Global Link

Methodologies  Global Link has used in the project:

Digital Storytelling is the primary methodology we have learnt  and used in this project. We learnt the methodology from our partner Anthropolis in Hungary, then ran workshops with refugees and asylum-seekers in Blackburn, UK. The feedback from the participants was very positive, including that it had developed their confidence and self-esteem, as well as their IT and English language skills.

We are also using participatory theatre methods to work with refugees and asylum-seekers in Blackburn to devise and perform their own piece of theatre exploring refugee issues. This will be devised, filmed and launched in the autumn.

shared with partners include:

PERSONA DOLLS: Large dolls with different ethnicities that Early Years’ (3–5) practitioners can use to introduce cultural diversity into Early Years settings, as well as to challenge discrimination [www.persona-doll-training.org]

ESCAPE TO SAFETY: Global Link’s multi-media experiential learning exhibition about asylum-seeking, where participants listen to a soundtrack on an MP3 player which follows the voices of 3 asylum-seekers as they escape their countries to seek asylum in the UK. [www.globallink.org.uk]

OUTDOOR REFUGEE SIMULATION: A full day outdoor learning simulation where young people ‘become’ refugees for a day, and have to ‘escape’ their country, cross borders illegally and seek asylum in the UK. [www.globallink.org.uk]

Description of the Digital Storytelling Workshops in Blackburn with refugees and asylum-seekers, including evaluations from the trainers

Dan and Gisela from Global Link worked with Mukhtar at ARC (Asylum Refugee Community) based at Wesley Methodist Church Hall in Blackburn to organise and deliver digital storytelling workshops with refugees and asylum-seekers. We planned the workshops with Mukhtar and Aftab who both came to the original ‘train the trainers’ digital storytelling workshops run by Anthropolis in Hungary.

Without Mukhtar and Aftab’s support, the workshops and the resulting stories would not have been possible. Not only did Mukhtar organise the room, the refreshments, the timetable, but crucially, both Mukhtar and Aftab ‘recruited’ the participants. 12 were signed up, but on the first day 2 people didn’t come; one because she had received a letter from the Borders Agency that morning informing her that the letter they had sent her the previous week granting her asylum had been sent to the wrong person.

On the first day we had 11 participants; one had come who wasn’t signed up. We showed some digital stories in the morning, and talked about the process. In the afternoon we broke into two ‘story circles’ where Keri from Action Factory and I ran some creative writing exercises. Despite a heated argument about homosexuality and homophobia in one group, they all enjoyed the writing exercises. Each person ended the day with a first draft of the ‘story’ they would record the following week.

The second day of the workshops took place a week later. During the week each participant was supposed to have finished writing their stories, and have gathered as many personal photos as they could (either from the past or present). Gisela,  Emily from ARC and Keri from Action Factory helped the participants to complete their stories, while Dan, Mukhtar and Aftab recorded each participant reading their own stories. The afternoon was spent ‘storyboarding’, using Word to ‘match’ personal images with lines or words of the story.

On the morning of the final day, Dan taught the participants how to use the Sony Vegas software. Gisela helped Maria to create her digital story and Emily helped Christine to create her digital story, while all the other participants worked on their own, with support from Dan, Mukhtar and Aftab.

The screening of the stories took place in the early evening of the next day. All the participants were there, as well as key stakeholders from ARC, Wesley Methodist Hall and the YMCA. All the participants were very positive about the digital storytelling workshop experience, and clearly took pride in the end result: their own short films.

Participants said about the workshops:

‘Digital storytelling was a very enjoyable experience…. Learning and creating’

‘The digital storytelling workshop helped to learn new skills, build my self-confidence, do something creative…’

‘The digital storytelling workshop helped me to improve my creativity (thinking, writing and editing), and also gave me a new idea to introduce myself through a very different form.’

‘The digital storytelling workshop did help me very much as I did something creative which made me develop self-confidence. … In our culture we believe that the people who never visit other’s homes and eat with them always believe that their mother is the best cook. So as I heard other people’s stories, I should move on with life as there are even worse experiences than mine.’

‘….I did not know the methodology about how I could use software such (Sonny Vegas) and it was extremely tremendous for me to be part of the project and the outcome was a successful story.’

‘I enjoyed the digital story workshop, because I met new faces, work with different peoples, and the most interesting part is when the time comes to see your own work and others as well, watching a short story or documentary created by yourself  makes you proud, because it is something of your own ability and creativity skills that led to a successful work.’

Global Link’s evaluation as trainers:

Dan and Gisela learnt a lot from running our first digital storytelling workshops, mainly how powerful a process it is. It is quite an emotional journey, building relationships with participants, helping them tell their stories, and sharing in the pride of achievement during the screening. Practically, it is challenging, particularly if participants miss a day, but still want to create a digital story. We would like to develop use of the methodology as it is a good way of empowering marginalised groups, and are looking for ways to get funding to do this.

Aftab’s evaluation as a co-facilitator:

The training workshops in Blackburn were very successful because of good team work. Everyone took some responsibility and put a lot of efforts towards making the workshops successful. Certainly, Gisela is a very good organiser. Mukhtar has the ability to do things on time and Dan is good at doing the technical work. Kerry was a wonderful addition in the team.

We contacted many people to participate in the workshops, but very few agreed to come along because most of them were not confident enough, and were somewhat nervous over the thought of writing a story and then using computer software to create a digital story. Those who agreed were, however, not fully clear on how to organise their thoughts and put them on a piece of paper. Nevertheless, after getting over their initial nervousness everyone grasped the idea clearly and then all wanted to put a powerful message across.

Despite language barriers, lack of computer and technical skills, the outcome was remarkable. All participants fully enjoyed the whole process from start to finish. They felt proud when they completed their stories. It was very promising that all stories had a positive and thought-provoking ending.

The digital story telling workshops were not only a learning process, but were also an experience of creative thinking.

After the workshops, when some of the participants got a chance to speak during other activities, they were articulated because they were more confident of organising their thoughts before they speak.

Personally, my digital story helped me introducing myself during various activities in Blackburn and also in Preston, where I gave presentations on refugee and human rights issues.

Aftab Alexander Mughal
Blackburn, England, 11 May 2014

DS-Blackburn-001 DS-Blackburn-002

Presentation of the INTEGRART project in the UK
(funded by the EU and the Arts Council of England)

As part of the IntegrArt project Global Link worked with ARC (asylum refugee community) to create 9 digital stories. We also commissioned Action Factory Participatory Arts to work with ARC to create an original piece of community drama for performance, called REFUGE.

The digital stories were launched at Blackburn Museum on October 24th, alongside the first public performance of REFUGE. 50 people attended the launch.  It was decided the performance would be invite-only as there had been some concerns that it might be disrupted by racists; there had been a facebook message that caused the organisers some concern especially since there had recently been a violent attack on an asylum-seeker in the city.

The refugees’ digital stories had been set up on TV monitors to be shown constantly over the next month in Blackburn Museum and guests were invited to view them as they arrived. Gisela from Global Link then gave a presentation about the IntegrArt project and Action Factory introduced the ‘promenade’ play REFUGE. The play opened in a room in between the museum exhibits and guests followed the actors from scene to scene through the museum. The space was used evocatively: the scene of a mother and her child escaping across the sea in a small boat, for example, was played silently and very powerfully in front of a large 19th century painting of a stormy sea.

The play was very moving, ending with a poetic appeal for understanding and respect. The stories were all based on either their own experiences, or of those they knew.

The group performed the play again at Manchester Museum the following week as part of the national PLATFORMA Refugee Arts Festival, and once again at Blackburn Museum in early December. (http://platforma.org.uk)

Action Factory have supported one young refugee to also film the play, which will eventually be available through the IntegrArt and Global Link websites, and launched at another IntegrArt event at the Standing Together Against Racism event in Preston on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The processes of creating both the digital stories and the play has been hugely valued by the refugee and asylum-seeker participants, and has resulted in online materials that provide alternative narratives to those presented by a negative and predominantly xenophobic media.

Refuge Exhibition launch poster