spBR24: what a weekend that was!

Blessed by sunshine that seemed it would never arrive, spBR 2024 was a glorious 24 hours of community solidarity.

Our theme this year has been Land and Food. And this was the inspiration for the solidarity supper but also, amongst the information boards dotted around the course, were four fabulous information pieces on food in Palestine. Designed and written by co-organiser Cath Ager, (apart from the one taken from Visualizing Palestine!) – they deserve a special mention. Please have a read if you did not catch them on the day

“It is important to enjoy life” says Adhm Alshani “in spite of the terrible genocide. Ensuring we can celebrate is resistance.” This is certainly the message we received from the pictures sent from Gaza the previous week, of the children running through the ruins of their city: these pictures were displayed on the outside of the Palestine Voices Tent.

And this is what we saw all weekend: an inspiring mix of celebration and anger; joy and sadness.

We desperately wanted to have more of a festival feel and with the help of the za’atar grinders in the poetry tent, the the lantern making crew and Families 4 Gaza, and the programmme in the Palestine Voices Tent we managed to do that, with the hill in front of the Hall being crowded for much of the afternoon and into the evening. You can see lots of photos of the whole day on facebook

At the start of the evening we served 152 meals at the solidarity supper, herded kittens as the lantern procession weaved its way round the course and finally the procession accompanying the torch of remembrance was moving and unifying. As we all lay our candles by the solidarity tree planted by Mahmoud last year, our collective sadness moved on to a mood of defiance as we enjoyed Admed Adnan’s guitar and Oud as the sun was setting.

And on Sunday, with a Palestinian breakfast closing the Palestine Voices Tent, the festival moved on to Buskers Hour: 12 musicians /bands playing arund the park filling the air with music and laughter. And then the closing ceremony – we were really pleased to have the Deputy Lord Mayor with us – and then BIG SING.

The connection with Ramallah and the absence of a connection with Gaza was a reminder of how fragile the lives of all Palestinians are at the minute. In the West Bank, Mahmoud – who planted the solidarity tree last year – was supposed to attend but his village was raided the day before and he could not travel to Ramallah. We have been told he has not been arrested. And in Gaza, there simply was no connectivity possible. But we sang loud and clear and strong and pending a video cut in the Autumn you can see the full closing ceremony on YouTube: https://youtube.com/live/66OkKEMYdQk?feature=share

AND let’s not forget the run. The wonderful 24 hour runners, the football team who ran for 24 hours between them and the 551 registered who made this the most successful small park BIG RUN so far. Thank you!!

On the right is Nick Booker, who ran for the whole 24 hours, looking strong in the early morning. We are immensely grateful to him and other ultra runners

Making it possible – thank you

At small park BIG RUN we will honour Gaza

  • Tent camp You will find near the start/ finish line a replica tent camp which will be inhabited by Palestinians over the whole 24 hours. Intended to reproduce symbolically the conditions Palestinians are experiencing in Gaza today. They will share their stories, experiences and news from home with visitors. Next to the camp will be a tent with a photographic exhibition depicting the 1948 Nakba – horrible echoes of which have reverberated brutally into our present.
  • Torch of remembrance At 8.15 pm on Saturday 22 June we will hold a solemn procession taking a torch around the park course in remembrance of all those killed during the genocide. We will hand out LED candles to light your way, symbolising lost souls and to be placed at the solidarity tree after. The torch will burn all night.
  • One minutes’ silence During the closing ceremony we will hold a minutes’ silence to remember all those who have been killed in the events of the last eight months. This will follow a hopeful link up with our partner project Never Stop Dreaming in Khan Younis, Gaza, and other project friends in Ramallah, West Bank.

    We hope you will join us in these sombre events if you can. And we hope you will come and enjoy the whole event as well. Smiling, more than crying. Palestinians live a rollercoaster life where joy and tragedy sit uncomfortably and unavoidably side by side. For this weekend we will stand in solidarity and experience the same.

The whole programme can be viewed here.

And still the children of Gaza join us!

  • You can sign up to take part at anytime over the weekend here
  • If you would like to help marshal the run and steward some of the other activities please sign up here
  • If you cannot be with us on the weekend but would like to do something, you can enter our DIY event

In the past , the children from Never Stop Dreaming in Khan Yunis, Gaza, have done a run to coincide with the run we do in Meersbrook Park. We never expected they could do something this year. The centre is destroyed and families are displaced.

And then we got these pictures. Amazing that in the midst of all what they have to go through they can organise a solidarity run. It is so uplifting to see this continued resistance.

Please come along this weekend. You can sign up online until Thursday midnight: https://www.sientries.co.uk/event.php?event_id=12867

small park BIG RUN is NOT a race!

One of the small park BIG RUN organisers ran in a fabulous fell race on Tuesday evening. It was exceptionally well organised, technical, friendly and fast! What struck him, once he got his breath back, was that as well as some notable similarities to our own event there were some very marked differences, well worth a little muse on. Read on to discover some of those musings.

The Burbage Skyline fell race is ten rugged kms in a figure of eight of rough tracks, paths, rocks, bogs, hills and even a couple of small river crossings around the top of the hills ringing the beautiful Burbage Valley. The pace is fast and even if it wasn’t in the plan, this runner couldn’t help but try to keep up with the others!

Despite turning myself inside out with effort I didn’t feature in the top half of the results! No shame there, there are some seriously impressive runners and the winning time would have been very impressive had it been around a flat track.

But it was illuminating that the way I measured my success was against others; every time I overtook someone, there was a small twinge of satisfaction and likewise when I was overtaken, something I had to get quite used to on the first hill, I was a tiny bit peed off!

Now, everyone who ran the race will have different motivations and targets – and no criticism is intended when I say that in the main I felt this was a very competitive race. It felt notably different to our own run/walk/hop/skip and juggle of an event!

In contrast to being a race, I think the small park BIG RUN is better viewed as a challenge. And though you can measure yourself and your effort – it is more with yourself and not against others that you take that measurement. The targets are personal. For some one lap is the goal and the achievement is high. In 2022 my dearly departed Dad, contending with dementia managed a lap, only months before he passed away.

The race’s great and much missed friend Graham Birkin (pictured here) did his lap in very poor health but walking with the loving aid of friends and family – no small achievement.

Others like Nick, Maggie, Davor, Cécile and others have done gargantuan efforts of up to 24 hours. One runner completed 155 laps but was still slightly regretful they hadn’t made it to the magic 100 miles!!! And to this end, they are coming back this year to try again.

Some set themselves a marathon, half marathon or laps target. Others challenge themselves not with numerical targets but with group plans like teams of runners filling hourly slots to fill up the whole day, or individuals doing one lap every hour for 24 hours, others just running the hours of darkness. Some arrive at 4am to greet the sun and some to reclaim their park. Some have hidden challenges that make it difficult to even make it to the park. For a refugee the bus fare could be the challenge. And others do it to raise money for the charities we support.

Many simply walk around the circuit with their friends and family, satisfied in the knowledge they are celebrating freedom of movement, waving flags and showing friendship and solidarity with Palestinians.

And some simply eat cake and drink tea – which is in its own right a wonderful thing to do!

All challenges, all different, all personal but all on the same course with lots of different people in a spirit of friendship.

What everyone has in common is that they are there – in the park, in the same place. A joint and joyous effort that affirms community spirit, friendliness, companionship and solidarity. All power to you!

small park BIG RUN is – in case you haven’t heard – on the weekend of 22/23 June.

You can sign up here. https://www.sientries.co.uk/event.php?event_id=12867

Please donate here: https://spbr.org.uk/index.php/raising-money-from-your-run/

Buy a t-shirt, mug or buff here: https://spbr.org.uk/index.php/spbr-merchandise-for-2024/

Our speakers from Palestine in 2024: Land and Food – before and now

We very really pleased to bring you a great programme in the Palestinian Voices Tent at small park BIG RUN 2024. Focusing on our theme of land and food, each speaker will bring fresh perspectives, their expertise and experience. We will be finishing with a discussion about the Israeli-made famine in Gaza.

The programme starts with a short film, On Our Land, a thoughtful and beautiful tribute to the older ways and elder people as the next generation learns more about, and tries to preserve the continuity of, the Palestinian heritage in land.

This will be followed by a zoom call with Fuad Abu Seif, who is a champion of food sovereignty and the director of Union of Agriculture Works Committees in the West Bank. Unfortunately he was not able to get a visa but will still be participating via a live video link.

Taysir Arbasi, coordinator for organic fine food retailer of Palestinian goods Zaytoun follows. Living in the West Bank Taysir is an expert on fair trade and organic conversions having built the the co-operative of Palestinian farmers that produces goods for wholesaler Zaytoun. Zaytoun will re running a stall at the small park BIG RUN with organic goods for sale

Our last travelling speaker from Palestine is Morgan Cooper , who will be telling us about heritage agriculture, and the steps she is taking to preserve the methods – some flavour of which we will have seen in the film.

Short biographies of each speaker are after the Palestine Voices Tent schedule below.

WhoTitleDay / Time
Short filmOn our Land (Film)Saturday 12.45-1.15
Fuad Abu Saif (via zoom)The reality of Food Sovereignty amidst the Israeli genocide war in PalestineSaturday 1.30 – 2.15
Taysir AbassiFair trade and farming for export under occupationSaturday 2.30 – 3.15
Morgan CooperTraditional agriculture under occupationSaturday 3.30 – 4.15
Sahar and MusheirGaza and famine and what we can doSaturday 4.30 – 5.15
Jawad and RubaControl of land and movement in the West Bank. (Jawad and Ruba will serve a Palestinian breakfast during the discussion)Sunday 10.00 – 11.00

Fuad Abu Seif

We are very honoured to welcome Fuad Abu Seif, the Director of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. He is a Palestinian activist with expertise in agricultural, environmental and social activism. He dedicates himself to improving the lives of Palestinian farmers. Through social development initiatives, he fights poverty through projects that empower farmers and promote sustainable practices.

Fuad is a strong advocate for fair trade, he fights for Palestinian farmers to access markets and receive just compensation. Beyond agriculture, Fuad Abu Seif champions human rights, particularly for those facing the challenges of occupation. His leadership extends beyond the UAWC, with membership in various local and international alliances and boards.

Fuad is a frequent speaker at conferences and workshops, he shares his knowledge on agriculture, environment, and human rights. His voice is also heard in Palestinian and international media. His dedication has resulted in numerous agricultural development projects that uplifted thousands of Palestinian farmers. His advocacy for fair trade has improved their livelihoods and market access. He actively promotes environmental protection through projects focused on water conservation and sustainable land use.

Fuad stands as a respected activist , a powerful voice for sustainable agriculture, environmental protection, and human rights in Palestine. He will be addressing us via a Zoom link as the difficulties of obtaining a travel Visa were sadly insurmountable.

Taysir Abassi

Taysir Arbasi is a member of Zaytoun CIC, based in Palestine,

He has been working with farming communities for 20 years, advocating for fair trade and helping farmers evolve their methods so as to produce quality food.

He is the main liaison in the West Bank on behalf of Zaytoun UK.

A selection of Zaytoun’s organics produce will be available for sale at small park BIG RUN.

Morgan Cooper

Morgan is a US citizen living in occupied Palestine with her Christian Palestinian husband and two kids.  She is an ex chef and now frequent and passionate instagrammer showing the impact of occupation on Palestinian life. They have some land , in Area C , fully Israeli-controlled and only contiguous territory in the West Bank, on which they try to ensure they maintain traditional farming methods and heritage trees, crops and plants. Morgan started handmadepalestine.com in order to support traditional crafts and will be bringing some of their products across to sell at small park BIG RUN.

Sahar and Musheir

Sahar and Musheir are residents of Sheffield but both born have lived in Gaza.

Sahar has been a powerful voice for Palestinian people since the genocide started and established a camp outside the Town Hall in January 2024. She is a doctor in Rotherham and has worked to highlight the deliberate destruction of healthcare at the hands of the Israeli army.

Musheir while trapped in Khan Yunnis points out the damage to a neighbour’s house

Musheir is from Khan Younis in Gaza. He was trapped in Gaza for six traumatic weeks with his eldest son, Qassim, after October 7.

He has been chair of Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign for many years, written a powerful book about Operation Cast Lead which is dedicated to the testimony of Palestinian people who experienced the onslaught and has made a number of films about life in Gaza, most recently about fishermen and fisherwomen, all of whom have since lost their livelihoods.

Jawad and Ruba

Jawad is the son of a Palestinian – Hassan Qasrawi from the village of Awarta in the Northern West Bank. Much of his extended family remain in Palestine, but many have moved away as a part of the Palestinian Diaspora – now separated from their homeland for three generations. Living in Sheffield and brought up in the UK he is, like his father before him was, exiled from Palestine with no right of residence.

Ruba is a Palestinian from Nablus and is the cousin of Jawad. She lives and works in Sheffield – separated from her family in Nablus and Ramallah. She is in daily contact with home and will give an account of the extreme problems Palestinians are facing since the Israeli revenge operations in Gaza and the West Bank.

Can you sign up to marshal?

Even if you are signed up to run, maybe you can help us keep this event going by signing up to marshal as well? Marshals are essential to keep help keep the course safe and encourage runners. We have a fantastic programme of events this year, some of which will need additional marshals.

We are looking for more for our solidarity supper, for the children as they march up the hill to hand the lanterns early evening, and a bit later for the torch of remembrance procession the BIG SING on Sunday, and also to help monitor the crossing to our solidarity camp.

You can see more on programme page. Sign up to be a marshal here

Ecocide in Gaza

The theme at small park BIG RUN is land and food. Here is a summary from a couple of sources and links to more information. They highlight that, beyond the immediate terror of starvation, and after the bombs have stopped, there is little left of the land for people to go back to when the bombing does eventually stop and little chance to grow food.

“There is nothing i can recognise here”, says Abu Saffiyeh, a Palestinian farmer from Gaza. “No traces of life”.

Lucia Rebolino, co-author of a study of the destroyed landscape by Forensic Architecture , considers this to be Israeli policy – a deliberate obliteration of life.

Abu Saffiyeh’s land before the war started in 2023 in East Jabbaliah

“In northern Gaza, two-thirds of the land was agricultural – now there’s nothing left,” says Samar Safiya, a Gazan environmental activist.

Her voice notes, summarised in The New Arab, paint a bleak picture of the situation on the ground. “More than 80,000 tons of Israeli bombs have spared neither fields, olive trees nor lemon trees. This environmental destruction accompanies the massacres and genocide,” she says.

Help us make provide support and solidarity to people in Gaza so they can recover and rebuild. Enter small park BIG RUN here