CDEC's Hidden Stories project inspires Cumbria’s children to empathise with migrants

CDEC's Hidden Stories project inspires Cumbria’s children to empathise with migrants

Nov 6, 2018

The Hidden Stories exhibition and workshop is encouraging a more thoughtful and empathetic understanding of ‘migration’ amongst Cumbria's school children and communities.

Communities and schools in Cockermouth, Grange-over-Sands, Kendal, Sedbergh and Workington are the latest to have experienced and been challenged by CDEC's touring exhibition and workshop.

The stories being shared were recorded for the original Hidden Stories Shared Lives project.

The exhibition is based on the interviews of 50 people who were born outside the UK but now live in Cumbria. It includes listening posts so people can hear these stories told by the person who experienced them as well as the Seat at the Table installation where five of the interviewees also contributed insights from their daily lives and what it means to now live here.

The project is funded by an Awards for All grant from the Big Lottery Fund, and by Cumbria County Council.

Cockermouth’s children are inspired to build an art display

Over 300 children from local primary schools visited the exhibition at Cockermouth School, where the art department used the stories to run an art workshop and inspire their own art installation. From thinking about what home means to them, to where they would like to go if they left Cumbria and what they would miss, the children were given the time to also consider where they and their own families came from, or where they had visited for work or holiday.

By the end of the week’s visit, the exhibition had inspired a camp of hundreds of little tents showing where the children would move to if they could, and flags with pictures of what they would miss.

Considering migration in Cumbria

The workshop also focuses on what migration is as well as the history of Cumbria; people from other areas of Britain, Europe and the world have been brought, or have moved here on their own volition. They learnt that migration isn’t a new thing and that it has contributed positively to our county’s heritage and industry. This is particularly important as 'migration' is often  described in media and press as something to be feared in the UK.

Teacher Claire Smits at Ashfield Junior School in Workington said her pupils loved ‘Learning about other people’s experiences and ideas, sharing ideas within the class and parent’s community. [They] realised that we are a mixture of backgrounds – and…people [have] come to Cumbria for thousands of years – the Romans, the Anglo Saxons, the Scots, the Picts and the Vikings.’

Taking down barriers and building empathy with others

Debbie Watson, who is organising the touring exhibition and leading the workshops for CDEC, reflected; ‘The children and other members of the communities really take on the challenge to think about where their own roots lie, what their own ideas of moving are and how difficult or easy this would be. They show a huge amount of empathy for our original participants in the project who had actually made the move to leave their original homes and are now settled here in Cumbria. We hope that this experience not only removes barriers of where they can go in life, but also about how they accept other people from other places.’

The exhibition and workshop will continue to tour Cumbria through November and into the New Year.

If you are a teacher or a school and you would like to further your insight into Hidden Stories Shared Lives, take a look at and book our continuing professional development courses based around Hidden Stories and the themes that have emerged from the project.

CDEC's Hidden Stories project inspires Cumbria’s children to empathise with migrants