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Schools of Sanctuary starting in Hastings – June 2019

Dr Felicity Laurence – Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary

As well as well over 100 cities, towns and even smaller places of sanctuary, City of Sanctuary also encompasses Streams of Sanctuary, for example, Universities of Sanctuary, Gardens of Sanctuary, Arts of Sanctuary – and Schools of Sanctuary.

In recent months, a local primary school, Christchurch CE Primary and Nursery Academy, has undertaken the initial phases of a possible School of Sanctuary project. 60 Year 4 children took part in a 2-month project with me, a composer and singing specialist. We discussed many issues considered by the children to be important for their lives and of fundamental importance to all children, including those forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in another country.  Some of the children explained that they themselves, or their parents, had faced such a background. We collected ideas and gradually, collectively, composed a song to express the way a child might feel leaving one place and having to travel a long way to another, safer home. Children contributed many ideas and as the work progressed, even offering musical phrases, all of which were gathered up and turned into a song – our song!

We also learned two other songs whose words had come from other children, and put all of these together in a short song cycle, performed to a hall filled with their fellow pupils and parents in early July.  The children sang brilliantly, and many people commented very warmly on the whole project.

Being able musically to voice one’s own ideas and expressions can be a powerful way of developing ways of thinking about such themes. The children showed much interest, and also compassion and clear sightedness in discussing questions of what any child actually needs to thrive.  We read together a poem by a girl who has found refuge in Hastings, and who expresses in her poem her understanding that she was just a young girl who liked the same kinds of things as any other, and that finding herself a refugee, she realised that it could happen to anyone.

The school is intending now to move ahead with a longer-term programme to embrace the various criteria to become a School of Sanctuary.  In October, we have invited the children to perform the work we have made together at the City of Sanctuary Regional Gathering of South East members, to be hosted here in Hastings. This will tie in nicely with this year’s particular focus across the South East on Sanctuary Streams.

Anyone who is interested in further information about becoming a School of Sanctuary, or getting involved in a future School of Sanctuary group to support any schools in this project, is invited to get in touch at [email protected] .