5000 Miles – Summer and Autumn 2017

“Before my country is black because they don’t have light. They wish in their heart that they can find the light – but they don’t they just find red …” ADAAM, young Afghan migrant

Adaam and Murat had been involved in various elements of project work over the course of Year II: performing alongside the young Roma at the Roma celebration event in June ’16; and coming in to the College to meet and work with the Performing Arts students in the Autumn term ’16.

As young teenagers the two boys fled their homeland in the Mazarin Sharif region of Afghanistan. Leaving their rural village to escape the Taliban (who had murdered one of the boy’s fathers and had kidnapped the other’s) the boys walked over 5,000 miles (at the age of 13) – sleeping in forests, scavenging for food to stay alive. The boys’ story was so remarkable we wanted to spend more time with them and make them the main focus of a body of creative engagement work.

Over the course of the year Sharon from verd de gris arts met with the boys on a weekly basis at their high school in Sowerby Bridge. Together they used art, storytelling, poetry and music to try to capture something of the life they fled … and their hopes for the future. What life did they leave behind? What kinds of opportunities did life offer them? And what do they wish for now – for their futures here in the UK?

We recognised early on that writing and singing were very important to both boys – poetry and song helped the boys to both reconnect with their own culture, and to express their longings for their families and ‘home’. We worked with Adaam and Murat to create a unique soundscape – a haunting lament for their mothers and the life they had left behind. It proved to be a very effective tool for us to use as a broadcast medium to begin to reach a wider audience via online and social media. With the help of Penny Wangari-Jones from Migrants Organise we were able to get the boys on Bradford Community Radio and BBC Radio Leeds where the boys were interviewed about their experiences. The boys also took the soundscape to the Love Arts Festival in Leeds were they spoke with audience members and were interviewed by young reporters from Chapel Arts Radio. You can listen to the soundscape here:

https://soundcloud.com/jeff-turner-4/5000-miles

During the course of the project we brought local storyteller Peter Findlay to meet Adaam and Murat. Peter listened to the boys’ story and created a unique interpretation of the ‘5000 Miles’ journey. This came to form the basis of a series of workshops verd de gris ran in two local primary schools – Beech Hill and Hebden Royd – with workshop facilitator Sharon being accompanied by Peter and the boys. To compliment this work Sharon also led a number of creative sessions with Art & Design students at Calderdale College. Verd de gris designed a competition supported by college staff to find a student to help illustrate a limited-edition book of the boys’ journey. Competition winner Beth Hall met with Adaam and Murat and worked with verd de gris to take the book design through to final publication. We were also able to take Beth with us to meet our printer – giving her the opportunity to see how a commercial print firm operates.

You can have a read of this unique, limited edition book here on ISSUU:

In November 2017 we brought all project participants together at a celebratory launch event at Square Chapel Arts in Halifax. We were joined by an audience of 250+ including children from participating schools, college students, members of the public and Mayor of Calderdale Cllr Fermin Ali, Robin Tuddenham, CEO of Calderdale MBC and Christine Harris, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, who commented: “What an amazing project you have delivered again. I am inspired by the work you do and the way that you do it. It’s inclusive / intuitive and hits the spot in every way. The book launch reached a height of awareness which was rare and so tangible!”

The 5000 Miles books were made available in book stores and libraries throughout Calderdale.

The Creative Communities (Stronger Together) programme is supported with funding from the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.

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