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A Living Tradition CIC Report for January 2020

January has been a very busy month for A Living Tradition.  We have organised four events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, we have visited Gateshead M.P. Ian Mearns and also spoken to the National Education Union in Gateshead.

The first Holocaust Memorial Day event we organised was the fourth in our series of events entitled Celebrating Our Traditions. These are a series of events where we get musicians and others together from different backgrounds to celebrate the variety of cultural traditions on Tyneside. The event as ever began with music from Tyneside, including local songs and we also heard through expert Northumbrian piping of Chris Ormston. We also celebrated the great music brought to Tyneside by Irish immigrants, before coming to the main event.  This featured Professor Francis Jones reading his translations of Bosnian poetry, with the original poetry read by Amer Ratkusic. This was done specially as a way of marking the 25th anniversary of the the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995. The event ended with some more Geordie bonhomie and seemed to fit the he 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day theme of ' Standing Together' very well. The event was very well attended and everybody seemed to really appreciate what was provided for them.

The second Holocaust Memorial Day event of the month was an event about the Rohingyas and the genocide concerning them, which took place in Burma in 2017. We put up a display of evocative banners about the Rohingyas and their plight, which have been loaned to us by the British Rohingya community based in Bradford. The display is at the City Library in Newcastle until mid-February. We also gave a presentation about the historical background to the human rights situation in Burma and we were then treated to an excellent presentation by Sirazul Islam a young activist from the Rohingya Community. Sirazul, who was born in a Rohingya refugee camp shortly after the Millenium, explained just what it was like to live in a refugee camp and how he came to this country. He also explained what was happening with the Rohnigyas at present and what the possible explanations for the terrible genocide of 2017 were. This presentation then developed into an excellent discussion among those present, who included a local M.P. and four Newcastle city councillors. We also collected a number of signatures for a petition from Burma Campaign UK, asking the British government to add Britain to the 59 countries across the world already taking the Burmese regime to court for genocide.

The third Holocaust Memorial Day event was a Roma event at the Venerable Bede Church Hall in Benwell, Newcastle. This was judged by those present, who numbered about 25, to be a great success. The event began with Peter Sagar outlining what had happened in the Roma Holocaust and the more recent discrimination of Roma in various parts of Europe. Attendees were also handed information from Amnesty International from their 2017/8 Annual Report on the Czech Republic about ongoing discrimination there. We then had a very moving and inspiring talk from Zaneta Karchnakova about her journey here from the Czech republic, how her family have settled ehere and what life was like for them as roma in the Czech Republic, before they were able to get out. This then broadened out into a very worthwhile discussion about the discrimination and other issues facing the Roma today. We finished with some lovely Roma singing from Katerina Bila and her daughter Alena Tulejova and some delicious Czech food prepared by young people from the North Benwell Youth Project. Our thanks to North Benwell Youth Project, the Venerable Bede Church and all those who participated and attended.

The final event was a showing of the excellent Aaron Yeger directed film A People Uncounted at the Star and shadow Cinema. There was a huge turnout of over 50 people, to see what is a very moving film about the Roma during the Holocaust and the discrimination they still face today in many parts of Europe. The film, effortlessly wove stories from the Porajmos (Devouring) - the Roma word for the Holocaust - with those about discrimination facing the Roma today. Anybody watching the film, should have come away with a deeper understanding of both what happened to the Roma during the Holocaust/Porajmos and is happening in many parts of Europe today. Peter Sagar introduced the film and spoke to some of those who attended afterwards, pointing out that it is generally considered that there are ten steps to genocide, the last of which is denial afterwards. Peter noted that it is considered that the Roma across Europe are up to step 5 at the present.

On Friday 24th January Peter Sagar and Irma Karchnakova went to see Mearns M.P. for Gateshead, to update him on what was happening with the Roma community in the town. It was a fruitful discussion and we were particularly pleased to hear Ian say that he would help if needed, with any Settled Status applications by Roma constituents.

We also gave a short presentation to Gateshead National Education Union about the Roma and the situation regarding the community in Gateshead. There are a number of pupils from a Roma background in schools in Gateshead and it was good to explain to a local teaching union branch about their situation. The presentation was well received and it was agreed that we would be put in touch with union reps at relevant schools with Roma pupils.

Gateshead Roma Kavarna – Roma Rights Path Project

This month the Gateshead Roma Kavarna has been run by the Roma Rights Path Project and the following is based on information from Irma Karchnakova from that organisation. The Roma Rights Path Project are involved with the Roma community, doing really important work with them and the kavarna is getting referrals from them. Consequently it is more becoming even more busy now.

Indeed it has been another very busy month with Irma and her sister Zaneta helping clients with filling in PIP forms, council tax forms and tax returns. There has also been a lot of work done on Settled Status referrals to the Children’s Society. Members of the Roma Community are worried about what wll happened now that Brexit is going ahead. They are worried about whether or not their families will be able to come from Czech Republic to visit their extended family who lives here already.

We have also welcomed a couple of new families from the Czech Republic, who were helped with applications for Universal Credit and school admissions e.t.c.
In collaboration with Gemarts, we are starting a dance class in the evening.

Many thanks again to Gemarts, Greggs and Citizens Advice Gateshead.

At the end of the month we learnt that A Living Tradition had been successful with a funding bid to Awards for All in relation to work around the kavarna. This funding will begin in late February and run until October.


Peter Sagar, Company Secretary, A Living Tradition CIC, February 2020


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