Summer Tea chats in Leeds

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*Photo taken by Jon Dorsett at John Lewis Store, Leeds ( part of the summer activities programme.)

This weekend Tea and Tolerance visited the John Lewis Store in Leeds and then popped in at the Lingfield Community Hub Retro Fair. It was an amazing weekend. 

Amongst many topics, we talked about the kind of world we would like to live in, and the most important qualities we can have as human beings. Kindness and patience came up as forgotten but very key qualities. Speaking nicely, and being kind were talked about. Could we be kinder and more patient with each other we wondered? Will we? Will you? You decide. We spoke to lots of people of all ages and these are some of their responses to questions they answered…

Do you think before you speak? No. Not as much as I should.

In who’s interest? Sometimes it’s easier not to think about it…sometimes it can be too much and you want to just close the door and shut it out. Once you open your eyes to whats happening in the world you can’t shut them again.

The lack of resources for communities, I mean can you believe that police stations are only open certain days!! What’s that about? That’s not in anyone’s interest.

When people don’t look out for each other.

How does it feel to be wrong? Not being right can be good as it’s how you learn to do something better.

I don’t like it when I get told off – is that getting it wrong?

Where do you belong? I belong with my family. In the pub – having a drink and a nice time with friends. Wherever I feel comfortable and welcome. Wherever I lay my hat…(who sung that song?)

If you had a superpower, what superpower would you have? Patience. All the Super powers in the world!!

If you could change anything, what would you change? Everything. It all needs changing. Where do you start? I would change the school system….as people learn in different ways and that needs to be accounted for or you can cause damage to young people.

* Photographed and drawn by Jon Dorsett for John Lewis Store Leeds as part of the community activities taking place there every weekend this summer.

When do you ask for help? When I need to go to Hospital? Didn’t you just ask me for help to read this question? Oh my god. I did, didn’t I! You’ve really hit on something there with me. That’s deep. This is brilliant!

Not often enough as I don’t like to bother people…(do you mind when people ask you for help?) No not at all it’s a privilege…that’s a good point.

What do you think will happen to our beautiful planet in our lifetime? Well there’s pollution – that’s already happening…and then there’s certain leaders, they are going to change this planet beyond recognition. It’s going to get worse before it gets better!

What is the difference between you and me? We have different skin but we are the same on the inside. Everyone is different and unique but then we are all the same as well. Our finger prints are all different

What inspires you? Everything inspires me: Nature, science, beautiful buildings, nice people, art, talking about exciting ideas.

What floats your boat? Adventure. Gymnastics. Dancing.

What are you grateful for? Friends. My health. Being alive. Sunshine. My kids everyday.

*Photos at Lingfield Living Local and John Lewis Store,Leeds.

What makes you happy? Ice cream in the park on a sunny day. Being with my family.

What stops you in your tracks? Rats. I don’t like them. One came right up to my foot. It was huge.  I was terrified.

What makes you hopeful? Events like these that bring people together and inspire people.

What are you afraid of? Nothing….Spiders!

What makes your blood boil? When someone sets the way things will run and then nobody else sticks to the plan…that does my head in.

Trump!! The state of the world.

People dropping litter – things like that where people don’t show respect.

Why are you here? Like what is my purpose? I try to connect the older ones with the younger ones and vice versa. They don’t always understand each other’s ways of living in the world…I try to help with that.

Do you believe in ghosts? Yes. Some people say when people die they appear like a light in the room. Is that a ghost or just energy? I believe in energy.


Do you believe in Unicorns? Yes! (Performs a little unicorn movement.)

What’s your favourite word? Mermaid. Explore. Ice cream!

How much are you worth? Those two are priceless to me- they mean absolutely everything. ( About his kids) Am I priceless to them too? I guess so.

How does it feel to be vulnerable? In a way, not nice. But it can be really helpful and it happens to everyone at some point. I guess it depends how you handle it.

Can you laugh at yourself? Yes – all the time. I even laugh at my own jokes. You have to laugh don’t you!


*Photo at Lingfield Living Local ‘Retro” Fair, July 2017.

Article written by Zoe Parker and Lucy Meredith of Tea and Tolerance. Tea and Tolerance is a live art ‘installation’ – a roaming tea trolley brewing up refreshing conversations which go beneath the surface. We support better cohesion, understanding and tolerance within our communities. This weekend was possible thanks to generous funding from John Lewis and Leeds Community Foundation #GiveLoveLeeds fund.

Tea and Tolerance received a Leeds Fund #GiveLoveLeeds Grant, thanks to support of the Fund’s Anchor Partner, John Lewis Leeds. Managed by Leeds Community Foundation, The Leeds Fund creates positive change in the communities of Leeds that need it most by distribributing financial grants and support to community projects across the city.


Leeds Big Lunch ( & #BIGconversations)

Who was it that said an image is worth a thousand words?

Well I would have to agree in this case. Tea and Tolerance with Eden Communities and The Real Junk Food Project ( and their Fuel for Schools project) outside Leeds Art Gallery ( Victoria Gardens). Lovely conversations and people, and a beautiful scorcher of a day! We were able to test out our new ‘Conversation Picnic” which includes a pack of cards containing questions, instructions and quotations, jam jars and chatterboxes. This all happened on May 26th 12-2pm 2017 – thanks to everyone who came down. Wonderful photographs by Angels of Youth. Feel free to  share your experiences about the day below….





Love Arts Leeds Launch at the Light

IMG_0930Tea trolley at Love Arts Leeds Launch 2015…

Love Arts Leeds conference in 2014 at leeds Museum and Northern Ballet was one of our first gigs. So it seemed only fitting to return this year.

Amidst many art works, mini and rather delicious cakes and elderberry drinks, we talked with many people. And a couple of artists were on hand to document the conversations too.

First question…

Do we have the power to end our own lives? A light beginning…

Do we have the right to prolong a life too? At what point is it more easy than living? Abortion – whose life is it? I didn’t want to have chemotherapy. I decided that I was going to take control of my life – Taking control is what it’s about.

I have always been a fighter and a struggler – even though my life always gets worse. I think that it can’t get any worse – but it always does. Yet I truly believe in life. So I fight for life. I think why should we destroy ourselves? Life is precious. We each have the right to live.

How much are you worth?

I am priceless. Though it’s not about money – we are each irreplaceable. Sometimes its about how much am I worth to others…kids, partners, friends. Do I judge my worth by how much they value me? Respect me? Love and support from people around me makes me feel worthy. Worthiness can be easily under-estimated. We need to be valued, value ourselves more. We are each a genius – if we could only remember. Or perhaps we should have worthy workshops. Praise each other. Pat ourselves on the back. Be kind and not harsh. It feels great when someone tells you the specifics of what they notice and like about you.
Simple things can be so beautiful. Being able to pick blackberries the other day made me feel so worthy. It gave me hope.

What stops you?

Fear of not succeeding. Faith. Time/no time. Other people/s expectations.
Something very beautiful or funny or sad stops me in my tracks. Nature.
A kite soaring ove a building being chased by a tiny bird. So funny! What does it think it is doing? A cat confronting a dog that responds by cowering for protection behind a tree, squirrels in the park….its like a show and it is all around us, if we can stop and notice. I love my planet – relish it.

Whoever you are remember you are beautiful. The grass is always greener on the other side…but don’t forget how beautiful you are!

What if there were no limits? What would you do?

No aging, no work, no rules, no judgement so I can really let go. I would fly. What wouldn’t I do if I had no limits? But what of others? Children would have so many imaginative answers for this question, whereas adults just want to sleep or work less!

What makes you happy?

Animals. Animals have beautiful souls.

A street called Briggate, Oakwood Clock and up on the roof at The Black Swan.

A much better day than the day before when Lucy and Jason got very cold talking with people at the opening of Oakwood Clock. Despite the rain, people were upbeat and willing to sit down ( in the rain) and talk tolerance with them. One rather interesting moment was when a young boy got the question ‘Who is the Enemy?” to which he gleefully replied “Meeeeee!!!!” To give this context, i think his thinking was along the lines of games and play and well isn’t it much more fun to be the baddie…isn’t it?!!


So back to the better weather day…quite warm, no rain…we were cautiously optimistic. The plan was to start the day talking to people on Briggate then head up to The Black swan in the Calls where there was a symposium as part of Live at Leeds. Being on Briggate was interesting. people were very suspicious and actively NOT wanting to engage with us. I’m not sure if they were more worried we were going to sell them a weird tea set or that we were going to enlist them in a religious cult.

We’d also invited Humans of Leeds ( who shall remain anonymous) to join us, which he did. A couple of people did talk to us as we started to head down the high street….one man in particular who talked about meeting the King of Greece. here is what he had to say ( as interpreted by Humans of Leeds)…

“My job is one of those where everyone asks, ‘How did you get a job like that?’ and I tell them, ‘Somebody had to do it, and I decided it was going to be me’. I lecture to passengers on cruise ships, telling them about the places they’re visiting and what they’re seeing as we approach into a port. As we tie-up, I point out all the different landmarks they can go visit” “So how did you get a job like that?” “Well, your parents always have friends and one of my father’s friends, Uncle John, owned three ships. Each winter he’d take one vessel off the line and take a cruise with some people he knew and some guests. I happened to be on one of these cruises and throughout our time he’d been introducing me to the guests and telling them I was going to be lecturing to them later. All the guests were very keen on the idea and I went along with it thinking it was a wind-up. Anyway, we were approaching Gibraltar and I was on the bridge with Uncle John. He picked up the ship microphone and announced that there was a special guest on board who was going to tell them all about Gibraltar. He forced the microphone into my hands and all eyes were on me. Except for one gent who got up and started walking off just as I was about to speak. Since I was doing this for them, I got a little annoyed, ‘Excuse me Sir!’ I shouted, ‘Please do me the courtesy of taking your seat and listening’. He sat down hastily and I spoke for 20 minutes or so and then we took a break for afternoon tea. During tea, the staff captain came up to me and said I was the talk of the ship. I couldn’t understand why and he explained, ‘That man you told to sit down earlier, he’s the King of Greece!’



Our final stop for the day was at The Black Swan – the Arts Symposium as part of Live at Leeds. The sun came out which was lovely. We relaxed surrounded by various live arts interventions. Questions which arose…

If you could change anything, what would you change? Make life expectancy 300 years plus so that people would have to live with the consequences of their own decisions. A world where we all start on a more equal footing…same level of privilege and wealth and love.

The question ‘What is your favourite word?’ came up, which led to us all answering the ten Proust questions…

What is your favorite word?
What is your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
What turns you off?
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
What is your favorite curse word?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to do?
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Apparently, these questions reveal our inner personality (above is the edited version we answered). What insights these questions actually gave us into one another I’m not, but it was a definite leveller and fun! I’d recommend it for an interesting conversation starter most definitely.

Questions added by people at The Black Swan….

Do we truly have free will?

Do I really need this?

What’s going on?

What are you grateful for?

Who are you?

Who or what has most influenced you in your life?

And my personal favourite…

Is Love chemical? Is it? What do you think?




All Welcome – at Love Arts Leeds

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Love Arts Leeds – 2 days – 3 hours

One trolley, four chairs, many teapots, many people, many questions.

Quiet, flowing conversations…

Of listening…

And appreciating.

Of questions

Leading to more questions…..

Do we need to know each others’ names to talk about things that matter? Put another way can we trust people we do not know? Though I remember being taught as a child, never to talk to strangers, as an adult, it may be one of my favourite pastimes.

We talked about big subjects.


Can we forgive, we wondered? And even if we can, should we? Does an ‘eye for an eye’ leave everyone blind?  How do we forgive  anyway? Does letting go, moving on, finding ‘grace’ help? What about putting yourself in the other person’s ‘shoes’?

What do we actually want? How does ‘want’ differ from need?

Can you ever get bored of kindness, love and joy? We concluded not. Do we secretly crave misery, hate and selfishness? I hope not.

And more questions…..

Does the truth unfold you, or do you unfold the truth? What is peace? How do we achieve it? Can one person’s inner peace spread to bring peace to others? What is going to happen to our beautiful planet in your lifetime? What indeed.

Is it all about the individual?

Could we all just do something regardless of whether it feels like it has any impact?

Is spirituality a ‘dirty’ word? We wondered this as we (almost) whispered the words…
Good vibes and energy, spirit…. Such words can sound ‘off putting’ we thought. So do we censor the words because it might be seen as something for hippies and tree huggers? Should we all just start hugging the magnificent trees? I have hugged a few tree in my life – does that make my words less credible?

Should we sugar coat our message so that it is sweet for the receiver? Or should we just be honest? There are a lot of ‘should’s. Could we just stop ‘shoud-ing’?

If you had the power, what would you do? I loved the literal response that if one person had the power, she would be the ‘good vibes’ and actual electricity  for the whole world and this fuel would have a zero carbon footprint. What if that was possible?

Insights. Conversations. We thank all contributions offered.We look forward to meeting you at a future hostings.

And wonder, what do you think could be a satisfying conclusion?  How do more people share and contribute to this experience?

Could you pick one question and talk about it ? Could you leave us a question here? Which question appeals?

Here’s a few thoughts our guests left behind…

“How do we know what’s right?”

“Big up to raising vibrations of individuals and the planet! Beautiful idea, good to have avow-wow, we all need to connect….

“If you could invent magic drink what would it be? How can we increase our powers of observation? How can we appreciate more? Where can i get one of those magic teapots? Should there be real tea?”



Harehills Festival

sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (37) Tea and Tolerance is a very new Arts project. Through a merry band of gentle tea drinking and conversation, we want to find out what matters most to people. So we have had a few discussions working on our ideas and potential ways we might do this. Last sunday we decided to take the plunge and do a ‘road test’ at the Harehills Festival. We got a few funny looks manoeuvring a tea trolley loaded with an assortment of teapots from around the world. We moved very slowly round the park next to St Aidan’s Church on Roundhay Road. We managed not to break anything ( which on a hill was a mild challenge) and actually got a few offers from people wanting to buy our teapots. After a while and much clanking of pots, people did start to come up to us and ask us what we were doing…..Good question! We met many people: some were  initially intrigued with our trolley and its cumbersome and precarious journey around the paths of the park. Perhaps a metaphor for life? o we have to rush around mindlessly. Can we slow down and notice? I think we came across a little bit odd ( we are..well arn’t all humans?) but still people were happy to sit down and talk with us. Conversations were very moving. Especially, we noticed in one instance when the question ‘How much are you worth?’ was discussed. It was noted that one view is that we are all priceless. A mother who sat with us, came to a realisation that she wa in fact priceless as a mother and carer…because it made her indispensable. It felt lovely to share that moment – a person ‘getting’ their own worth. Do we often miss it?  Do we value ourselves, or others, as less than..or more than?  It was much appreciated that people that sat with us felt comfortable enough to share their thoughts with us.Thank you. Now we have broken the ice, we are looking forward to going back to Harehills and working with other groups suggested by a lovely lady we met there. If you know of groups that might benefit or want to be part of the Tea and Tolerance experience, then do get in touch. Until then here are some questions to think about…. What makes you twinkle? What makes you hopeful? Where is peace? What is going happen to our beautiful planet in your lifetime? Feel free to send us your answers or questions or …other contribution. sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (16)sm Tea & Tolerance_Harehills Sept 14_Maria Spadafora (9)