Janette Robinson, Programme Development Manager at Wentworth Castle Gardens looks back at Little Amal’s visit to Barnsley and the ‘Rope of Hope’ Art installation
Little Amal is a 3.5 metre-tall puppet of a young Syrian refugee child, at the heart of ‘The Walk’. Over the summer and autumn of 2021, she walked over 8,000km across Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, the UK and Barnsley to focus attention on the urgent needs of young refugees. Little Amal represents the thousands of children who, just like her, have fled war and persecution and need access to education and essential support to rebuild their lives.
The Walk brought together celebrated artists, major cultural institutions, community groups and humanitarian organisations, creating one of the most innovative and adventurous public artworks ever attempted. Created by Good Chance, in collaboration with world-famous creators of War Horse Handspring Puppet Company and with Artistic Direction from Amir Nizar Zuabi.
It’s a huge honour that Barnsley has been chosen to take part in this project alongside cities such as Paris, London. Manchester, Sheffield and Rome. Together they are unified in showing the world that they are safe and welcoming places for refugees to live and will be helped, supported, and cared for in their journey to making these locations their home.
“I shall remember yesterday, and Little Amal and all she represents, for days, weeks, and probably years to come.” – National Trust Volunteer
Barnsley was chosen to be part of this incredible tour because of the borough’s own Feels Like Home (ESOL group) and partnerships with Good Chance Theatre Company. Established by Barnsley Museums over three years ago the group has over 100 members, representing all age groups and many nationalities from across the world. The group embeds language skills with cultural activities, offering opportunities to build relationships and friendships. The group do amazing things, from becoming community champions, volunteering, developing skills to going on trips and making music videos and poetry books.
This international arts projects shines a light on the experience of migrants especially children but it also is full of joy – celebrating diversity, and unity of people from all nationalities and backgrounds. It is fitting that Amal visited Barnsley during Black History Month and was welcomed by the Feels Like Home group. Inspired by the gardens, the Barnsley Feels Like Home group welcomed Little Amal on her arrival at the garden through poetry, dance and song, sharing their experiences of journey and belonging.
Little Amal visited Wentworth Castle Gardens, further showcasing important partnership working between Barnsley Council, The National Trust and the Northern College. International artist Maryam Samaan was welcomed by the partnership in an artistic residency, creating the Rope of Hope as part of the Lands of Exile Artists Programme. Samaan has collaborated with communities across Europe to weave objects onto the rope that reflect Amal’s impressions and memories during her journey. The Barnsley Feels Like Home group contributed objects to the art installation which mark their own experiences. (October 2021 – February 2022).
“The Rope is a summary of the universe Amal discovers and remembers throughout the journey, a concept of a symbolic border between the child and the mother, between the past and the future. It symbolizes the path that Amal will take, with all its intensity and all the momentum of events that refugee children challenge on their way to safety and stability.” Maryam Samaan