Over the past year, we have been working in partnership with multiple local organisations to increase opportunities for people to mix with others from different backgrounds, without these opportunities mistrust and misunderstanding can grow and can prevent people in isolated communities from taking advantage of the opportunities that living in Calderdale offers.

Below you will find examples of our work and the impact it is having on our community.

A Journey Within a Journey

Kings’s Troupe is a community based inter-generational theatre company in West Yorkshire, specialising in the performance of Shakespeare. This film is a record of their theatre-making process, where they invited refugees from St Augustine’s in Halifax to be a part of creating ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ adapted by the director Mary Coaten. This year they were selected by the Royal Shakespeare Company for the sixth year running to perform on the Dell Stage as part of their outdoor Summer Programme at Stratford-on-Avon.

Making Friends Project.

The Community Foundation for Calderdale is working together with the Friends of Hebden Bridge Picture House on its new ‘Making Friends’ project. ‘Making Friends’ will run cinema trips for members of the refugee and asylum seeker community across Calderdale. The scheme provides transport costs, cinema tickets and refreshments for a monthly screening at Hebden Bridge Picture House. The choice of film will be made in collaboration with the refugees and asylum seekers themselves.

The first trip was arranged for 20 people to go to see family film Paddington 2. The event was declared an unreserved success, with all attendees, who were from a range of countries including Syria, Lebanon, Guinea and Afghanistan, enjoying their experience.

Attendee Manal said: “You have brought smiles into the faces of so many children.” As the Making Friends project progresses, it is hoped that refugees and asylum seekers will grow to see the Picture House as a place where they feel welcome and safe, and trips to the cinema as a normal part of life. There will also be lots of opportunities for them to join and volunteer with the Friends of the Picture House – thus gaining valuable transferable skills. As well as providing relaxation and entertainment, the cinema trips will also hopefully increase attendees’ local cultural awareness and provide opportunities to improve language skills, both through the films themselves and through making friends within the local community.

Many Voice

Many Voices is a new three-year community project in partnership Square Chaple Arts and Hebden Bridge-based Verd De Gris Arts. The group will run a cross-cultural, intergenerational arts project to improve community cohesion and reduce social isolation. This will bring people together and improve knowledge and tolerance of different cultures and communities.

The project will deliver a wide range of activities with diverse communities in Calderdale, with the aim of bringing people together to build confidence, knowledge, skills and understanding.  Working with a range of partners, the project will celebrate the differences between communities and promote the qualities and experiences that all people share, which makes Calderdale such a vibrant and exciting place to live. There will be a particular focus on working with women and girls, exploring the issues they face, supporting them to share their stories and have a voice.

Michaela O’Sullivan, Head of Audiences at Square Chapel Arts Centre said: “An impressive range of work has been delivered over the past three years, but as a partnership, we found that the stories and experiences of women and girls in our communities warranted further exploration. It is particularly prescient that issues affecting women are to the fore at the moment and Many Voices is about supporting women and girls from different backgrounds and communities to have a voice and be heard. At Square Chapel, we are very much looking forward to having a further three years to work with Verd De Gris Arts to deliver this new and exciting project in Calderdale.”

Providing English Classes

By partnering with a local community group we have been able to provide English Classes (ESOL) for that whose first language isn’t English.  So far we have attracted 352 attendances per month, (approximately 22 people per class). A survey of the students revealed 78% of students felt their spoken English has significantly improved. 82% reported an increased level of confidence as a result of attending the class.