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Queen's Park charity Salusbury World celebrates 20th anniversary with unique project based on its first cohort of refugees

PUBLISHED: 11:38 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:38 04 December 2019

Sarah Reynolds and Hilary Brigden of Salusbury World infront of a Stonebridge Primary school project currently at Willesden Library. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

Sarah Reynolds and Hilary Brigden of Salusbury World infront of a Stonebridge Primary school project currently at Willesden Library. Picture: Nathalie Raffray

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Voices speaking of harrowing journeys are being archived to mark a Queen's Park charity's 20th anniversary.

Students from QPCS and Salusbury performing poetry they wrote in workshops with Rosemary Harris of English PEN.Students from QPCS and Salusbury performing poetry they wrote in workshops with Rosemary Harris of English PEN.

Salusbury World has embarked on an ambitious project to celebrate those who have come through the charity's door and settled in this country.

Sarah Reynolds, director of the charity, and Hilary Bridgen, chair of trustees, have collaborated with the London College of Communication (LCC) and several local schools as part of the initiative.

The 20;20 project seeks to find the first 20 children the charity helped and archive their stories, with oral histories already taken from 15 who have been found.

The first incarnation of the project is the Stories of Moving Lineage exhibition currently running at Willesden Library until February and other photographic portraits at Brent Civic Centre.

Still from a film made to mark Salusbury World's 20th anniversary. Picture: Salusbury WorldStill from a film made to mark Salusbury World's 20th anniversary. Picture: Salusbury World

Salusbury World came into existence within Salusbury Primary School in 1999 offering sanctuary and support to refugees.

Its founders Carol Munro, former headteacher, and Doris Bancroft, then chair of governors, saw first hand children who would come in for a week, or a month, or who were coming in from a nearby hostel and knew they must do something to help.

Having successfully applied for charitable status, they received funding to renovate a classroom and employ their first director, Nina Emmet, who ran the charity for four years.

The idea for the project came from from a former child who had found Nina a few years ago by navigating through social media, said Sarah, who took on the directorship in 2003.

Ben Bailey Smith performingBen Bailey Smith performing

"He had been to Salusbury World when he was a little boy and he and his family had had a really tough time. When his life was going well he'd got in touch with Nina to tell her what she'd done with Salusbury World had been a critical part of helping him and his family lay the foundations of their lives in Britain.

"From that came the germ of the idea that we should try to catch up with the first 20 kids and it would be a really great celebratory project to mark 20 years of Salisbury World being in existence."

Many meetings later they submitted an application to Heritage Lottery to run a project and set about locating former clients.

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Staff were given training on how to take an oral history and the first people were interviewed. Each recording will be archived at Brent Museum and Archives.

As part of the work with LCC, 10 students have been matched with an edited story each and were asked to develop a creative response to it.

"They've all approached it in radically different ways," said Sarah. "Some were holograms, some were videos, some piece of typography. They've embraced it and it's been fantastic for us."

The launch of the exhibition in Willesden Green in October showcased the work done with school children using edited stories.

Salusbury Primary School and Queens Park Community School (QPCS) pupils read their poetry which they'd worked on with English Pen.

QPCS also did "the most astounding piece of physical theatre" after workshops with Scarabeus which Sarah described as "heart-stopping".

The event was hosted by the charity's patron Ben Bailey Smith, known as Doc Brown, who worked for the charity for eight years before becoming a performer.

The photographic work hanging at Willesden Library was captured by Stonebridge Primary School pupils working with Nina Emmet's social organisation Fotodocument, where prints hang at the civic centre.

"It's very important that these stories are preserved and also that they are celebrated," continued Sarah. "They are stories of hope, they came here at different ages, have gone on to do different things."

And she went on to explain how the parallels with the past are important. "2019 is the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War which was one of the times when there was what's known as a refuges crisis in Europe with people fleeing Nazi persecution."

"There are parallels between 1939, 1999 when there was the war in Kosovo, the crisis that led Salusbury World to be set up, and now we're thinking particularly of the conflict in Syria.

"It's important to challenge some of the difficult stuff you hear and see in a creative way."

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