ASYLUM seekers and refugees were welcomed at Ilkley Grammar School for a day of interactive art workshops.

The families, living in Bradford, enjoyed a day of activities and a lunch prepared by volunteers when they visited the school at the end of March. Organisers welcomed more than 30 people , originally from Albania, Iran, Nigeria, Eritrea, Mauritius, Ethiopia and El Salvador.

The workshops were led by Sarah and John Gamble from the Art School Ilkley who ran two drawing and collage sessions, and Ilkley artist Juliet Gutch who taught the visitors to create mobile sculptures around the central theme of ‘balance’. They were also joined by Miranda Warren and Julie Bisset who ran a finger knitting workshop.

Students from the school as well as art teacher, Claire Harris, also attended the day to help out at the workshops and to meet the families.

Claire said: “This has been a wonderfully inspiring day. It has been great to share the school’s fantastic art rooms and facilities with our community and to reach out to our neighbours in Bradford. The mobile art installation made by the visitors has also sparked conversation with our students about the countries they are from originally and what has forced them to flee their homes.”

The day trip was organised in conjunction with Ilkley Grammar School by the small group of Ilkley and Burley residents who form the Wharfedale Refugee Response action group. Since 2016 they have been working with Refugee Action in Bradford to arrange day trips for asylum seeking and refugee families living in Bradford.

To date, they have organised and funded 20 trips and events, with more than 450 asylum seeking and refugee parents and children enjoying the beauty and friendship of the area. They have welcomed families from all over the world, including Sudan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Congo, Burma, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Morocco, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Iran.

Felicity Tomblin, one of the organisers said: “Going through the asylum system is a very stressful time. People often comment about feeling very isolated and alone as they never get the opportunity to leave Bradford or meet new people. These trips give them breathing space, a chance to make good friends, experience the beauty of the countryside, but above all to feel welcome. I am proud of everyone who contributes to these days out as their kindness makes the world of difference, and I would also like to thank the train company Northern which has donated train tickets for all of the trips.”

Organisers say the day was enjoyed by everyone with the visitors saying they felt welcome and like “normal” people again.For more information visit the Wharfedale Refugee Response Facebook page.