Spring Ball 2018

“Celebrating Diverse Cultures to increase understanding and create community cohesion.”

This project aims to celebrate, foster and promote community events and community cohesion. Our application for funding included organising  Family & Community Events, including multi-cultural and other festivals throughout the year. At these events the various cultures will provide traditional food, music, showcase their cultures/traditions/music.

One of the aims of this project was to gain a better understanding of each other’s cultures, celebrations and  interactions, with a view to increasing participation and to be held at different venues, involve local community centres and schools. We endeavoured to include different age groups and enabling easy access harder to reach groups, i.e. elderly, disabled, vulnerable people including the those who find it difficult to access services.

We ended the project with the annual Spring Ball 2018 on 28th April 2018. This was a fantastic night bringing together over 125 people from the different communities, celebrating music and a wealth of culture and all the rich celebrations that each community has to offer. The night consisted of Irish Dancers, Filipino Dancers, Punjabi Giddah Group, and all the groups invited the guests to join in with the dancing. This was an event that we hope to arrange annually and ensure that communities can continue to celebrate and showcase their culture in a true community spirit

We secured funding from Awards for All to run this project. The application was made due to our experience of working with community groups.
We were of the view that our project was required due to the following reasons:

  • Cultural celebrations provide the opportunities to understand more about cultures different from their own.
  • As this is a predominately White British area (83%).
  • By learning about other cultures can develop respect and open-mindedness to encourage community cohesion.
  • To overcome ignorance and prejudice
  • To promote identity and heritage
  • In promoting diversity brings strength and tolerance in communities and by celebrating differences, as well as our common interests, helps unite and educate us.
  • To understand other perspectives, to broaden our own profile, and to fully experience and educate ourselves.
  • There is a need to understand and learn to appreciate other cultures and to come together is one way to accomplish that.
  • Through each other's diversity we become more aware of our own. Not only do we become more aware we gain a sense of pride for the diversity of our own culture and personal and community growth.
  • Community events provide learning opportunities that are also thought provoking allowing for reflection on diversity.
  • To see how many different forms of /culture/food/music can bring excitement to groups outside of their own traditional roots
  • To realise what varied cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles people lead.
  • There is a need to relate and understand those with those with different/changing social, economic, and educational backgrounds.

Food For Thought
2012

The third annual Food for Thought event to honour United Nations World Food Day was held on Saturday 13th October at the Bedwell Community Centre. The fundraising event brought together 10 ethnic community groups, each of which prepared various traditional dishes for everyone to sample. There were delights from around the world including Cyprus, Zimbabwe, India, South Africa, Romania, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ireland, Uganda, the West Indies and Singapore. With children’s activities and great raffle prizes, there was fun for all the family.

“This is a brilliant way for many people to sample different kinds of foods, especially as it helps bring communities together. Great event,” said one of the guests.

The event raised over £250 which has been passed on to the United Nations World Food Programme to provide food for the less fortunate.

Our Country 2011

Formally ended in May 2011.  It was a short but vibrant project, which enabled several different cultures, all ages and people from different professions to learn about the communities’ heritage, their history about living in Stevenage, their food and music.  The project also provided some learning materials, in the form of a DVD and the primary aged children had the pleasure of enjoying first hand when several communities visited schools to share their stories.  We thank the insightful schools and teachers who helped us to deliver this wonderful BIG Lottery Heritage Fund. 

The 'C' Factor

The ‘C’ Factor was a series of interactive community-based workshops designed to bring diverse communities together, allowing them to share slices of their culture with others. Each workshop day revolved around different themes: Dance, Art, Traditional dress, and Life back home. Over four Saturdays in August and September 2010, local community members experienced and lived a world of culture, gaining an insight into the vast richness of ethnic groups in the local area. The variety of the workshops demonstrated the beauty of the diverse cultures, and gave a glimpse into the reality of other countries, beyond what is perceived on a daily basis through limited sources such as TV shows.

The first event, ‘Can’t Dance, Won’t Dance’, had all-aged members of the public learning the steps to dances from around the world. Participants tapped their feet to an Irish Céili, danced to the Polonez (the national dance of Poland), learnt the sequence of an Indian dance and stepped to the beat of a Zimbabwean warrior dance. “The different dances were really good fun to join in with and the stories behind them were really interesting,” said one of the younger participants.

The second event, ‘Ready! Steady! Draw!’, focused on the ancient art-form of henna tattooing. Audience members, from the young to the more senior, had designs tattooed onto their hands and even their feet. Participants learnt about the origins of henna. Some took the opportunity to get creative by designing their own patterns.
A returning participant said: “The workshops were a great way of learning about different cultures in an interesting and fun way.”

At the third event, the theme of ‘Undress the Cultures!’ gave community members an insight into the colourful world of saris. The audience heard the many reasons of wearing saris in tropical countries, including that it is cooling and practical to do so. Even housewives wear them at home. They learnt there are several styles in which to wear a sari, and also had the opportunity to learn to wear a sari in the traditional style and the Gujarati style.  One participant said: “I have always been interested in learning how to wear a sari. It’s great to have had this opportunity today.”

The final event, ‘A day in the life of…’, provided community members with a glimpse of real life in three countries. Amongst a host of topics, the participants found out about games played in Barbados, school days in Ireland and growing up in a village in South Africa. “My daughter now has an idea as to what life is really like overseas,” commented one participant.

Culture Street

A series of cultural-based, interactive workshops which took place in a number of schools and play-schemes in Stevenage, Culture Street allowed young children, aged between 7-14 years, to learn about different cultures in the Stevenage community.

Through these interactive workshops, the children had a chance to:

  • Play drums to African rhythms
  • Be artistic with batik painting
  • Learn the dance to a traditional Indian epic
  • Dance to Zimbabwean beats
  • Paint with henna
  • Tap to an Irish jig
  • Learn about the Sikh culture
  • Hear about Barbados

    The participating schools were St. Vincent de Paul primary school, Featherstone Wood primary school and Barnwell secondary school. Pin Green Play Centre also took part in the project. Over 300 children benefited from these cultural workshops.

A separate series of workshops was also carried out, to encourage school children to explore and record their family history. A Learning & Access Officer from Herts Archives worked with young people, to show them ancient records and ways of tracing their family history.

Comments from participating children included:

“Thank you for helping us learn about different cultures.”
“I thought it was really fun and our teacher was really good fun.”
“I thought that the drums were fantastic and I’d love to do it again.”

Across the Oceans

Across the Oceans documented, on DVD and CD, the stories and journeys of 11 people who chose to settle in Stevenage for reasons of family, work and new opportunities.

Here are some samples of those stories.

Tom, The Philippines

A year after my wife started working as a nurse in Lister Hospital, I moved to England, which was in 2002. It was freezing as I left the departure lounge at Heathrow airport in March. But I loved the drive coming to Stevenage – the trees and nature were almost the selling point. Stevenage is so organised and safe with its pedestrian walks etc. I immediately loved the place. And it was really good to know it was one of the new towns after the war. Being able to see so many trees was so different compared to Manila which is heavily industrialised. It really was like a fresh new breeze for me. But when I went to the town centre, I noticed the shops were open till only 5:30pm! In the Philippines, the shops are open till about 12am midnight, and most of the restaurants are open till about 3am. Maybe in London, it’s the same, but here in Stevenage, I was thinking ‘Oh no!’

Vyonne, Zimbabwe

I came to England 26 years ago to do a Montessori nursery school course, with the intention of going back and starting my own nursery school in Harare. Initially, I lived in Stockwell, London, with my aunt for the first three years. I did my Montessori training and then worked in a Montessori school. During that time, while studying for another course, I met my husband in Stevenage. I liked London but I preferred Stevenage. I think I have always loved Stevenage because it reminded me very much of where I lived in Harare. A lot of the suburbs and places in Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was known) were built along similar lines as here. In St. Martins where I lived back in Rhodesia, we had a lot of wooded area and many green and play areas like we have here. I think I knew even then that if I did get married and if I was going to stay in the UK, I definitely wasn’t going to stay in London.

IT4U
2010

A European Union-funded initiative, the IT4U computer training course ran between September and November 2010. The course gave 20 mature members of the community the opportunity to develop basic computer skills to enhance their quality of life.

Over the 18-week programme, the students attended weekly training sessions (there were two groups of 10 students) during which time they learnt about using word and excel, and to use the internet and email safely. The course which was aimed at the older members of our community targeted those who required coaching in steps from as basic as switching on a computer.

The successful end of the course was celebrated in style at the local Bedwell Community Centre when the students, their tutors and SWF members enjoyed a fish and (micro)chip supper. As part of the celebrations, all students were awarded a certificate of attendance by Cllr Sherma Batson.

The course feedback was one of overwhelming success with many participants keen to know if SWF will be running any similar or next step courses. It was amazing to see a diverse group of people slowly transforming themselves from self-confessed low-techs to computer-nerds. And having great fun along the way.

Comments from the participants included:

“I had never turned on a computer until I joined this course. I even used our computer at home over the weekend.”
“It’s the highlight of my week. For the first time I have sent out letters that I have written on my computer – one went to a solicitor and he tells me that he’s very impressed.”
“I now feel confident to that I could shop safely on the internet.”
“A great course and tea and biscuits too.”

Take Part
2009

Take Part Hertfordshire was a nationally funded two-year programme that started in 2009. As part of a national learning framework, it aimed to enable groups and individuals to get more involved in local communities and decision making and have a stronger voice. 

Take Part Hertfordshire was all about empowering people who may feel they do not have a voice but want to be heard and to get involved. The programme made a huge difference to the lives of those people who are now better equipped to take part in their communities.

There were two project areas within Hertfordshire, each with a different focus:

  • Demographic: focused on black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in Stevenage.
  • Geographic: focused on the Cowley Hill ward in Borehamwood

The programme was managed by Hertfordshire County Council with delivery arrangements unique to each area but both involving voluntary sector organisations that employed the project’s two part-time Project Officers. Take Part Stevenage was managed by Stevenage Borough Council and delivered through Stevenage World Forum who hosted the Project Officer. They worked with BME communities across the district with over 100 people participating in the programme.

Over the two years, more than 20 activities were organised including:

  • Visits to the Houses of Parliament and council offices.
  • Opportunities to shadow a local councillor.
  • Skills-development and training courses such as Leadership & Influence; Giving presentations; Mentoring.

What did the programme achieve?

People feel they belong in their area

Rose from 87.5% to 91.5%

People from different backgrounds get on well

Rose from 70% to 95%

People feel able to influence decisions affecting the local area

Rose from 58% to 75%

Comments from Take Part Stevenage participants:

“I was encouraged to get involved to understand the importance of what equality and diversity means within communities and places.”
“I feel empowered to continue with my new skills.”
“I have made many new friends through the Take Part project which has enabled me to understand other cultures and also to understand myself and I have gained confidence too.”