Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

SSAMIS in Peterhead: what happened next?

Make It Happen Peterhead was an intensive week of Participatory Action Research. Working this way is interesting and rewarding, but has its challenges. A particular challenge is not having control over what will happen, while recognising that in bottom-up, participant-led work, the researcher is not supposed to lead, or have predetermined expectations of the outcomes.

Make It Happen combined art, language and politics workshops in a new community café in Peterhead, which was an ideal venue as it was just launching over the summer, with a longer term ambition to become a hub for cultural and community events, right in the heart of the town. The café has now received funding to run for a year, and has been named ‘Encounter’. Ssamis are working in partnership with the WEA and Modo to run a weekly language café there.


Our Language Café is a site for intercultural exchange, and although there is an element of taught ESOL, the beautiful part is the stuff that goes on around the edges. The WEA use a social practice model of teaching, which means that the focus is on language that people need in their everyday lives. Like SSAMIS, they advocate a user-led approach, so in the first café we asked the group what they would like to talk about during the term. Sessions have included CPR training with the Fire Brigade, making paper flowers to decorate our café, and my personal favourite: making, cooking and eating ‘bannocks’ – Scottish pancakes. Katrena, our tutor, pre-taught cooking vocabulary, and participants shared the words in their native language. Sometimes we used Google Translate to help, but it seems to be particularly poor at translating between English and Lithuanian, giving ‘raw’ as ‘green’ which didn’t work for the batter recipe!

A significant impact of our PAR is that ad hoc partnerships between 3rd sector agencies have been strengthened during the action research phase. SSAMIS have worked on joint funding applications with both the WEA and Modo. The first of these has been successful, so in the New Year, we will be starting a Family Language Café in Tillydrone, Aberdeen, using the model we have developed in Peterhead, in partnership with the WEA and Aberdeen City Council’s Family Learning team. We will also run a transition project for nursery pupils and their families, getting them ready for school, and exploring local learning opportunities through a visit to a library and local museum.

Modo work with young people in Peterhead, and more than half come from an Eastern European background. Building on SSAMIS work in Peterhead, including the Journeys exhibition, we are waiting to hear if a funding application has been successful to jointly run an inter-generational, intercultural, youth led research project culminating a celebratory event in the spring. We are also considering jointly developing a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund exploring cultural heritage with Peterhead’s diverse communities.

journeys-exhibitionDuring Make It Happen, we also made art that has become the ‘Journeys’ exhibition, currently on display in the Arbuthnot Museum, Peterhead until 10th January.  This exhibition asks 4 key questions: Why do people from other countries move to Scotland? What would you say to welcome new people to Scotland? What makes a place feel like home? How can we make newcomers feel more at home in Scotland?  The exhibition gives participants the opportunity to tell their own stories. These stories are not just about arrivals, but also about everyday life in Scotland.

On 5th December, we are holding a celebration event where all participants and their friends and families will be invited to come and see their work. There will be schools workshops during the day, and later, between 4-6pm there will be an open event where participants, partners, and the SSAMIS research team will be on hand to discuss the research and exhibition, find out about Christmas traditions in other parts of the world, and sample festive foods. Come along if you can!

On 6th December, Make It Happen Angus! is planning a St Nicholas Day celebration, in partnership with Angus Refugee Care. It will be in OBs café. Come and play games, learn about St Nicholas, and enjoy meeting new people.


This article is by Claire Needler and is the fourth contribution of a series of posts from SSAMIS, which is hosted on this site.

For more information about these and other SSAMIS initiatives, follow us on twitter @ssamisproject, or like us on facebook.


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