A Wigan borough community has come together to celebrate the diverse cultural backgrounds of its young residents.
Global Friends, Wigan Council’s youth group for those who have settled in the borough from across the globe, organised an exhibition event held last week.
Young people from countries including Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Portugal, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Afghanistan, Lithuania and Kurdistan presented artwork they had created, inspired by memories of their backgrounds and favourite things about their new homes.
Councillor Jenny Bullen, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “It was fantastic to see so many members of the local community coming along to support the young people and find out more about each other’s heritage.
“The event was about celebrating the many different cultures that make up Wigan borough and offering young people an opportunity to showcase some of the things they’ve been working on this year.”
In addition to the art exhibition, guests were treated to dance performances by members of Everything Human Rights, another local organisation that helps bring different cultures together across the borough.
There was also a chance to sample different cuisines from around the world.
Leigh resident, John Gredecki, talked about his family’s Polish heritage and artist Kooj Chuhan led a discussion on the values of migration.
Farai Nhakaniso, from Everything Human Rights, said: “Events like this are important because if people understand more about different cultures, they are more likely to be positive about integrating peacefully.
“People who are new to the UK can often lack confidence at first due to language barriers so the arts can be a great way to help people communicate and build confidence.
“We also encourage everyone who has come to the area from different countries to try and retain and celebrate some elements of their own cultures so that these won’t be lost. Events like this can help them to do that.”
Global Friends member Vilte Jancauskaite originally comes from Lithuania and has lived in Leigh for five years.
The 17-year-old said: “It’s important to get the message out that people shouldn’t be hated just because they come from different backgrounds.”
Sue Shaw, a member of local community project Leigh Neighbours, said: “Hearing everybody’s individual stories has given me a new perspective.
“Taking the time to find out about someone’s background and culture gives you a new understanding of that person. I hope we’ll have more events like this in the future.”
Young people aged 11 to 17 who live in Wigan borough but originally come from different countries are welcome to get involved in Global Friends.
The group meets after school in the Leigh area every Tuesday.
Please email Wigan Council’s targeted youth support services on [email protected] for information