‘Lest We Forget’ Documentary - Now Available Online

Lest We Forget at Glasgow Museum Resource Centre. Image by Iman Tajik

October saw the incredible journey of Scottish Refugee Council's arts and heritage project ‘Lest We Forget: First World War – Refugees Then & Now’ come to an end. But the project will live on in this beautiful and moving documentary created with those involved.

Our Arts and Cultural Development Officer, Suzi Maciver, gives an insight into the impact of this year-long project.

I'm delighted to share with you, online for the first time, the beautiful and moving documentary we created with those who participated in the project.

Before I tell you a bit more about the project, I'd like to share a few words from the filmmaker Lou McLoughlan:

"I hope you enjoy the film you're about to see about our project, 'Lest We Forget'.

This film allowed me to spend many happy hours visiting people who'd come to Glasgow from all over the world in their homes, outside the formal structure of the project. We enjoyed great chat, drank exquisite coffee and tasted new food.

Most of all though, I had the pleasure of getting to know some of these brave, kind and resourceful people better through the filming. I thank them all for being so generous with their time and stories. I learned so much from them. They'll never know how much.

The culture of the Eritrean, Syrian, Iranian and Sudanese people I spent time with has much to remind us of; about neighbourliness, friendliness and a more open-sociability; about the importance of sharing food and how important taking the time to eat and talk with each other is.

I know we, as old and new Scots, do humanity a good turn when we give sanctuary to people who have suffered refugee experiences, arriving with next to nothing of their former lives. But I had no idea, until I felt it, how much cultural wealth they share with us when they make homes here.

Each and every person I spoke to is a gift to Glasgow in human form and I hope each and every one of them finds not only safety but fulfilled dreams here".


The journey of ‘Lest We Forget’

‘Lest We Forget’ began in Autumn 2015, when a group of refugees, asylum seekers from Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Iran came together with local Scots as strangers.

What they had in common was finding themselves in a new place, most with very little English, few friends or family and some even without accommodation. But all with a determination to re-build their lives in and to contribute to their new communities and an infectious generosity of spirit.

A year later, they finished the project as firm friends; some would even describe their fellow group members as family.

Along the way they’ve delved into the story of 19,000 Belgian refugees who came to Scotland during WW1 – they’ve discovered commonalities but also shocking differences in the welcome those refugees experienced then, and what they’ve received today, as highlighted in our film.

They shared these discoveries and experiences at conferences and open days across Scotland, prompting audiences to consider new ways of thinking about living heritage and the diversity of cultures that have made up the country that Scotland is today.

They even planted a tree, as a lasting commemoration to the Belgian refugees and as their own thank you to Scotland for the welcome and hospitality they’ve felt here.

We're also delighted that the project has been selected by Heritage Lottery Fund to feature as a case study on their website.   

Lest We Forget








Guided by visual artist Rachel Mimiec and filmmaker Lou McLoughlan, they created art work and learned about filmmaking for their very own documentary and exhibition, presented at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, in June as part of Refugee Festival Scotland 2016 to wide acclaim. 

Exhibition images

They gained skills in heritage research, communication, cultural engagement, public speaking and so much more, to take with them as their journey of integration continues beyond our time together.

But don’t take it from me…

“I loved every aspect of it: meeting new people, the subjects of each learning activity every week, getting to know Glasgow more and the opportunity to improve my English.” (Heritage Researcher from Syria)

Why heritage?

Heritage is all about looking back in order to inform how we move forward into the future.

Our living heritage work has offered new and local Scots the opportunity to not only learn about a particular heritage, but to recognise how they themselves contribute to the dynamic and ever changing heritage of their communities and share this with a wider public.

Scotland’s long history of welcoming refugees

Scotland has a long and proud history of welcoming refugee populations – from those who came from Russia and the Baltic states in the 19th century; through to Bosnians and Kosovars in the 1990s.

As unprecedented numbers of refugees flee war in Syria and around the world, it feels incredibly pertinent to look back at how Belgian refugees who came to Scotland in large numbers during WW1 were received and what parallels refugees here today have uncovered.

For me, the project’s findings prompt the question of how do we as individuals, as a nation, as a global community want to be remembered in history for our response to this disturbing and treacherous humanitarian and refugee crisis.

Our documentary

Since launching the film publically in June, we’ve had significant interest from schools, organisations and groups keen to screen it at their events, with screenings at: the ‘Voices of War and Peace: the Great War’ conference in Birmingham, National Theatre of Scotland’s ‘Home Away’ festival, Glasgow City Council’s WW1 ‘Their Names Liveth Forever’ community day and more.

We are grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund for the funding to allow this project to take place and to all our project partners. For more information on Heritage Lottery Fund’s funding programmes, click here.

Check out details of our next arts project 'Share My Table' which runs from December 2016 - November 2017.

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