This project began in April 2003 as a 10 week pilot and ran for over a year. It was a multi-agency partnership approach to facilitate and encourage interaction and integration between young asylum seekers / refugees and indigenous teenagers. It aimed to promote and strengthen school, community and home links via integration of formal and informal learning opportunities. It was funded jointly by Kingsway Court, LINKES, & Drumchapel SIP. The project was led by Jan Christie, CLS Youth Services, Hugh Wright Social Work’s Community Work Team and Kingsway’s Jassim Johe.
26 young people representing 12 nationalities took part. (17 asylum/refugee & 9 indigenous; 18 boys & 8 girls). It was originally planned as a 10-week pilot programme between April & July 2003. The pilot proved to be a success with the teenagers and identified a number of areas for development. It was decided to continue developing the work throughout the year.
The programme structure had 3 main elements to it: i) Sports and Leisure, e.g. eating-out, rugby, football, dance, canoeing and ice-skating; ii) Groupwork, e.g. what is health?, racism & stereotyping, information technology, and parents meetings; iii) Residential, e.g. residential planning & preparation, one-night trial to Strathfillan wigwams, one-week visit to Ballymore Open Centre, Northern Ireland, to work on cross community cultural diversity with a local youth project.
The project proved to be an excellent piece of integration work and received acclaim by the City Council and Scottish Executive as a model of good practice. It has presented workshops at: GCC Youth Services Conference, December 2003; Scottish Executive’s Anti-sectarian Conference in Dundee, April 2004; ATLAS ‘Opening Doors’ conference, June 2004.
In partnership with Linkes Community Project, this project formed part of the Centre’s integration work with asylum seekers, refugees and local people. The product of the project was a carnival parade and international festival celebrating the area’s rich and varied cultural mix. The process involved local people and agencies working together to celebrate diversity and challenge discrimination. The content of the process involved the planning and organisation of:
i) a carnival parade of around 200 local people from Lincoln to Kingsway flats;
ii) food tasting from many different cultures;
iii) soccer skills coaching and a 5-a-side tournament;
iv) youth games and workshops;
v) song & dance performances from around the world;
vi) kids arts, crafts, bouncy castles and talent show;
vii) local organisations’ and agencies’ information stalls.
The outcome aimed to develop a better understanding and promote good relations between diverse communities. The planning and organisation for the first festival began in June 2003 with the event (product) taking place on Saturday, 30th August 2003, 11.00am – 4.00pm. The event began with a parade at 11.00am from Lincoln Ave flats to the grounds of Kingsway Court.
Over 2000 people attended the event, which was hailed as a great success by the people, the organisers and the main funders.
The event clearly had a positive influence in cross-cultural relationships as evidenced by the new friendships formed, a sense of pride in the community’s achievement and the reduction in racist incidents.
The event also provided an opportunity for local people to interact with and get information on statutory and voluntary sector services available in their area.
The community-led approach to the planning and organisational process went some way to building social relations, confidence and capacity among the local people who got involved.
The Festival became an annual event over 6 years between 2003 and 2008.
The story of how Jean Donnachie and Noreen Real took on the might of the Home Office and stopped dawn raids on their asylum seeker neighbours is part of our community history. They rallied the residents of the Kingsway flats and lead the whole of Glasgow into a direct action campaign which more or less put a stop to the government’s community terror tactics of dawn raids on asylum seekers in Glasgow. They went on to receive the Evening Times 2008 Scotswoman of the Year Award for their contributions to peace and justice.
The following extract from the Community Health Exchange’s Breaking Through publication gives some sense of their remarkable story.
Community-led health has been described as the community “leading, identifying and prioritising” the services it needs; often complementing existing NHS services, often creating new initiatives, and sometimes challenging the status quo. Jean Donnachie and Noreen Real are both on the Centre’s Board and live in the flats. Jean has been involved with the Centre from the start; Noreen most definitely is now. Both became very concerned about the treatment of asylum seekers living in the Court when a man jumped off a balcony. They learnt about ‘the Dawn Raids’: the arrival of the immigration police, often at 5.30am in the morning, to take people off for questioning. They were shocked to find that officers were arriving in full ‘battle gear’, breaking down doors, putting young people in handcuffs … and they didn’t want that happening in their community.
“Tackling the Dawn Raids was a big, big step. We set up the Kingsway Amnesty Group, got permission to use the Centre and got up at 5am every morning; as did my son, the Centre’s Caretaker Eddie, who opened up.” explains Jean. Noreen continues: “Every asylum seeker who came to the Amnesty Group could leave their name and phone number. We’d ring them if the Home Office van arrived and they’d come down the backstairs and join the Group, where they’d be safe.”
This work went on for a year and a half, a huge commitment. Yet they’d seen the difference new families from other countries were making to the area. Within a year of people starting to arrive, a whole different atmosphere was being generated – a new sense of community and the Centre was thriving. For Jean and Noreen, this was not then a political act but a humanitarian one. They just didn’t want their neighbours and friends, and their families, being treated like criminals, and they learned to use their voices to say this. A meeting with Alex Salmond followed and a sense that they were “making ripples”. Eventually the raids stopped and people began to get indefinite leave to remain.
Seven schoolgirls – all members of Drumchapel High School in Glasgow – helped establish a campaign against dawn raids on asylum seekers, took on the Home Office and the Scottish government about the way failed asylum seekers were treated.
The Glasgow Girls – as they became known: Amal Azzudin, originally from Somalia; Agnesa Murselaj, a Roma girl from Kosovo; Roza Salih, from Kurdistan; Ewelina Siwak, a Polish Roma gypsy; and Emma Clifford, Jennifer McCarron and Toni Henderson from Drumchapel – channelled their outrage into a campaign against the dawn raids and the removal of school friends who had spent years in Glasgow.
The girls’ involvement started when Agnesa’s family were among the first victims to be targeted in a series of dawn raids on failed asylum seekers in Kingsway in 2005. They fought back against Agnesa’s detention and became some of the most vocal and powerful pro-asylum seeker campaigners in the country
Publicity grew as the girls challenged the then First Minister Jack McConnell on the matter and publicly voiced their concerns as more children at their school were being dawn raided, detained and deported. After visiting the Scottish Parliament twice, The Glasgow Girls obtained cross-party support on the issue.
The group won the Scottish Campaign of the Year Award in 2005 at the annual Scottish politician of the year ceremony for their hard work.
Two documentaries have been made by the BBC about their campaign, one of which won the Nations and Regions Award in the Amnesty International UK Media Awards.
In 2013 the National Theatre for Scotland presented a modern musical at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow depicting the life of the Glasgow Girls. The musical then had a run at Stratford East Theatre in London. More recently, the musical ‘Glasgow Girls’ has been adapted for TV and aired on BBC Three on 15 July 2014.
The headline aim of the Good Relations project was:
“to deliver increased interaction and understanding between groups and communities that do not ordinarily mix or where particular tensions exist”
The purpose of this work arose initially from the West Integration Network (WIN); an informal partnership of statutory, voluntary and community organisations in the West of Glasgow led by Kingsway H&W Centre staff.
Aware of an increasing need to celebrate diversity and promote integration in the context of a new and emerging multicultural surrounding, WIN developed a programme of drama workshops and local theatre performances.
The Kingsway H&W Centre secured funding from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), under their ‘Good Relations’ theme, from January 2010. This enabled the work to be developed for a further 3 years. A partnership was formed between Kingsway H&W Centre, Linkes Community Project, Ignite Theatre Group, Robin’s Fund and Glasgow Life. The partnership steered this work under two separate but complementary strands: Ignite Theatre and Challenging Attitudes Workshops.
An evaluation of the Good Relations project was carried out in January 2013 by an independent researcher.