Alchemy Project reflects on a year trying to break down cultural barriers

Wes Shelbourne from JUST Lincolnshire, Zidedonis Barbaks, Bob McAuley, John Shaw and Katie Smith from the photographic walks, and behind, David Lambert from the Alchemy Project.
Wes Shelbourne from JUST Lincolnshire, Zidedonis Barbaks, Bob McAuley, John Shaw and Katie Smith from the photographic walks, and behind, David Lambert from the Alchemy Project.

A project which aims to break down cultural barriers and dispel myths about migrants in Boston has been hailed a success – a year after it began.

A meeting was held last week to reflect on the Alchemy Project’s successes and challenges faced.

Over the year it featured a programme of creative activities including short films about the town, its people and issues, photography walks, fun days, writing workshops and exhibitions.

“The idea was to bring the residents of Boston together regardless of nationality,” said David Lambert from the project. “So we applied to the Home Office for a grant and the Alchemy Project started.”

Describing it as a ‘social cohesion project’, he said: “What is really promising is that the various nationalities have started to talk with us – and with each other.”

He added: “The young are our best chance of creating a tolerant society, older people are more resistant to change.”

The project began in February 2012 after a bid for Government funding by JUST Lincolnshire.

The project’s success also saw it mentioned in a Boston Borough Council report into the social impact of immigration on the town and area.

Bob McAuley from the Boston Protest group addressed the meeting and expressed fears about immigration putting a strain on the infrastructure and local resources.

“We can only sustain so many people,” he said. “We’ve completely changed the demographics of this country.”

He also said he felt it was wrong there were not criminal background checks on people coming to the UK, adding: “I do not object to anyone of any nationality as long as they are a decent human being.”

Ziedonis Barbaks from the Latvian Community of Boston spoke about local events his group organises, including the annual Latvian Festival in Boston, which attracts about 900 people of various nationalities. However, he said he feels there isn’t enough information about the different communities in the town.

Initially a one-year pilot project, Alchemy has now secured funding to continue some of its activities.

Mr lambert said: “The project has secured funding for a young people’s leadership programme which will see two young people organisations working with a group of artists and other relevant professionals on a two year programme.

The Alchemy Steering Group comprising of Lincolnshire Police, Boston Borough Council, Victim Support, JUST Lincolnshire, Boston College and CfBT education trust, is also committed to continung to meet and discuss strategic working across the area.”

The project has submitted various funding applications and is waiting to hear back from funders.