Accrington hopeful to twin with Ukraine town, announced at Connecting Cultures event

[Image, Mayor and Mayoress of Hyndburn with Ukrainians on their food stall inside Accrington Market Hall, June 2023]

Last week Accrington hosted a Refugee week event at Accrington Market, ‘connecting cultures’. Thousands of people attended the vibrant multi-cultural day which saw entertainment, crafts and food shared from across the world.

Children and adults were delighted with the displays including a Bollywood performance, Chinese dragon that spat lettuce at the crowd, and a ‘Greatest Show’ to end the day, performed by Just Imagine UK who invited guests from Motiv-8 lancs to Makaton sign the lyrics to the final song.

People took park in community crafts including creating a wish fish, with messages of hope from Civic Arts Centre, crafting bags of pot puri with English flowers and self-portraits and activities with Aawaz, local charity who support the South Asian community.

Hyndburn’s Ukrainian community ran a stall with free traditional food to share including salted fish, sauerkraut and savoury pancakes. Crowds were delighted with sampling the food and the team distributed over 500 portions of food throughout the event.

As part of the event a special announcement was made by Leader of the council, Cllr Marlene Haworth, who shared the news that Accrington hopes to twin with a Ukrainian town. A full report will be shared at September’s full council meeting, detailing the plans and long term implications.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Marlene Haworth:

“Today we have come together to celebrate all the different cultures in our community, to share in music, food, stories and dance. However, we must not forget, many people who now call Hyndburn their home were forced to leave their country due to war, or conflict.

“The theme of this year’s National Refugee Week is compassion. This week we celebrate the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees from all countries.

“I stand here with members of our Ukrainian community and some of the families who opened their homes to them. I am honoured to share a very special announcement with you all today.

“A proposal was brought to Hyndburn Council from our Ukrainian friends, who have found a warm welcome here in our town, after going through an unimaginable experience.

“To demonstrate our ongoing solidarity with Ukraine and to nurture relationships for the future, Accrington will hopefully be twinning towns with a beautiful town and tourist region called Khust, in the west of Ukraine.”

Following this speech Ukrainian guest, Valeriy Hrymchak, took to the stage to give his thanks to the local community. Valeriy is a neurologist who left Ukraine due to the war and is a resident in Hyndburn on the homes for Ukraine scheme.

Valeriy explained the very warm welcome he has received here, thanked all the people of the borough and said he looks forward to building strong relationships between the UK and his home country in the future through this hopeful twinning of towns.

Ukrainian music was then sung on stage for the crowds to enjoy, led by Angela, who is hosting Ukrainians in her home, and Ksenia, a Ukrainian living in Hyndburn.

The event was a huge success with people from all backgrounds trying different food and experiences for the first time. Accrington based martial arts group, Northern Dragons, delighted crowds with their fantastic Chinese lion, whilst Lighthouse Tai Chi helped people get moving and mindful with gentle and accessible exercise.

Two story times took place including a traditional tale of triumph, George and the Dragon, then a story all about the journey of mangoes across the world, followed by mango lasai tasting.

Local business Yano Cha got involved with bubble tea samples for people to try and a Bollywood fusion dance workshop from Ri Ri’s Dance Academy brought smiles to faces with people of all ages trying out the moves.

The Haworth Art Gallery team led a heritage craft workshop with wooden printing block items from their collections. People were invited to have a go at making patterned rubbings of these using crayons and some wonderful designs including handprints were created.

The various community artwork produced on the day is in place to view inside Accrington Market Hall for all to enjoy over the coming months. 

This event was organised by Hyndburn Council, to mark the end of refugee week. It celebrated the diverse communities in the borough, the contributions of refugees and supported integration for those who have come to the area due to leaving their homes because of conflict or war.