol- the course (of course) and more than that the way you are – kind and cool and growing with the seasons -I picked some songs for your birthday.

A mix of (mostly new) and a few classics, different styles here, cultural backgrounds may you find some inspiration. One here is also new to me Sonder – I heard it today and found it so interesting and beautiful I put it in. I look forward to speaking again in a week or so Ol.

I almost put the new slowthai video in here- where he is pregnant, have you seen it? – his creativity is so wired and wonderful I think!.

I also put a video at the end by someone I like about meditation – I remember when you and Dylan were at Gillan you were talking about what life means – life decisions and so on…if I can (as something of an elder in your life!!) offer you anything it would be meditating 🙂

Here Russel Brand talks about it.

keep breathing and being your self Ol


Sharing spaces

Let Yourself Be Seen was inspired by three spaces I have come to feel at home in over the last few years, three places where people come to share what is happening for them and others listen; The Plum Village groups, Quakers and Samaritans – here’s a little bit about each of them

Plum Village is a monastery in the South of France founded by Peace Author, Buddhist Monk and friend of Martin Luther King, Thich Nhat Hanh. As a young monk Thich Nhat Hanh dreamed of creating community where people would come together and practice meditation in different ways; bringing peace and mindfulness into many daily activities; cooking, eating, walking, gardening and others. To visit Plum Village at the monastery where I have and will continue to go to, is to see what life is like when you slow down your pace and relax as a community. One activity they do there are sharing circles; simply you sit together and if you want to share you can and others listen (pictured above) Someone in one of those circles said, “I want to let myself be seen”, that’s where the song began.

Quakers was founded in the 1500’s by young Christians who wanted to share their own experiences without being preached to – they felt their own spiritual experience, Christian teachings in the Bible and other experiences of other faiths were important as well as voices that wouldn’t have been heard in Church as it was then; women, the poor, those questioning faith. Their circles became popular among some while others felt threatened by these radical ideas. Through the centuries Quakers have kept these ideas and if you go to a meeting today you would do as they did then, sit in silence and then if you feel moved to share how you feel and what you think. To quote the Quaker book ‘Faith and practice’ ‘There’s that of God in everyone’ – I love that and started going to Quakers about 10 years ago. I still go and now also work for the Quakers as a children’s worker; doing workshops with children about Quaker ideas , singing songs, telling stories and playing games. From the song, ‘Let your spirit show’.

Samaritans was founded in 1953 by vicar Chad Varah. Varah wanted to provide a phone service for anyone contemplating suicide -“In an emergency the citizen turns to the telephone and dials 999. There ought to be an emergency number for suicidal people, I thought.”I volunteered for Samaritans for 10 years before I did some travels and lived in Plum Village (see above), it was such an important time and if I need sometime to talk to I would and have called them. From the song ‘Let your feelings free’

Here’s my friend Alice to start the sharings, about volunteering at Samaritans, thanks Alice:

Friend and singer/songwriter

Flo Perlin shares 2 experiences –

Thanks for inviting me to share. I’ve struggled to find a sense of belonging within groups, but there has been that rare space where something has felt different. I can’t describe it exactly, but there’s a recklessness in the air which makes me feel safe to be the strange human that I am. Thinking about those moments brings a sweet and painful feeling, a desire to be cocooned there forever. These are two examples of spaces I’ve felt safe in. 

  • The Quakers – my time spent going to the Quakers in Leeds made me feel safe to share my heart. I only shared twice in the space of 4 years due to my fear of public speaking, but everyone responded with complete open arms. 
  • I was hitch hiking in Hawaii and the stranger who picked me up took me to a Hare Krishna Farm in the jungle. When I arrived, they had made me a welcome cake, but what they didn’t know was that it was actually my birthday. Everyone was so curious to know me, to know my story. I hadn’t laughed so much in my life. 

Flo xxx

Jasmir, Spain, A film from School of Life

Hey Joe, have you seen the school of life videos, I love this one goes well with this page – thanks x

June July

The ultimate end of all revolutionary social change is to establish the sanctity of human life, the dignity of people, the right of every human being to liberty and well-being.

Emma Goldman

My new Poetry page/Continuing Lockdown recordings and relaxations with Insight Timer and protest art and a little bit of new song ‘This Skin’ following George Floyd BLM, next sharing page on sharing spaces for Let Your self Be Seen and my new found love of Dogs…

Lockdown in the UK is slowly easing, comments here of Government decisions aside (my views are pretty much summed up here), there is a mixture of feeling; waves of celebration initially, a ongoing mourning and exhaustion within the health sector and overall I feel a slow and cautious coming together again of family and friends. That’s been my own and conversational experience.

I’ve noticed in myself an appreciation for the creative reflective and possibility of creative time alongside managing financial support, taking Universal Credit and continuing with volunteering (mostly at the Southwark Day Centre For Asylum Seekers, some Extinction Rebellion and Wake Up London and having enough to still support a few homeless friends I have locally with a few pounds. Not all projects I think the Government would agree with and I’m particularly ok with that! Is this what Universal Basic income would be like I have found myself wondering ?

One of the creative projects has been to write up and record some poetry. Ive been writing poetry in a sense for a long time, some stay as a few lines in my diary or journals, some become longer and some become songs. Here’s a few some older and some recent with read recordings on a new poetry page

Another project has been recordings for insight Timer. I remember this app from about 10 years ago, it used to be a few screens of bell sounds and timers. Then it was taken over by 2 brothers who had the vision of a community of people who record and guide meditations and relaxations. I have some friends on there and thought ok I’ll submit some recordings. Here’s my profile with some guided relaxations and songs.

Since the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests I’ve been reading ‘My Grandmothers Hands’ by Resmaa Manakem and listening to talks by a few other writers of colour including Akala, Reni Eddo Lodge and Roxanne Gay.

A song has come from it that I started writing earlier in the year following a course with the Quakers called ‘Being White’ and here is a bit of the intro my plan is to include this in my next ep, due out sometime this year.

The reading also led myself and a friend to look into police violence here in the UK and this led to this

Next sharing page will be about sharing spaces for the song Let Your Self Be Seen. My question for you would be where do you feel you can do that? To some people or in certain times or places? Love to hear from you and I’ll share written messages and recordings here as usual

and lastly my last 2 months wouldn’t have been the same without these 2, Breeze (with stick) and Happy (with ball) – I haven’t had dogs in my life since I was a child and I took this little summer job to walk them while friends were away. I found myself understanding why so many people have this relationship – the regular walking, the appreciation, the play and the licks! I recommend it to anyone who may feel a bit lonely at this time.

Interestingly my friend Dave told me about this site where you can walk people’s dogs for the love of dogs.

as always lovely to hear from those of you I don’t regularly

love Joe

White History Month

In 1970 a month was proposed, put aside to try once,
to look at Black History
Black History Month

1/12, 8.3% of a year agreed by some
They thought, a starting point to grow from…

In 2020 is it still something?
Or is that something worse than nothing
when nothing is no acknowledgment of colonialism?

This skin scared of the edges
Born into power and privileges.

It feels to me like our body has been unwell for a long time werein
and rather than look at the causes
we congratulate ourselves we noticing something–

Ella Baker, MLK, thank you
abolitionists thank you
Thank you daily for what you said
You have been our antibodies and I feel we must reflect
to move this mental illness to Martin’s* beloved best

Could at once, we start with White Colonial History Month?

*Martin Luther King described the Beloved Community, a belief in the coming together of people in their shared love of life

There’s A Young Man Crying in The Churchyard

(A poem from the foodbank, set up by Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers during the Corona lockdown)

There’s a young man crying in the churchyard.
Separated from family and friends
I’m kneeling beside him
He feels lonely and frustrated depending on the Home Office* to meet his needs.

Afraid to return home due to persecution for political beliefs
Waiting 9 years waiting waiting
I feel his truth; he’s crying in a church yard.
What can I do? I can listen, try to hold the space, listen, listen to his eyes and to his wet face.

Back inside the food bank where we both volunteer, we put cans into bags.
May this food sustain these bodies so they may teach me compassion, and they may stand,

*The Home Office processes asylum claims. 

Under the ‘Hostile Environment’, named by Theresa May the then home secretary, waits have become longer some twice this length during this time individuals remain in detention centres or in housing many organisations have called vastly inadequate and crowded and receive £35 a week to cover all food, travel and other personal expenses toiletries, phone bill. They are welcome to leave the system at any time.

In my experience (relationship with asylum seekers) the results of the system is unkind and proves detrimental to mental health and well being. Thanks to many NGOs people have some additional support.

Friday Morning, By The River

(NHS protest calling for PPE- personal protective equipment, following my reading of this article about NHS workers who were silenced over the shortage)

The morning sun lights the river from 90 million miles away
I sit with my back to the bridge,
from yesterday’s project paint on my finger tips.
We have words
I chose some for a banner that’s beside me
‘For our silenced NHS staff PPE Care for our carers’

Behind the bridge is a hospital (all hospitals)
The arriving and passing of lives
Do we choose what we do or does it choose us?
Do we choose words or do they choose us?
If all are not able to speak what can we say we really know about us?

Before The Bullets Tear The Skin

(photo from banner making workshop at Amnesty International preparing for Stop The War arms fair protest 2019, possibly back in London in 2021)

Taken from the ground to serve a purpose,
not decoration, a broach or pin, no,
nor coins or keys or rings.
No, this metal was taken, compounded and formed in a mould to be small and hard enough to go through skin ; into muscle, into organ, lungs, stomach, brain – in

By who?
Someone: between two people who it’s almost certain won’t know, One and other, and if they did, would they be there at all? I don’t think so.

Before the bullets tear the skin we block a road with song.
A lorry has to stop, hundreds singalong .
Bullets stopped mid air.

The games played for the money and power of others, and because in ourselves we can’t stop.
I feel , peace education is real,

I feel we can stop.

We Will Remember

(A piece of protest at/memorial wall. All these people depicted and remembered all died while in interactions with the police. Following the killing of George Floyd and the BLM protest movements, my friend and I did this using chalk paints.

Using chalk paints is not a chargeable offence and in my experience much less likely arrestable.)

Evening over the street

tracing faces from my phone screen to the wall discretely.

I chose this hoarding to do something, to hold my pain, growing my compassion and my learning

You don’t want it to be true; gagged, tied, ignored, shot, held down with arms, and hands and knees, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe

Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Mzee Mohammed, Rashan Charles, Mark Duggan, Sheku Bayoh, Joy Gardener, Sean Rigg, Sarah Reed, Shukri Adbi, julian Cole, Edson De Costa, Jermaine Baker, Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles De Mendez, Christopher Alder, Cherry Groce, Jimmy Mubenga,

This is a vigil, this is a protest, this is art, this is what happened

What happens now when we hold them in our hearts?

Compassion for the victims, for the families, for the perpetrators, for their families, for those who seek justice and those too numb to speak up.

We Will Remember