A UKRAINE flag fluttered in the autumn sunshine as a group of children set off on Shipley Glen Tramway for some half-term fun.
A ride on the historic trams, followed by fish and chips in the bandstand at nearby Roberts Park, was a carefree day out for these nine to 14-year-olds, forced to leave their homes and flee the war in Ukraine.
By Emma Clayton Leisure and Lifestyle Editor (Telegraph & Argus) 2nd November 2022
The youngsters came to Bradford as refugees and have spent the past few months staying with local families. Last week they enjoyed a week of activities organised by youth charity the Brathay Trust and Bradford Ukrainian Club.
“It’s a chance for them to just be children,” said Natalia Llanera Glover, youth work team leader at the Bradford branch of the Brathay Trust, which runs community programmes and support for children, young people and families. “This visit is part of a week of events helping the children integrate in Bradford; meeting other children and finding out more about the area.
“Today, at the tramway, it’s about getting them outdoors and learning a bit about Saltaire. Some of them have been kayaking on the canal, and creating art inspired by local nature.”
Shipley Glen Tramway chairman Richard Freeman said: “This is the essence of what we are. It’s great to do things like this for the community. We get regular schools visits; children always enjoy coming here, as they have for generations.
“We can’t imagine what these children have been through, in their journey from Ukraine. Some don’t know where their fathers are. To see them having fun at the tramway is so rewarding.”
Also in half-term week, the youngsters enjoyed lantern-making sessions at Kala Sangam Arts Centre in Bradford, while over at Bradford Ukrainian Club they did some traditional cooking and dancing. Later in the week they took part in Halloween crafts, making masks and carving pumpkins, and joined Friday’s Intercultured Festival lantern parade at Lister Park.
Bradford Ukrainian Club chair Orysia Chymera said most of the children had travelled to the UK with their mothers. “The support of the British public has been amazing,” she said. Bradford has the second largest Ukrainian population in the UK, and Bradford has been very welcoming to these families.
“They have been staying with families across the district on the six-month sponsorship scheme. Some are now starting to look for their own homes, but finding accommodation is difficult. If anyone can help to provide suitable accommodation, I’d urge them to contact Bradford Council.
“A big issue for them is employment. Many of the parents are well qualified and had good jobs in Ukraine but they’ve come here with nothing, just as my parents did as refugees after the war. Most of them would go back to Ukraine tomorrow – it’s their home and they miss it dreadfully.
“It’s lovely to see these children just enjoying themselves today, like any other children would in half-term. We’re very grateful to the Brathay Trust and to the Tramway for making this happen.”
* UKRAINE’S premier symphony orchestra is heading for Bradford next year, thanks to a united show of support from venues around the UK.
St George’s hall is joining forces with 17 other venues to host the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine for its biggest UK tour in 100 years. The three-week tour – the orchestra’s first in the UK in 22 years – is in autumn 2023.
The National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (NSOU) is recognised as one of the finest symphony orchestras in Eastern Europe. Over summer it performed in the Lysenko Column Concert Hall in Kyiv, where ticket capacity is now limited to around 150 people, because only 200 people can fit in the air raid shelter under the building. When the air alarm goes off, the audience, orchestra members and venue staff move to the shelter, where the violinists play Bach sonatas and other music to the audience while they wait until it’s safe to come out.
As well as providing a UK-wide platform for the orchestra to perform, the tour is fundraising to support the NSOU and the continuation of Ukraine’s rich musical culture during the conflict. The orchestra’s performance at St George’s Hall will selected pieces by Ukrainian composer Boris Lyatoshynsky, including Grazhyna and Symphonic, as well as Strauss’ Don Juan. The orchestra will be led by music director Volodymyr Sirenko, and soloists will include two of the most distinguished young Ukrainian musicians – violinist Oleksii Semenenko and pianist Antonii Baryshevskyi.
Alexander Hornostai, the orchestra’s managing director, says: “The NSOU has been an important part of the country’s culture for over 100 years. We have been performing and rehearsing in Kiev since 1918. Whilst this war has had a dramatic impact on Ukrainian lives, we took the decision early on that we had an important role to play in continuing to perform, to protect and showcase Ukrainian musical culture and show that there is more to our country than just the conflict. We are deeply grateful to the UK venues and tour promoters who are working with us to ensure this ambitious tour happens. We can’t wait to return to the UK after more than two decades and perform to audiences all over the country.”
The NSOU put plans on hold when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, then resumed rehearsals and performances at the end of April, at the Lysenko hall. Most of the 98 NSOU members have remained in Kyiv. With all men in Ukraine aged 18-60 conscripted to fight, two male members of the orchestra are currently serving in the Ukraine military.
A Just Giving appeal has been set up by tour promoters IMG Artists, with proceeds going to the orchestra. Visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nsoutour-2023
* The NSOU is at George’s Hall on October 26, 2023. Call (01274) 432000 or visit bradford-theatres.co.uk