About Beyond The Page
Our aims and approach
Beyond The Page (BTP) is a company limited by guarantee, with a non-profit constitution. It serves women in Thanet, east Kent in face-to-face programmes, and further afield on Zoom. BTP is completely independent and relies on fund-raising from grant holders.
Since 2015, BTP has offered safe, creative and fun women-only spaces for English language-learning and inter-cultural friendship. We focus on meeting the integration challenges facing women born outside the UK, aiming to increase their confident participation as active citizens and parents. They include those who are living in, or rehoused from refuges; destitute during immigration disputes; refugees and asylum seekers; mentally frail, socially isolated, with minimal family support; illiterate or with a learning difficulty. These women often cannot access mainstream ESOL or find it does not meet their complex needs.
BTP pioneers a cross-disciplinary approach to language learning and community building. Since the outset, we have combined ESOL teaching with ‘Natural Voice’ ; this is an approach used in singing. Practitioners believe that ‘if you can talk, you can sing’ and have a set of principles and techniques which are inclusive, welcoming and highly effective in bringing all voices into the room. Our Practice Director, Jodi Watson, has innovated a practice which enables adults learning English to sound out their voices and become confident, full participants in the group.
Our core programme, United Mothers, is open to all Thanet women (including British women who want to join a multicultural group). In August 2020 we launched our United Mothers Chatrooms, providing our unique practice online combined with Covid-19 information and digital empowerment to women across the county. We focus on providing a long-term, practical response to an underlying and often invisible need. Volunteers are mainly of retirement age, who say this project has benefitted their mental health.
Over 300 women from over 50 countries have become members of the United Mothers community.
Ilva is a founding member, used to be on the Advisory Board and still stays in touch through Coffee Chat online and in person when she can.
We have a fantastic team of volunteers who share sessions, community events and outreach work with us.
Some are Speaking Buddies (see What We Do).
This is our team and volunteer non-executive directors:
Over 6 years, we have worked in Thanet with almost 300 women from over 50 countries, including those who are in refuges from domestic violence and trafficking; are mentally ill or isolated; have learning difficulties, or other barriers to engaging in social communication; single parents and others with immigration difficulties. As a well-established frontline organisation, we have a strong track record of engaging and building trust with vulnerable minority ethnic women.
We have sustained and built our community through the Covid-19 pandemic, offering face to face and online spaces. A walking group, photo project and increased digital access and literacy have developed skills and interests. Online sessions rebuilt valuable social connections, identified Covid-19 information gaps or barriers, supported those vulnerable to scams, discrimination or crisis, such as asylum or risk of eviction and provided an opportunity to practise and develop English skills with friends during these difficult times. We loan tablets and provide training to members and volunteers with limited digital literacy.
Community events are an integral component of the practice, and United Mothers members have become increasingly involved in creating and delivering them. Attracting well over a hundred members, friends and visitors each time, they provide a vital bridge into public life and recognition within the wider public arena.
As part of our building community work, we have built relationships with key partners in education, community health and early years, supporting their developing multicultural practices and procedures. This enables our members to access services more easily and helps professional colleagues improve communication skills & confidence.and
United Mothers members are research participants and advisers to community service providers, increasingly becoming recognised as a valuable resource for those seeking to develop services for local migrant families.
Our pioneering methodology, combining ESOL and Natural Voice/ community arts approaches, is recognised both in the UK and internationally as part of the participatory ESOL approach. We combine a critical pedagogy with a cross-methodological partnership and underlying feminist principles, to offer a unique space in which women can feel safe and thrive.