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£25k grant for theatre’s programme of support for refugees

West Yorkshire Playhouse, the UK’s first official Theatre Of Sanctuary, has been award £25,000 to support refugee and asylum seekers over the next year.

The programme of support will be delivered in partnership with City of Sanctuary, a Leeds-based charity which works with refugees in the region, and was awarded by the Asda Foundation as part of a £380,000 grant for projects support innovative mental health projects.

Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) identified the organisations which received grants, setting up The Leeds Fund to distribute them across the city’s greatest areas of need.

James Brining said: “As well as producing theatre, the Playhouse also works behind the scenes providing a range of creative, supportive activities for people who otherwise face real isolation.

As well as groups for older people and young carers, our work with refugees is nationally acclaimed, which is why we were recognised as the UK’s first ever Theatre of Sanctuary.

This fantastic and generous grant from the Asda Foundation will see us extend our support groups for refugees and offer new projects such as befriending and volunteering, which people across the city can get involved with.

We’re a theatre for everyone in West Yorkshire and we embrace our duty to support community cohesion, both through the work we show on our stages and across activities in our building.”

Mary Brandon, City of Sanctuary said: “Refugees and asylum seekers often arrive in the UK having experienced traumas such as violence, persecution, bereavement and separation from their loved ones. Once here, many find themselves dealing with the stresses and anxieties of resettlement alone.

The financial pressure on front-line services means that too often there is little scope for holistic support to address the mental well-being of this vulnerable group.

We are delighted to work with West Yorkshire Playhouse whose creative expertise can uniquely address these needs.”

One of the activities which West Yorkshire Playhouse offers for asylum-seeking and refugee women is a choir, Asmarina Voices.

Zenvy, who has been a member of Asmarina Voices for two years said: “It can be lonely not having places to go and people to meet with – but this is my opportunity to have time for myself. When I come to the choir, I can forget the things that stress me – even just for an hour. I feel welcome. When people are warm to you that is very important.”

The grant will enable West Yorkshire Playhouse to continue Asmarina Voices, its weekly singing group which includes a crèche with creative activities for children; HEARTS youth group, a weekly group which offers drama activities and supports members to develop skills in English; Tickets offers so refugee and asylum seekers can attend performances at the theatre; Develop a men’s group; creative writing/poetry workshops; a conversation café offering companionship and English-speaking development; training and support to deliver awareness raising talks in schools; volunteering opportunities; Photographic exhibitions and special events which promote understanding and celebrate cultural diversity.

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