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Preston becomes a City of Sanctuary as immersive exhibition opens

Posted on - 27th February, 2017 - 4:25pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Charities, City Centre, Events, News, Politics, Preston City Centre
Councillor Peter Rankin opens the City of Sanctuary event at Preston Minster
Councillor Peter Rankin opens the City of Sanctuary event at Preston Minster

Preston came together to officially declare the city one of sanctuary for those seeking asylum.

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A new interactive exhibition has been installed at Preston Minster to mark the occasion.

The city is now part of the City of Sanctuary movement, a charity working across the UK to ensure refugees have access to help and information when they arrive.

Escape to Safety is a big wooden box which is sitting as you come into the Minster, donning headphones you make your way through the small cramped spaces in the box experiencing what it’s like to be a refugee.

The City of Sanctuary event was opened by a speech by Preston City Council leader councillor Peter Rankin.

He has been working with volunteers to get the organisation set up in the city.

Cllr Rankin said: “It’s great to see so many people here taking time to mark this important event.

“Preston has always been a tolerant and welcoming city and becoming a City of Sanctuary extends this further.

“I hope this exhibition gives people an idea of what refugees face when trying to flee persecution and suffering.

“But it’s not just about this week. City of Sanctuary is a movement and one I am proud to see Preston become part of.”

A young mother crosses the border from Syria and becomes a refugee. She carries her one-month-old son, Hamid. “Since he was born there has been non-stop bombing every day.” Pic: UNCHF
A young mother crosses the border from Syria and becomes a refugee. She carries her one-month-old son, Hamid. “Since he was born there has been non-stop bombing every day.” Pic: UNCHF

Preston has taken in 10 Syrian families following the fighting in the Middle East.

Mayor of Preston councillor John Collins formally declared the city as a City of Sanctuary.

He said: “There’s a history of the city welcoming those from all over the world, be that from the Caribbean, Ireland, Uganda or Vietnam. We have a diverse and wonderful city and this marks it further.”

Read more: Here’s what Syrian refugees get when arriving in Preston

Preston’s vicar Father Timothy Lipscomb led a service to mark the City of Sanctuary.

He said: “The Minster has been a place of Sanctuary for hundreds of years and so when I was approached about hosting this event and having the Escape to Safety exhibition here it certainly made sense.

“I hope we can ensure Preston remains a place where people can come from anywhere in the world and feel safe.”

The exhibition, which has been touring since 1999, takes around 13 minutes to complete.

There are some pretty confined spaces in the Escape to Safety exhibition!
There are some pretty confined spaces in the Escape to Safety exhibition!

Gisele Renolds, manager of Global Link who built it, said it is the closest Prestonians will get to feeling what it’s like to be a refugee.

She said: “You put the headphones on and there’s three voices as you go round.

“You work your way through the different rooms and you hear border guards, the tabloid press and many other stages for a refugee. It’s an immersive experience.”

The exhibition opens from lunchtime on Tuesday 28 February and runs for a week at Preston Minster, it’s free to go round.

Have you experienced the exhibition? What do you think about Preston becoming a City of Sanctuary? Let us know in the comments below

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