21 May 2021 National Lottery Funds Digital Inclusion Project
The Festival received National Lottery funding in 2020 to help support people in Todmorden who lack basic digital skills and access to the internet or digital devices. Part of the funding was used to buy tablets and SIM cards to lend to local people experiencing digital exclusion.
The support received from the National Lottery Community Fund enabled the Festival to launch a series of free online creative workshops in 2021. Inspired by the Todmorden landscape and run by local writer Emma Decent, The Lines Made by Walking workshops helped participants develop their own creative responses to the local landscape during lockdown through writing, photography, film, drawing and other media.
The National Lottery grant also funded an online author event for Todmorden High School in February 2021. The Festival partnered with the High School to run an interactive workshop for Year 7 students led by the author AM Dassu and based on her award-winning debut novel Boy, Everywhere, which follows a young Syrian refugee’s perilous journey to the UK.
Sami’s privileged life in Damascus is torn apart after a bomb attack on a shopping mall, which forces his family to leave his home in Syria, bound for England. He thinks it’s his fault, but is it? Will they survive the journey, can he trust his new friends – and will Sami ever find somewhere to call home again? From privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, locked up in a smuggler’s apartment, imprisoned and bullied at home in the UK, Boy, Everywhere is a coming-of-age story of friendship, family, belonging and fighting for a better future.
The Festival received the following feedback from the staff and students at Todmorden High School:
The perilous journey from war-torn Syria, taken by a young boy and his family, was brought vividly to life for Todmorden High School students.
Year 7 students at the school began their study of Boy, Everywhere by AM Dassu by meeting the author. The novel chronicles the harrowing journey taken by Sami and his family from privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a comfortable life in Damascus via a smugglers’ den in Turkey to a UK prison. It’s a story of survival, of family and of bravery and, in a world where we are often led to think of refugees as 'other', it’s a reminder that they are, in fact, just like us.
Ms Dassu began by showing the students pictures of common sights in cities around the world, such as coffee shops, shopping malls and football stadia, and asking students to guess where they thought the landmarks were. Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the students guessed that all the pictures had been taken in the Syrian capital, Damascus. She went on to talk to the students about how many refugees were just like them – with games consoles, football games to look forward to and friends they missed and to show them interviews with real-life refugees who had faced the same dangers as Sami and his family.
The workshop helped to thoroughly engage the students before beginning their study of the book which they are completely gripped by!
Year 7 students at Todmorden High were asked to imagine they were in the same situation as Sami, faced with leaving their home, their friends and almost everything they know in order to embark on a perilous journey to an unknown future. These are some of the letters they wrote to their friends.
This is going to be hard to write. I can’t stay here, it’s not safe. I’ve been told that I have to leave to live somewhere much safer. I have to leave for the docks tomorrow at noon. The wars going on around us are getting out of control. Any of us could be ambushed at any minute. Hopefully you get the chance to escape this now awful place. It will be so hard to leave all of my friends but especially you. You have helped me so much and I wish there was a way I could repay you. I will miss the fun times we had together.
I don’t know how to say this but there is a lot of stuff happening at the moment. I am going to have to move to a different country because the country is being bombed and it’s not safe to live here anymore. I will be moving tomorrow. I will try to stay in touch with you and hopefully I will see you soon.
How do I say this? I’m leaving the country. Look around us, buildings are collapsing, bombs are dropping. It’s not safe. I’m going to Nigeria. Where are you going? This is going to be tough but we have to pull through. Remember all the good times we had. When I threw my whole over the game at Walsden. When that farmer told us to “get off the wall!” And all the great laughs. If you get this, always know that I’m your best friend and that will never change.