Museums Northumberland bait first created links with the refugee community in South East Northumberland in 2018. Working with the resettlement team at Northumberland County Council, we supported 60 people who had recently settled in the area to get involved in a range of high-quality arts projects.
For the past two years, some of the families who took part in those first activities have continued on a journey with Museums Northumberland bait, and have been actively involved in the creation of Close Knit. It is an animated film documentary that is a nostalgic and heart-warming trip down memory lane, as well as talking about hopes for the future and reflections on life in South East Northumberland today. It is a mash up of people’s experiences and reflects the diverse community of people that call South East Northumberland home in 2022.
To mark Refugee Week 2022 and the launch of Close Knit, we had a chat to some of the families who have been involved to find out what they’d enjoyed most about the project.
Belal has lived in North East England since 1997, when he moved to Newcastle as a student. He has provided translation support for Museums Northumberland bait for five years and has also been an active contributor and participant in Close Knit. Belal said: “ Taking part in creative activities and being part of the decision-making team for the project has seen the families bond with people from the wider community.”
Yasmine, Nader and Lana moved to Cramlington as a family in 2017. They have been involved in several Museums Northumberland bait projects in that time, trying a number of creative art forms.
Lana, said “I have lived here since 2017. I feel really settled here. I’ve been going to school, working hard and want to get good grades and hopefully become a pharmacist. I’ve really enjoyed being involved with Museums Northumberland bait. Being an artist isn’t my future but being creative and art will always be part of my life.”
When we spoke to Yasmine, she had just submitted her Leave to Remain application and really hopes to make South East Northumberland her permanent home. In the future she hopes to get a good job. Yasmine is extremely creative and a brilliant artist and has been involved in many Museums Northumberland bait projects. She said: “I felt very proud when I watched Close Knit for the first time and was very happy to see my conversation animated.”
Nader has been involved in several bait projects in the past – playing a leading role in a theatre production and creating some amazing visual art. “Being involved with bait has been really good. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to do animation and telling stories through the animation.”
Bakri and Nahla moved to Cramlington from Syria 5 years and 2 months ago. Nahla said “I would like to do more, but my health stops me. Being involved with Museums Northumberland bait stops me just sitting at home and lets me meet new people. It’s helped me learn English and given me the confidence to go out and about in daily life, and to feel happy and more settled here.”
Like many people, Bakri found the pandemic difficult, and he was very happy to be able to return to meeting up in person. ”Being involved in Close Knit gave me an opportunity to talk about my life and my experience of being a baker in Syria. I learnt new animation techniques to tell the story in the film.”
Hasna has lived in South East Northumberland for 3 years and 2 months. “I am so happy to be involved in the Close Knit project”. Hasna is a keen knitter and crafter and developed a shared interest and bond with Carole Fife, a member of Bedlington Creatives. They shared hints and tips, learning from each other during the workshops. “We hope to be able to do more together in the future and I have really enjoyed going on the cultural trips to galleries and museums in the North East.”
Being involved in Close Knit and meeting and hearing different people’s experiences of living in South East Northumberland has been a very positive experience for the families.Hasna said: “I feel very proud to be part of this community and to be able to share what we have been part of with our families around the world.” Hasna added “My children were really happy to watch with me. They thought it was beautiful. My son recognised the animated version of me in the film and was very proud to see me on the screen.”
Bridie Jackson, Creative Producer at Museums Northumberland bait observed: “Throughout the development of Close Knit the families have used their phones to show friends and family around the world what they are up to. When we watched the film as a group for the first time, it was moving to see how many people had their phones pointing at the screen to share the experience with friends and family. Art is a really powerful way to connect people and communities”.
Find out more about the Close Knit film and watch the film.
About Museums Northumberland bait
Museums Northumberland bait works in partnership to support more people in South East Northumberland to create and take part in inspiring and high quality arts experiences. All projects aim to build a stronger future with the people who live here.
Museums Northumberland bait is part of the Creative People and Places programme and is funded by Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council.
Our Consortium Partners are Museums Northumberland, Northumberland CVA, Northumberland College, Northumberland County Council (Public Health and Culture) and Queens Hall Arts.
Learn more about the work of Museums Northumberland bait by visiting http://baittime.to/