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.
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Members of the Friends of the Picture House will volunteer their help in planning the trips and ensuring that they run smoothly.
Rebekah Fozard, Manager of Hebden Bridge Picture House said: ”I am delighted that the Friends have succeeded in obtaining this grant to continue the great project they initiated last year.
"The cinema already supports registered asylum seekers with free cinema entry, but has been unable to extend this scheme to large groups of visitors nor to make travel arrangements, so the Making Friends scheme is a really welcome way to introduce new customers to our friendly cinema.
"Hopefully with a warm welcome, they will feel confident to make return visits to Hebden Bridge Picture House with their family members or friends."
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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.
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Kate Higham, Chair of the Friends of the Picture House Committee, said: “The Picture House is a focal point of life in Hebden Bridge, and so there is great scope for making friends at the cinema and becoming part of the local community. Local people will have the chance to meet asylum seekers and refugees without those labels getting in the way, because everyone is treated equally, and everyone is welcome.”
Emma Woods-Bolger from the Community Foundation for Calderdale said: “Over the past year we have been working in partnership with our co-funders Calderdale Council, and 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.
“We have also recently partnered with the Voluntary Sector Alliance in Calderdale to develop and support a network of organisations working, or looking to work, with asylum seekers, migrants and refugees in Calderdale, with the aim of increasing and improving support to these individuals and families.
"Over the coming months we will be working with partners to identify the most effective ways for us to share knowledge of what works locally. While we can offer some dedicated time to bringing the network together, it will only succeed if it serves a need for those committed to work with asylum seekers, migrants and refugees. For that to happen, those organisations need to engage and help shape the network.
"We would therefore like to invite any organisation working in this field to an initial meeting of the network, where we can all bring together our ideas for the future."
The meeting will be held at 1pm on Wednesday, 28 November at VAC Resource Centre, Hall Street, Halifax.