Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland
Make It Happen Angus is a SSAMIS initiative led by Dr Paulina Trevena of the University of Glasgow. It ties in with a similar initiative which took place in one of our other project locations, Peterhead. Make It Happen is a series of Participatory Action Research initiatives through which we are trying to address certain issues which came up as significant in particular research locations. For people from Central and Eastern European countries moving to Angus, one of these has been isolation and lack of opportunities to build meaningful links with the established population. Therefore, the SSAMIS team came up with an idea of creating an international café in the area: a family-friendly space where people could come together around shared interests, practice their English, get information and advice and also do some volunteering. This idea had been discussed at a community consultation event in Arbroath in May 2016 and following an overwhelmingly positive response to it, Paulina set out on a journey to make it happen.
Make It Happen Angus! was a series of 30 workshops/events which took place in Arbroath over two weeks in October 2016. For the second week we opened the ‘Make It Happen Café’ in an actual café space where we were offering hot drinks and had Polish food on sale as well. Similarly to the Peterhead café, the aim of MIH Angus! was to see what type of activities attracted people, what worked or did not work, what times/days would be best for people if we were to run the initiative longer-term and activities people wanted/needed.
It turned out there seem to be many budding artists in Angus: it was the arts-based activities for both adults and children which drew most people in. Our illustrating workshop in particular turned out to be a big hit! Our participants also greatly enjoyed cartooning, painting behind the glass and the music workshops. Some native speakers of English also took up the opportunity to learn some Polish and Russian. In contrast, our information and advice sessions were least popular which raised questions around timing and spreading information. Apart from workshops, we also had some creative activities for participants, including our ‘living map’ of Europe and arts and crafts for children, as well as a swap shop for clothes, books and toys (the children’s books in English and Polish seemed to be in especially high demand).
Over the week of its activity the Make It Happen Café was frequented by both people who have come from other countries to settle in Arbroath (Polish and Syrian families in particular) and local Scots. All our café participants were very positive about the initiative and expressed a desire for it to continue. It had also received a lot of support from local media and authorities; we even had the Deputy Lord Provost come to make a speech one day. During MIH we also created a logo (see above) and produced some artwork which will be displayed at exhibitions locally in 2017, and established new fruitful connections. Our new collaboration with Angus Refugee Care has led to organising a follow-up one day event, St Nicholas Multicultural Day on 6th December with home baking, teas and coffees from the Syrian families and Christmas arts and crafts from SSAMIS. This was a great community day, thoroughly enjoyed by all who came to sample the delicious food.
Make It Happen will continue in Angus in 2017 with further pop-up cafes which will involve art workshops (but also offer training and employability experience for volunteers) leading towards local exhibitions in Arbroath Library and Brechin Museum later this year.
This article is by Paulina Trevena and is the sixth contribution of a series of posts from SSAMIS, which is hosted on this site.