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West Yorkshire Playhouse gets £25k support for refugee programme

West Yorkshire Playhouse has been given £376,000 Lottery funding. Photo: Morgan O'Driscoll Photography

West Yorkshire Playhouse has received £25,000 for a series of initiatives providing support for refugees and asylum seekers.

It is part of a £380,000 grant from the Asda Foundation for projects that support mental health.

The venue, named the UK’s first Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014, will partner with Leeds-based charity City of Sanctuary, which works with refugees in the region.

Artistic director James Brining said: “This fantastic and generous grant from the Asda Foundation will see us extend our support groups for refugees and offer new projects such as befriending and volunteering, which people across the city can get involved with.

“We’re a theatre for everyone in West Yorkshire and we embrace our duty to support community cohesion, both through the work we show on our stages and across activities in our building.”

Although the organisation already runs events and activities for refugees and asylum seekers, such as the Asmarina Voices singing group and a weekly youth group helping members develop English language skills, the grant will also support new initiatives. These include a men’s group and a conversation cafe offering companionship and language training.

Mary Brandon from the City of Sanctuary charity said: “Refugees and asylum seekers often arrive in the UK having experienced traumas such as violence, persecution, bereavement and separation from their loved ones. Once here, many find themselves dealing with the stresses and anxieties of resettlement alone.”

She added: “The financial pressure on front-line services means that too often there is little scope for holistic support to address the mental well-being of this vulnerable group. We are delighted to work with West Yorkshire Playhouse, whose creative expertise can uniquely address these needs.”

Last month the organisation also received a £100,000 grant from Arts Council England to develop a dementia-friendly theatre festival [1].