Being Human: the conversation game.

When I was a child I was labelled a ‘bad loser’  when it came to playing games. For me, it was all about winning.  I would take games so seriously that my family would often just ‘let’ me win to keep the peace. Monopoly, especially, brought out my most competitive characteristics. I wanted all the properties and all the hotels and all the cash. Looking back on this, maybe there were more useful things to learn in playing games.

“It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part.” Have you ever heard that phrase? Do you live by it?

What would a game look like if the aim was not to win or be in competition, but to play with other people?  What if the point of a game actually was the ‘taking part’?

So Tea and Tolerance have begun to explore this question. To create a game that is about taking part in conversation: discovering what we each think, feel and want. What kind of world would you like to live in? How can we disagree agreeably? The answer to both these questions takes time, thought and space. How can we create the space and focus for these questions. How can we have more useful conversations?

So we introduce ” Being Human: the Conversation Game.”

It contains 5 sets of cards: questions, quotes and instructions. These are  placed on a tea towel ( the game board) and with ‘teapot’ playing pieces for each player. This is all contained within a tea caddy. There are guidelines and specially devised Play Nicely rules, which help you enjoy the game.

We are embarking on initial design and print over the next two months and hope to have games available later in the year, so watch this space. Follow us on Facebook or email us at to register your interest in buying the game.


A little more explanation of our original conversation model.

When we take our tea trolley to different groups we provide two hosts. People choose if, when and how long they participate. Consent and freedom to choose are key elements.

In practical terms, they choose a teapot or other receptacle and they choose a question, then we invite others to do the same and we all have a conversation ( if we want). One of the hosts will take the role of active’ listener and the other will ‘hold the space’. Between these two hosts, conversations are navigated and gently supported so that listening is maximised and any conflicts or provocations that arises have space to be  heard and not swiftly judged. Part of our ‘Play Nicely’ guidelines: we agree to disagree agreeably.  Each person listens to the other and is curious about the other’s viewpoint. They allow the other their view. This is important in the aims of the game. This enables people to have difficult conversations without shutting other people or themselves down. If we can not talk about it, how do we propose to ever move on?



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….





Tea trolley goes to Forum Central’s Massive Market Place

With over 100 organisations doing stalls & many more attending, this Massive Market Place really was a MASSIVE success.

Well done to Central Forum, Volition (and especially Gill Crawshaw) it was a fun and social day, bringing together an eclectic mix of great organisations who help people in Leeds. We talked with lots of people about lots of things…so here’s a small sample of those conversations…

How much are you worth?

More than I think.

If it was someone else I would say priceless but it’s trickier to say that about me. Feels…boastful? Is it ‘Englishness’ that makes that difficult? My American friend would find it much easier.

We are in a church so I’d have to say that I’m worth dying for (well Jesus thought so anyway).

If you could change anything what would you change?

Sell the riches and give the cash to the poor.

What’s stopping you?


Do we have free will?

No of course not. Our hearts beat whether we ‘will’ it or not – same with our lungs and lots of other things. Though we have choices and can choose how we react to any given situation or circumstance.

Who matters most?

God. God matters most. And myself too – I matter. Though I feel like that is one and the same.

What makes you feel good?

Eating with my family.

What is normal?

Not sure. Everyone has their own normal I suppose. What does normal even mean?

Someone google it.

Google says it’s conforming to a standard…

I suppose we are affected by what we read in the papers, on tv. Fake news is a phrase now – that sort of normalises lazy journalism and lying… doesn’t it?

Are we changing the norm or is the norm changing us?

That’s quite a question. I guess if something becomes acceptable or ‘a usual or familiar standard’ then it becomes familiar, it does start to change the ‘norm’. I’ve heard about certain affluent circles of people who normalize child abuse and it makes me think about the way lots of us (me included) normalize eating meat…we know its not good for the environment and it’d be better not to do it, but it tastes good. Oh now that’s a bit contentious isn’t it!

We normalize using mobile phones and other digital devices. I see people sitting together around tables not talking or looking up with their heads in screens. We think digital and the internet has taken us forward but in many ways its taken us way back. The fact that communication devices often stop people communicating is so ironic.

What makes your blood boil?

Disposable society. Littering. Throwing things away because its cheaper or less time to buy another than sort out the one that’s broken or bit old/worn.

What’s it like to be wrong?

I was wrong today actually. I was doing something with a friend and she pointed out to me the error in what I did, and she was right. I thought I’d been thinking of her but I hadn’t I had my own reasons that motivated me. It was good to sort it out actually – so I didn’t mind being wrong.

Awful. I feel so guilty.

It’s difficult until it’s resolved then it’s a relief.

Where do you draw the line?

I guess you know when someone has crossed your line. A neighbor gave unwanted advice to my niece: well I thought that was way over the line because you never interfere in other people’s families. It’s just not your place.I had words with her mother – my niece was very upset.


You’ve piqued my curiosity. I just had to come over and see what you were doing.
This is great – really gets conversations onto a deeper level.
I’ve really enjoyed this.

Lingfield Living Local Conversation beginnings


We popped into one of the opening events of Living Local and then a few weeks later joined the craft group, here’s what people in Lingfield had to say…

Who or what has most influenced you in your lifetime? Good question. My mum. She is a person who puts community and other people over personal gain. That influenced me a lot in the career/ ethics I have. Also I spent some time volunteering in Rwanda. That was probably the thing that has most influenced me in my life. My teacher: who told me about sheep and goats. He said that in life you can either follow the crowd (like sheep) or follow your own path ( like goats) and which you choose is up to you.

What is it to love? Big question. Putting someone else’s needs and happiness above your own. Allowing and supporting someone to follow their own path/dreams/desire.

Do you think before you speak? Sometimes I overthink things. Then the words burst out. Sort of one leads to the other. I think a lot then I don’t think at all.

How does it feel to be wrong? I’m never wrong.

Where do you belong? Now that is a deep question…you could take that many ways. The locl. The global. Therese may said that if you are a citizen of everywhere then you are a citizen of nowhere. I don’t like talking politics – but is that right? Does it have to be either or? Can I belong to a place I live in and also belong in other places? Surely we are both? I belong here in Leeds where I live, where I grew up and also in all these other places too.

I belong where there are people that accept me warmly.

Why are you here? I just explained that. How strange to get that question.

How does it feel to be vulnerable? It’s a bit scary and then its empowering. You are sort of like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly. It is a moment of transformation: it seems very scary but afterward you are somewhere new.

What are you afraid of? I’m scared of birds….well anything that flaps actually. Story of the mer cat…   Though that reminds me of what I am really terrified of …which is disappointing people,. Is that sad? I mean you cant control other people’s expectations of you. It’s impossible.

What is the difference between you and me? I think we are all more similar then we are different. I was talking with a Muslim woman and on the outside we look very different and you might, on first glance, think that we would have very little in common. Yet as we spoke, we discovered so many similarities…our circumstances, where we lived and what we did, the problems we were having with our children. Really we had so much in common.

Every person is like a flower, And it would be really boring if every flower looked the same. Same colours same bloom. What is exciting about the flowers is that they are all different. And people are like those flowers in the garden, a myriad of colours and expressions and shapes, and all those differences are complementary.

What’s stopping you? That made me think of today. What is stopping me from singing?

What is your favourite word? A man told me this word once – Discombobulated. I love it. Sounds very clever. What does it mean?

I don’t have a clever word but the Albanian word for hello ‘pershendetje’ which I learnt whilst living in Albania, I discovered later when learning Spanish that the same word in Spanish means ‘little shit’. My friend used to get to me to tell all her friends the Albanian word for hello and of course they would all laugh, because it was a swear word and I didn’t know.

My children sometimes make up words in English, which are translations form words in Spanish. They don’t mean anything in English but I know exactly what they mean by these made up words. I love that.

I like long words but I prefer reading stories in simple language

Do you think before you speak? Mixed thoughts on this: from ‘never – I tell it like it is’; to ‘only when responding to ‘volatile’ people; to ‘I try to’.

What makes you hopeful? Places like this community hub. Seeing acts of cooperation and tolerance within this community.

What inspires you? Jean. Jean inspires us because she is the kindest, nicest person…she’s a little sweetheart. This place. My daughter made the logo – she won the competition at school. Originally it was a crayon drawing. We have it framed at home.

How does it feel to be vulnerable? Not much. My early life was quite harsh and compared to that nothing makes me feel vulnerable.

My car skidded on ice and I swerved off the motorway and then the car wouldn’t start. I felt pretty vulnerable waiting for help.

When do you ask for help? At the last minute usually. Practical help is easier to ask for. There is something about ‘no’ – can someone hear it or say it, when asking for help. The worry being if the person asked says no, then will it hurt; or if I ask, will the person feel burdened by me. I don’t care what people think so I’m not afraid to ask for help.

Why are you here? To support Kate and my friends and community. I wouldn’t say I’m here to make a difference because people come if they want and if they are interested.

 Do you count? Everyone counts. Maybe more people feel like they count at the moment?

If you could change anything, what would you change? The government. No the PM. I’d bring in proportional representation. But who would you put in place of the current PM? I like that old guy with the beard…Corbyn. He seems honest and is for the people. But are the things he wants too good to be true? And can he balance the books? Though the conservatives havn’t done a great job with that have they.

Where do you draw the line? Racism. People think I will agree with them because of what I look like but if I witness racism, I will step in and stop it. They don’t expect that but I don’t care.





We need a larger sense of us. What is ‘us’?

Someone said it’s a good sign if you didn’t get around to taking photographs – means you were having a good time.

Feel like bonds were deepened and there was a commonality of thinking across the different people there.

Oh wow! Thats amazing! So glad you came and did that, we have a lot of conversations in the hub, we all talk an awful lot, so its nice to have those conversations directed and recorded. So, so important this work that you are doing, now more than ever.

Who are Tea and Tolerance? We explained about our roots in the York Mosque who invited the EDL in for tea and football. It struck a chord for some residents and they talked about how scary it was a few years ago when that had happened in this community. How police had told them to stay inside but they wanted to carry on as normal and didn’t want to hide.

So great to see everyone together: laughing and smiling. We have so much #moreincommon

Tea and Tolerance has 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.


John-Lewis.jpg  Joint-LCF-Leeds-Fund-Logo-.jpg

Time to widen the conversation…?


Discussion 1 – Handbook for being Human in the 21st Century with MB TB EH JH LM PM ZP & JW

Thanks to generous funding from Arts Council England, we begin researching conversation and being human.  Below are the reflections of 8 artists based in Leeds and Bradford on 27.1.17. We each started with the gathered blogs of the conversations of each event we have taken our project Tea and Tolerance to and 7 proposed chapter titles. The initial proposal being to write a Handbook for being Human in the 21st century.

Is it a book? A process?… an adventure?
Who have we worked with?
Where is it going? – to parliament? As a manifesto for humankind?

Cards FOR Humanity (rather than ‘against’)

MANIFESTO – or a journal / workbook / actions / tools: what am I gonna do? What next?

It’s all talk… Create a tool-kit to prompt conversation / a series of tasks and blank pages (Kindness Advent Calendar; Random Acts of Kindness..?)


Where is the warmth..? The Story… The development of T&T… COntextUalisation.

WHO IS IT FOR? And WHAT IS IT FOR? Accessibility…

Is social change necessary? YOU might think so – but what if most people just want to ‘get along’, fall in love… ‘I’m not looking for a New England…’
Who should I be cross with, and what do people want? Will there be a WW3? Will we do it all over again?… But the reality is: people died, a lot of people…

Who is to blame, and how do we evolve? How do we all have conversations / empathy and compassion with and for  people who do not share your world view. What if I am ‘their ‘ HITLER?

Who’s in & Who’s out? How do you make room for everybody? Who explains POLITICS to you? What does it all mean?

In a no (WO)MANS land – from our exclusive little ‘bubbles’…. crafting cultural / social experiences…

POLITICS is a privilege – what about ‘just surviving’???

Are we just wanking off? Who is to blame for all the wanking?

If SHIFT is going to happen… what do we do? Who do we talk with? And how?
A need to recognize spheres of influence…? Meaning – for whom?


YOU CAN ONLY ASK GOOD QUESTIONS… Questions to bridge boundaries… Bridging gaps.

Making assumptions? Fulfilling expectations? What DOES it MEAN? (Define / determine – unravel terms together to develop a shared understanding…)

A need to strip language back, develop definitions, get out of our BOXES of assumptions – what does the word Fascist / Nazi mean. Define it. Together. There are massive gulfs between people – even in families…


QUESTION FROM BASIC PRINCIPLES: Use a battering ram or develop a curiosity tool…?

DIALOGUE. Where and how are we similar? Let’s not start by knowing that the other is definitely wrong. Stop filling in the gaps in conversation. Stop being so fucking clever.

Establish lexicon (words we understand) with each other.
Stop pitting people against each other & blaming….
Stop being binary. Evolve your multiplicity.
Create ‘Safe’ space to be FIERCE
RADICAL HONESTY – build toward a place where this can take place…

WHAT are the LAYERS, and HOW do they FUNCTION in the development of creating that ‘Safe Place’?

BE CURIOUS – who knows everything?
FIND yourself in a group of people who are able to hold their tongues…
SPEAK… maybe.
This is an enquiry – we will work it out together…


Book? App? Social media? Multi-platform? Multiple access routes in…

[When do I feel alone? What do I go to? Someone’s thought. But how do I go on? Blank pages. Need a space to feed back into…]

Activities to create position of an imagined and distant point of view… One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

How do we avoid dominant voices? REFLECT / BREATHE


CHECK IN – with each other along the way.
WHAT IS YOUR LANGUAGE (plain speaking).

SPACE – and How does a conversation work?
Clumsily – that’s life! Justification of positions / or Evolution of ideas or concepts….


WHAT DO YOU MEAN? (When, if ever, do we land on the same page?)
(Where is the route map that takes me from here to There…?)

What are the core questions – and how do we speak: converse, converge & transform…


At the crossroads where all the ghosts, futures and present converge… Where the decision has to be made as regards the next step… In the moment?

A tool-kit for guided conversations.
{note from Lucy to remember the Naughty Virgin Mary?}???
WHAT IS LISTENING? Re-creation of the T&T model / way of evolving and developing conversation…

A TOOL-KIT to build with…
(What is the game and how does it work?)
Game of Equality… or Equity…
What are the rules?
How do we do tolerance?

Where are you stuck in your life? Need spaces to speak on particular issues…

(Termites and shouters)
What will make it all better?

TIME LIMITS: game mechanisms; open spaces; creating frameworks…

[Social Engineering] / T&T FIGHT CLUB…

Who are you? Will you share it with me?


Part 1: Tea & Tolerance: Re-establishing the Art of Conversation.

I think this is what i/we came to as a conclusion… to create something that is the right balance… of instructions, rules, options and strategies (maybe even a few statements & suggestions, games and aides) that helps people to really enjoy each others company whilst evolving meaningful dialogue with each other.

To be calm becomes a kind revolutionary act…