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Tapestry tells story of welcome

A large-scale wall-hanging made by Norwich school children and local refugees will be exhibited across the city during Refugee Week. The project ties in with ‘Norfolk Welcomes’: a day of learning in 57 Norfolk schools that helps pupils understand the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, through special lessons, assemblies and fundraising.

To make the wall-hanging, Fashion & Clothing students at Hellesdon High School were visited by the award-winning writer George Szirtes, whose poetry served as inspiration for the students’ individual designs. The moving poem ‘My Father Carries Me Across a Field’ is about Szirtes’ own experience of leaving Hungary, aged 7, at the time of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. A second group of students were visited by Congolese aid worker Patrick Changa, who shared his own personal account of being a refugee and spoke about the charity work he now carries out to help young refugees in Norfolk to secure an education.

The exhibition coincides with Hellesdon High being awarded School of Sanctuary status by Norwich City of Sanctuary. They join 11 other local schools that actively promote a culture of welcome towards refugees and asylum seekers among their students and the wider community.

Meanwhile at Avenue Junior School, also a School of Sanctuary, 120 pupils from Year 4 learnt about the many groups of refugees that have sought sanctuary in Norfolk over the centuries. Inspired by this history, they used textiles and mixed media to create visual poems for the wall-hanging.

Amongst the 77 squares of fabric designed by school children, you will find the colourful handprints of local refugees and migrants made during a craft workshop held by New Routes Integration. They have all been stitched together by members of the Norfolk Knitters and Stitchers, who were recently recognised by Norwich City of Sanctuary as a Group of Sanctuary for their support of local refugee charities.

The wall-hanging will be exhibited at The Hive at UEA 14th – 21st June 2019 before migrating to The Octagon Chapel for their Great Get Together event ‘Colegate Connects’ on Saturday 22nd June. Following Refugee Week it will be on display in local libraries in Dereham, Fakenham and Great Yarmouth.