Tuesday 21st February saw young people from across Oldham coming together to fight discrimination in Oldham. Following on from the Listen to the Earth trip in January, young people from Oldham Youth Council and Oldham Theatre Workshop invited all of the high schools in Oldham to attend a Oldham Coliseum Theatre.
The day was planned to pass on the learning from Auschwitz, get the perspective of those that have faced prejudice and discrimination and finally to try and develop ways in which Oldham can stop discrimination happening. The conference was opened by the Worshipful, The Mayor of Oldham Metropolitan Borough, Cllr Derek Heffernan. Cllr Heffernan is the only Mayor for Peace in Great Britain, and would like to see an end to war and asked the delegates to please spread the word of peace.
We moved on with a presentation by Oldham Youth Council, and Samah explaining why we wanted to host the Ally Conference. Over the past 2 years results from A Nationwide campaign, run by UK Youth parliament, that gathers information on what is important to the youth of the United Kingdom. show that young people are worried about discrimination, but even more worryingly is that the number of young people concerned about discrimination, especially race and religious discrimination, is increasing. In 2015 10.5% (1440) of young people consulted with considered race and religious discrimination the most important issue faced by young people. In 2016 this number increased to 17.75% (2487) of young people. With the rise in the number of ‘hate crimes’ increasing since ‘Brexit’ the Youth Council felt they had to do something.
Jess and Usmaan were up next to explain a little about the Holocaust and give an understanding of the Listen to the Earth project. Grace followed with a short synopsis of the experience the group faced in 2017. If you would like more information on these topics please go to oldhamyc.com/listen/
Finally the presentation was finished off with Janhanzeib talking about whether the Holocaust could happen again. We would hope that seeing the atrocities of the Holocaust would be enough to stop this kind of thing happening again. However, with what is happening in Syria today and what happened in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Darfur, all since World War II, then it’s obvious some people have not learnt from other people’s mistakes.
Not Just a Number
This section was to show that many people’s experience can come together to create a wonderful whole. Youth Councillors, members of Theatre Workshop and pupils came on to stage to share something of themselves. For the delegates it was something that people wouldn’t know about them just by looking and for the organisers it was sharing their feelings and experience of Auschwitz and Birkenau.
As part of the Not Just a Number section we ended by introducing Gulwali Passarlay, an Afghan political refugee who lives in Bolton. For more information on Gulwali visit https://gulwalipassarlay.wordpress.com/about/. Here is what Gulwali had to say:
In the lead up to our trip to Auschwitz, Oldham Theatre Workshop developed a performance called Nadzeija (Hope). The group used words like hate, intolerance, discrimination, tolerance and understanding to develop a small ‘pop up’ performance that could be performed anywhere with little resources. The performance was then developed to be as accessible as possible, making sure that language would not be a barrier. The piece, performed at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim and at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, is always evolving and can change every time it is performed.
4 Films, 1 Script
The conference was also the opportunity for the Youth Council to launch the 4 films, 1 script videos. Youth Councillors created a script and gave it to 4 different directors along with a discrimination theme: Race & Religion, Mental Health, LGBT+ and Disability. The only rule was that they must use the script and could not add or remove any of the dialogue. Even though the starting point was the same for everyone the end results are very different.
The 2nd half of the conference saw the young people split into groups to devise ways of preventing discrimination happening in Oldham. The sessions started with a short exercise using the Sophie Lancaster card game exploring prejudice’s that we all may have. These prejudices were then discussed with ideas of what would stop delegates acting on them. These ideas were then expanded on to come up with ways that the delegates could take back to school and ‘pay forward’ what they had learnt.
The ideas were varied with pupils having some genius moments: small things to remind people of discrimination like pencil toppers to big things like making films and performances for assemblies. One young woman from Crompton House School even changed the lyrics to Rag’n’Bone Man’s hit single – Human. The ‘out there’ idea of the afternoon went to the group who had designed a mascot. A larger than life character who would tour schools and youth groups to talk to them about prejudice and discrimination and ask them to join the fight to stop it.
Most evaluations from the day were positive, although we did receive some great comments on how we can make next year’s conference better.
The evaluations were anonymous but here are a few comments:
I will remember the true story which was told about life fleeing as a refugee.
I want everyone to remember this because i’s worth remembering.
This conference was actually really good. I already knew half the stuff but it was fun seeing it this way.
Can I just say thank you so much for organising that day – our students learnt so much from it and it was fantastic to see past students presenting. Our students were that engaged by it they have come back to school and want to set up a similar conference and run it themselves for our feeder primary schools.
Social media from the day can be found on our Storify
Tuesday 21st February 2017
Oldham Youth Council and Oldham Theatre Workshop invited schools from all over Oldham to come together and develop ideas to stop discrimination.