Beyond Samosas and Sandwiches

Beyond Samosas and Sandwiches

Last week I had the privilege of joining Leeds’ finest at a Catalyst residential in the picturesque Sneaton Castle. Nestled within the Yorkshire Moors, just outside Whitby, this group of young people from Leeds experienced world class training to enable them to become excellent community leaders.

A blog by Tim Burton-Jones

Catalyst is a dynamic and interactive young leader’s programme which aims to build the confidence of and make real the potential of young people so that they can change their communities for the better. My experience of Catalyst in Whitby with participants from Leeds has shown me that Catalyst achieves this and so much more.

Our group travelled out to Whitby from Leeds by minibus first thing on Sunday 1st March. The diversity of our group became quickly apparent as their music progressed through its repertoire; the journey careered from Led Zeppelin to Celine Dione and there were a few fairly enthusiastic and inevitable sing-a-longs to Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ and Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. As I tried to gage the atmosphere inside that minibus that would carry the group through to our departure on Wednesday, I became immediately optimistic.

My optimism was justified. The days that followed proved to be days very well spent. The training that these participants received throughout the residential was world class and the topics proved thought provoking, challenging, and hugely practical. Each day the participants learnt about different topics from experts in these fields. The training began with an overview of faith in modern Britain on Sunday, moved on to leadership training on Monday, then looked at conflict and power on Tuesday, before the final day which focused on Media and Communication.

Each of these days had participants engrossed in engaging content that was both fun (Baywatch sing-a-longs, ‘balloon tower’ building, and dancing nuns spring to mind) and also left a mark on the participants. Speaking to participants afterwards, I asked what they would take away from this training and certain sentiments recurred in their responses.

Participants reiterated again and again that they have learnt more than ever before about the power of listening; it became clear to all involved that really listening to an individual, or to a group, can actually be one of the most useful and powerful tools in any community. Participants also often spoke of how they had learnt what a dramatic influence that their personality can have over the way they deal with people; it became clear to those involved that a conscious reflection of the strengths and limitations of their personality type could drastically improve their approach to leadership.

The Catalyst training, as well as being world class, was also incredibly relevant to the participants. For each session that I sat in on, I could see how the content could be utilised within communities in Leeds, and indeed, anywhere in England. This training is undoubtedly shaping a new generation of leaders to bring communities together.

What little free time that was available to participants was spent together and included impromptu and rather comical group story-telling, a night-time trip to the coast, debates on freedom of speech, and there was one inevitable night of Netflix and takeaway Pizzas.

Two weeks ago I heard Shaykh Fuad Nahdi ask England to move beyond an understanding of inter-faith that extended only as far as cucumber sandwiches and samosas. It is difficult to convey just how far this group of outstanding individuals from Leeds moved beyond samosas and sandwiches. Over the course of the four day residential, real relationships were forged before our eyes; new connections were made and the beginnings of a truly united community emerged. By the end of the training, all participants agreed that they would recommend the course to a friend. I concur wholeheartedly; this experience was so much fun, so engaging, and opened my eyes to so much.

To read more about Catalyst or to get involved, click here.

Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones

Date: 11 March 2015