126 pupils from 11 schools in Stoke-on-Trent attended a special holocaust memorial event held at Port Vale Football Club earlier this week.
Funded by the Counter-Extremism Unit and Department for Education as part of Building a Stronger Britain Together, the event was organised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council working with Port Vale Foundation, New Vic Borderlines, Remembering Srebrenica, City Faith Leaders Forum and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust as part of a community and education partnership. Stoke-on-Trent was one of only four areas selected to form part of a pilot.
The Holocaust Memorial aimed to positively counter hate, division and intolerance in Stoke-on-Trent against the backdrop of remembrance for the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The event was opened by Lord Mayor, Jackie Barnes and students from each school were invited to the stage to join in an inter-faith reflection led by Revd Canon Andrew Wickens, Martin Morris and Imam Naeem Tariq.
Following the delivery of the powerful drama documentary, Yizkor by New Vic Borderlines Theatre, attendees were invited to take part in four workshops:
- Yizkor workshop (New Vic Borderlines)
- ‘Kick it Out’ activities led by Port Vale Football Club.
- Remembering Srebrenica (Aida Haughton, YMCA and Kate Williams, Remembering Srebrenica Education Manager)
- ‘Authentic Encounters’ (Rebecca Conn-Pearson, Birches Head Academy)
All attendees were also given two tickets to attend Port Vale versus Salford. Which gave students the opportunity to watch the game, have pitch side photographs, be part of a tannoy announcement, and a lap of honour during half time.
Cllr Randy Conteh, Cabinet Member for Housing, Communities and Safer City at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “It is so positive to see such a high turnout by young people for this event – Stoke-on-Trent is a community that wants to combat hate and all it stands
The workshops were incredibly moving and my thanks go to all those who helped to host. We hope those that attended will feel more positive about combating hate and applying learning from such a horrific historic event to their lives now in Stoke-on-Trent. This also clearly demonstrates the positive attitude across the city to work together to make Stoke-on-Trent a better place to live. Events like this help to eduate young people and build a strong community network where resilience can flourish and grow stronger.”
Rebecca Conn-Pearson, Subject Leader of Society and Faith at Birches Head Academy led one of the workshops. Birches Head is a UCL Holocaust Education Beacon School. She said: “I passionately believe that Holocaust education is a crucial aspect of the curriculum. In today’s society, where hatred and division are all too common, it is vital for young people to learn about exactly what happens when these are allowed to develop.
“My session, entitled ‘Authentic Encounters,’ allowed learners to understand the human face of the Holocaust, with opportunities to empathise, understand and learn from survivor testimony. Hopefully they left the session with a greater understanding of exactly where hatred might lead, arming them with ways to challenge this where and if they see it.”
Kate Williams, Education Manager for Remembering Srebrenica said: “Our workshop included first hand testimonials from Aida Salkic-Haughton as a survivor of the Bosnian War. We covered ‘Genocide Through the Eyes of Young People’ – our aim was to raise awareness of the Srebrenica genocide so the young people who attended could learn lessons so that hatred and intolerance will never take root again in Europe. Our focus is on young people directly working with survivor testimony to examine topics such as prejudice, propaganda, and the plight of refugees.
Tom Sherratt, Head of Community at Port Vale said: "The Holocaust Memorial Event held here at Vale Park was an emotional yet important experience for all involved. Walking around the workshops I witnessed open and honest discussions on how to combat hate and we saw everyone work together in our team building workshops.
“We hope that this event returns in the future and that we can deliver the important message to other school children."
Further hate harms events will be planned throughout the year. For further information, community groups can contact Adrian Waters from Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232107.