A Lancaster organisation is giving a voice to people from home and abroad whose stories have never been heard before.
Global Link Development Education Centre was established in Lancaster just over 25 years ago when the internet was still in its infancy, yet now it is used by them to raise awareness of the lives experienced by refugees and asylum seekers, conscientious objectors, travellers, and members of the LGBT community.
“We love digital storytelling as a way of giving a voice to marginalised people who can use it to speak for themselves,” explained Global Link’s manager, Gisela Renolds.
Gisela and a colleague were first trained in digital storytelling seven years ago in Hungary and have since passed on their skills to dozens of people of all ages and nationalities.
“The act of creating the films is very intense and emotional because it’s about turning points in people’s lives,” said Gisela. “We get to know people very quickly and see their confidence develop throughout the process which is very empowering.”
The digital stories, no longer than three minutes long, are available at www.globallink.org.uk
There you can hear a treasure trove of tales from the first Syrian to settle in Lancaster and a traveller girl’s dream of becoming a vet to how the West Road Gay Collective was established in the 1970s.
But digital storytelling is only the tip of the iceberg at Global Link.
The organisation is best known for its support of refugees and asylum seekers which has grown massively in recent years.
The weekly lunchtime drop-in alone can often attract up to 100 people and is outgrowing its current venue at Global Link’s HQ in New Road.
They also run three casework drop-ins a week and provide access to a lawyer, an English teacher, an interpreter and have close links with Lancaster & Morecambe City of Sanctuary, and with Lancaster & Morecambe College, giving refugees and asylum seekers an avenue to education.
Global Link help people from more than 15 countries, but mainly Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Afghanistan, wanting to find safety and make a new life in the UK, including Lancaster.
A third of their workforce are refugees and they always have a refugee as a trustee.
One current project is paying for a refugee to support others to grow their own vegetables at Claver Hill agricultural co-operative.
Refugee Week in June will see Global Link organise a guided walk called Refugees Tales inspired by the Canterbury Tales and, on June 22, an all-day celebration open to everyone at King’s Community Church in Lancaster.
Perhaps a lesser known strand of Global Link’s work is heritage projects which began with the Slave Trade Anniversary Memorial Project, resulting in a memorial on St George’s Quay and a Lancaster Slave Trade and Fair Trade Town Trail.
This was followed by a LGBT Town Trail around Lancaster as part of the Documenting Dissent project which also looked into the history of suffrage and conscientious objectors.
“Our heritage work has a global dimension and relates to human rights, social justice or peace,” Gisela said.
Their current heritage project, Learning From The Past, sees Global Link working with six European partners to produce an online map of peace activism and internationalism just after World War One.
Locally, pupils from Lancaster Royal Grammar School and the Girl Guides will create their own artistic responses to the subject which will be shared in a ‘Living Museum’ event within the year.