Harrogate College hosts film festival showcasing the stories of refugees and asylum seekers

Established in 1988, Refugee Week is a UK festival that takes place between 20-26 June. It is a festival that combats the negative stigma of refugees and asylum seekers and celebrates their resilience and contributions to society. It is a chance to understand the challenges they face when seeking sanctuary and to help create a supportive community where they can live safely. 

This year, the theme for Refugee Week is ‘Healing’

With everything going on in the world, now is a time where we can come together and help each other heal. 

Harrogate College strives to create a safe space where people can heal and rebuild their lives in a welcoming community with mutual care and respect. Recently, we became the first college in the district to achieve College of Sanctuary status. This award goes to colleges that go above and beyond to support refugees and those seeking asylum.

The college was recognised for its values-led approach and for being an inclusive, nurturing and progressive educational institution. 

Refugee Film Festival

During this year’s Refugee Week, Harrogate College is hosting a Refugee Film Festival, with short films, guest speakers and local filmmakers to share stories of asylum seekers and refugees in Yorkshire.

This event aims to educate our students, staff and wider community about the challenges of those seeking sanctuary and provides a safe space for open dialogue and reflection. 

This event also welcomes community groups and partners that work locally to improve the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. 

Organisations such as Oxfam and Harrogate District of Sanctuary will be there on the night to speak to people and share information. There will also be community stalls and student displays.

Featured Films

‘Rabea’ – Tom Harmer

As a Rohingya Muslim and refugee from Myanmar, sixteen-year-old Rabea Sultana understands the power of her story and the value of her freedom. The opportunity she received of UK citizenship and a new life in Bradford is one she intends to use through her voice for the benefit of all humanity.

‘Then I Came By Boat’ – Marleena Forward 

This short documentary tells the story of Tri Nguyen’s childhood escape from war-torn Vietnam and his eventual resettlement in Australia.

‘A Life On Hold’ – Marc Silver, Nick Francis

A Life On Hold is an intimate portrait of Omar, a 17 year old stranded in a refugee camp since the 2011 war in Libya. It offers a unique perspective of one person amongst thousands waiting for a chance to start their life again in a safe country.

‘What You Know About Patience’ – Kazzum Arts 

‘What you know about patience?’ shares the complexities and challenges facing young people seeking asylum in the UK. The animation has been inspired by the experiences of young people engaging in Kazzum Arts’ Pathways programme (kazzum.org/pathways).

‘Malak And The Boat’ – André Holzmeister 

Malak and the Boat tells seven-year-old Malak’s harrowing story of her journey across the Mediterranean seeking shelter from the Syrian conflict.

‘Ruth & Safiya’ – Louisa Rose Mackleston 

Ruth & Safiya is a story about friendships in unlikely places, challenging stereotypes, and the power of community. Ruth, an isolated pensioner, meets Safiya, a teenage Syrian refugee who is haunted by the life she fled from. Filmed on location in Skipton, the story is set in an allotment, showing the power of the earth and nature in creating a bond that transcends age, race and nationality.

‘Guardians’ – Children’s Society

A Youth-led Commission on Separated Children (YLCSC), a group of young people previously supported by The Children’s Society. They have come together through shared experiences of the asylum process and the vision that all separated children in England and Wales should be supported by a legal guardian.

‘Rain Is Beautiful’ – Marc Silver, Nick Francis

This follow-up to A Life On Hold begins with emotional farewells at a refugee camp as Omar leaves his friends behind to begin a new life in Sweden. 

Guest Speakers 

There will be guest speakers throughout the evening.

Local historian, Dr. Paul Jennings, talks on how migration has shaped the Harrogate area throughout history.

Harrogate District of Sanctuary will also be there with a stall. The Harrogate District of Sanctuary is a charity that aims to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for refugees and asylum seekers in the district. 

How you can support 

There are many ways that we can show support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. This could be by volunteering at a local charity, donating clothes or even raising money. 

Take a look here at 5 local, regional and national charities and organisations that you can support. 
Refugee Week has highlighted some simple acts that we can do to stand with refugees and help them heal.

Harrogate College art students first studio showcase a ‘success’

Artists, sculptors and ceramicists at  the college staged their first North Yorkshire Open Studios event.

The students, who are studying for master’s degrees in creative practice, showcased their work during the Platinum Jubilee weekend on 4 June. 

The artists also had the opportunity to talk to a wide range of people about their work and many of them sold several art pieces.

Dr Annabel Smith, Programme Manager, MA Creative Practice at Harrogate College said: “The NYOS event was a success and we are delighted to have been part of the north’s most prestigious open studios event.

“It is such an incredible platform and our year 1 and year 2 MA creative practice students were able to exhibit and sell their work, which is a remarkable achievement and a celebration of all their hard work.”

The exhibited work included ceramics, paintings, printmaking and textiles.

North Yorkshire Open Studios, run by a voluntary steering group of North Yorkshire based artists, gives creatives the chance to network, as well as show and sell their work directly to the public.

Harrogate College awarded ‘Good’ by Ofsted

Harrogate College is celebrating after achieving a ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features  grade by Ofsted, following an inspection last month. 

The college was recognised for its passionate and expert staff, work with stakeholders in the region and exceptional development opportunities for students. The college’s provision for adults and the personal development of the students were graded as ‘Outstanding’. 

Luminate Education Group, which Harrogate College is a member of, is among the first large educational groups to have been inspected under Ofsted’s new framework, which puts a greater focus on work with partners and businesses, student and apprentices’ safety and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

Danny Wild, Principal at Harrogate College, said: “Harrogate college has been through two-and-half years of rapid improvement since joining Luminate Education Group, and it is really satisfying that Ofsted has recognised this progress in assessing us as a good college with outstanding features.

“The college is committed to working with employers to shape an employer-led curriculum that meets local and regional priorities, ensuring that our offer is attractive and relevant to learners and apprentices, and this was reflected throughout the report.

“Our governors also play a key role in the quality of education provided for our students. They are actively involved in determining the college’s strategic direction, making many of the key decisions in relation to each college and ensuring continuous and sustainable improvement.

“I hope that as we continue to work with stakeholders across the district, our community will have further confidence in the college, as one that provides good education with outstanding personal development in a nurturing and inclusive environment.

“Our new T Level offering being delivered from September is further evidence of the college progressing its curriculum to meet the needs of our community, by providing high level technical education in digital and IT, Health and Education, that progresses students into higher education.”

Richard Keys, Director of Curriculum at Harrogate College, added: “This grade is testament to the hard work of our staff who make our college environment a welcoming and safe place for our students every single day. 

“Our learners’ wellbeing, personal development and safety are our top priorities which are embedded in our values-led culture. This is pertinent as we recover from the impact of Covid-19, and its effects on our adult learners in particular, so it’s an incredible feat to be strongly recognised in this area too.”

For more information about Harrogate College, visit Harrogate College (harrogate-college.ac.uk).

Harrogate College first in North Yorkshire to achieve College of Sanctuary status

We have become the first college in the district to achieve College of Sanctuary status.

City of Sanctuary awards colleges this recognition to those that go  above and beyond to support refugees and people seeking asylum. Through this national accolade, good practice is recognised and celebrated. 

The college, which submitted a portfolio of evidence collated over 18 months, was recognised for its values-led approach and for being an inclusive, nurturing and progressive education institution.

Holly Hansen-Maughan, Partnerships & Development Manager at Harrogate College, said: “The impact that an inclusive, welcoming and nurturing college environment can have on asylum seekers and refugees is important.

“We are proud to be a college that helps its students, staff and wider community to understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary, and to extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of our college community.

“The recognition not only cements the work we are doing but represents just how far many people have travelled to be educated at our college and have progressed on other courses or employment.

“We are committed to being a safe place for those seeking sanctuary. Through our work with the Harrogate District of Sanctuary over the last year, we have looked at ways we can improve the support we offer and how those in our community can access that support and the resources we have available.”

Siân Summer-Rees, Chief Officer at the City of Sanctuary, said: “The team at Harrogate College have gone above and beyond to ensure students who have fled war and persecution feel safe and supported and we are delighted that they are now a College of Sanctuary, the first in North Yorkshire.

“Thoughtful, compassionate and welcoming support and attention mean people can achieve the best possible outcomes, and for many seeking sanctuary, the experiences they have on campus will shape their futures in their new country.”

The college is also hosting a refugee film festival this month, dedicated to showcasing films produced by both student refugees and filmmakers across the city about their lives and experiences.

Taking place on Thursday 23 June from 6:00pm, the evening will feature several guest speakers, including local historian, Dr Paul Jennings. Organisations such as Oxfam and Harrogate District of Sanctuary will be there on the night to speak to people and share information. There will also be community stalls and student displays.

City of Sanctuary is a network contributing to building the movement for welcome

and inclusion in the UK by promoting, recognising and celebrating ways in which people seeking sanctuary enrich society. 

Students praised for sharing ‘new perspectives’ with one of Harrogate’s biggest employers

A high-profile local business has praised Harrogate College students for the fresh thinking they contributed during a work experience placement.

Three Digital Media students joined the Techbuyer Group, a sustainable IT solutions provider that operates globally with its roots firmly in Harrogate.

One was welcomed by Techbuyer’s marketing team while the other two joined the firm’s sister company, Ortial, for the week-long placement.

A rewarding and seamless experience

Techbuyer, a member of the Harrogate College Employers’ Network, was delighted with how the students got on and the contribution they made.

Senior Marketing Coordinator at Techbuyer, Maral O’Brien, said: “This was a rewarding experience all round.

“We benefited from the new ideas and perspectives imparted by the  students, and found working with Harrogate College to be hassle-free.

“We found that setting up the work experience was easy, with a placement coordinator from the college helping to facilitate the selection of students, making it a seamless process. Techbuyer would recommend working with Harrogate College to other businesses in the area – it’s an impactful way to help young people become career-ready.

“The work experience opportunity was also a good way of furthering our goal of educating young people about sustainable digital practices in our local community.

“Building and developing links within our community is so important to us, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the college and other local organisations.”

Allies in the fight for sustainability

Techbuyer’s commitment to sustainable practices saw it named Circular Economy Business of the Year at the IEMA Awards, in 2020. The business also set itself nine ambitious targets focused on education, health and wellbeing, and responsible consumption, in 2019 as part of its commitment to the UN Global Goals.

Harrogate College has also put the environment and sustainability at the heart of its operations, and has a Sustainability Pledge which outlines its ambitions to become net zero carbon by 2030.

The college also teaches carbon literacy training and continually updates its courses to ensure they meet the demand for green skills and have sustainability embedded within them. 

In March, meanwhile, the college held a Green Month packed with environmentally-targeted activities and talks.

Maral said this made the college a natural ally: “Contributing to the UN Global Goals is a company-wide effort, and it is initiatives like the recent work experience placement with Harrogate College that showcase our commitment to education and to our local community.

“There is a clear link with Harrogate College in that they aim to instill key sustainability skills through every course in their curriculum, to shape and advance students’ career prospects.”

To find out about setting up work experience opportunities with the college, email contact placement coordinator Susan Roberts at Susan.Roberts@harrogate.ac.uk.

Harrogate College recognised for a second time for efforts to promote sustainable travel

Harrogate College has been nationally-recognised, for a second year running, for its continued commitment to sustainability.

The college has been awarded the bronze level Modeshift STARS accreditation for promoting sustainable and active travel in the community. This is just one of many aspects the college is changing to incorporate more sustainable practice, as well as its focus on preparing people with green skills.

The college has been promoting green business practices across the district over the past 18 months and will step up its support for the electric vehicle (EV) sector through the introduction of a new course in September.

It also hosted the launch of the first ever Harrogate Climate Action Festival, which saw hundreds of people come together in October 2021 to hear from sustainability-focused exhibitors.

Holly Hansen-Maughan, Partnerships & Development Manager at Harrogate College, said: “Sustainable travel and transport is just one part of the college’s commitment to sustainability.

“As an education provider committed to sustainability and supporting the local economy, we are continually finding ways to educate our students and staff on becoming more environmentally friendly, so it’s great that our work is being recognised again by the Modeshift STARS award.

“We are dedicated to empowering young people by enhancing their understanding of environmental issues, and recently offered Carbon Literacy Training to all staff and students. We also encourage learners to participate in the various environmental campaigns and activities we run through our enrichment programme.

“Our aim is to work with local organisations and businesses to meet their needs – this includes developing courses for emerging technologies and green skills which contribute positively to the environment.”

From September, all courses at the college will consider how sustainable practice and green skills impact that curriculum area.

Over the last twelve months the college has worked with a number of groups and local businesses to promote sustainable initiatives, including Zero Carbon Harrogate, Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition, of which Principal Danny Wild is now Chair.

The college is focused on becoming a local centre of green excellence and as outlined in its Sustainability Pledge, is committed to working towards becoming net zero carbon by 2030.

To find out more, or to get your business or organisation involved in future projects, contact Holly Hansen-Maughan at Holly.Hansen-Maughan@harrogate.ac.uk.

Launched in 2008, the STARS Education scheme is supported by the Department for Transport and has seen over 1,400 schools in England achieve accreditation since its inception.

‘Autism can be a superpower’

When Megan Knight switched from university to study Beauty Therapy at Harrogate College, she was worried about feeling overwhelmed.

Megan is autistic and knew there would be both learning barriers and sensory triggers, due to all of the creams, oils and other substances involved, to overcome while pursuing her studies.

But the college’s staff worked closely with her to draw up an action plan that would remove obstacles and give Megan the very best chance to succeed – and it worked.

Megan, who is in her twenties, went on to excel at her course at both Level 2 and 3, and the college continued to support her when she started applying for spa therapist jobs.

Programme Manager for Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy at Harrogate College, Steph Keedy, said: “We decided to put a little explanation together for the employers Megan was approaching, about why having autism was actually a benefit for the role of a spa therapist.

“This really helped them gain some understanding, and it resulted in Megan gaining employment at a spa, at Hazlewood Castle, which is her dream job.”

Autism Europe says that a ‘serious lack of adapted education and training’ is one of the greatest barriers that autistic people face in terms of trying to gain employment.

Megan is now loving her spa therapist role, but acknowledges the extra barriers that people with autism have to overcome when they are studying and job-hunting.

Pushing past stigma

She said: “I absolutely adore my job at Hazlewood Castle! We have a fantastic team and everyone is super-supportive.

“My Spa Manager couldn’t be any nicer and has been a rock to me these last few months. Despite only being in my role for a short amount of time, I’ve been able to progress so far and I’m so grateful to be given that level of responsibility.

“When you’re autistic and trying to get a job, many employers are unsure about autism as there is still plenty of stigma around it. You just have to push through and keep applying without letting any rejections discourage you.

“If, and when, employers do ask about it I’ve found it best to focus on what autism can positively do – it can be a superpower if you let it be.”

She is full of praise for the help she received at college – and has words of encouragement for anyone else considering a similar journey.

Exceptional support – and a message for others

She said: “Due to all the different sensations you experience during the Beauty Therapy course (through being expolsed to oils, creams, exfoliants and similar substances) there’s always a risk that something will set off a negative sensory response.

“But my tutors at Harrogate were great at setting a calming work environment, so I was less likely to be triggered.

“Autism can also affect the way we learn but, due to me being a visual learner, I was often able to watch a treatment demo before being able to copy it myself.

“For others with autism who are thinking of studying or applying for a job, I would say – never let the ignorance surrounding autism get in your way.

“Despite the difficulties and struggles we can face every day, your autism gives you a creative view on the world, so work with that and let that creativity shine through. Stay focused on your goal and don’t let anyone get in your way.”

Steph added: “Megan keeps in touch with all the beauty team and has told us she would like to come in and share her learner journey with our current students, and demonstrate some of the treatments she now carries out in the spa.

“She has come such a long way in just under three years, what an absolute success!”

Shouting about our students’ incredible volunteering efforts on Power of Youth Day

Power Of Youth Day, which takes place during Volunteers’ Week, is an opportunity to shout about the incredible contributions that young people are making in their communities, society and the environment. Throughout the day events and celebrations take place across the UK. Leaders, organisations and young people take to social media to celebrate the #PowerOfYouth, recognising the invaluable and diverse contribution they are making to society.  

To those ends, here are a few organisations that empower young people that you can direct interested students towards. 

LGBTQ+ Fundraiser

Fundraisers are always a hit at Harrogate College and a group of students worked on an LGBTQ+ fundraiser for LGBTQ+ history month. They planned and advertised the event and sold homemade cakes and biscuits, homemade decorations, wristbands, flags and bookmarks, raising nearly £100 for Yorkshire MESMAC.

UNICEF Fundraiser

The same group of students helped the Students’ Union raise money for UNICEF to support children who are suffering in Ukraine as a result of the war. The students supported by making and serving iced coffee, raising over £100 altogether.

Pride Party

The students are going to continue their hard work and use all the skills they have learnt to run a Pride Party, including decorations, wristbands, flags and mocktails, in June. They plan to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust, a cause close to some of the students’ hearts.

Blog: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month

This month is Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller History Month (GRTHM). Established in Britain in 2008, GRTHM month raises awareness and explores the history of travelling communities. 

The month aims to tackle the negative stigma and prejudices these communities have faced for centuries. It seeks to educate those about their contribution to society and how we can support them and help them feel included in our society. 

What are the differences between Gypsy, Roma and Traveller? 

There are many differences between Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. Although they are nomadic groups, their communities follow entirely different cultural values. 

Romany Gypsies travelled west from Europe around the 10th and 12th centuries during the Roma migration from India. Romany is the word that Gypsy people in England and Wales apply to themselves, hence the term ‘Romany Gypsy’.

The word ‘Roma’ is used as a term for European ‘Gypsies’. Over the past 50 years, there has been an increase in Roma people in the UK. 

Irish Travellers are said to have migrated to England in the early 19th century. They mainly came to England after the Great Famine in the 1850s and then after World War II. 

‘What Makes a Home?’

This year, the theme for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is ‘What Makes a Home?’. Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are known for their nomadic lifestyle, however, some families have lived in houses for generations but maintain their cultural identity and travel seasonally. 

There are many reasons families move into housing. It can often be difficult to access vital services such as healthcare, dental care, education and employment, especially those that require addresses.

Some may feel that the move into housing is due to a shortage of available sites for vehicles and stopping places. 

The government has recently implemented new laws which make the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller nomadic lifestyle more difficult. People are now at risk of having their vehicle (home) confiscated and facing fines and imprisonment. 

Not only does this affect their way of life, but also affects their mental health with suicide rates being 11% of all deaths in the Irish Traveller community according to the All Ireland Traveller Health Study

Their life expectancy from the latest data shows they live around 10 years less than that of the non-Traveller population according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  

A helping hand

York Travellers Trust works solely with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities in York and the surrounding areas. Their charity objectives are ‘to relieve the poverty and advance the education of the communities and to preserve and protect the health of such persons’. 

Leeds GATE is an organisation led by Gypsy and Traveller people in partnership with others in and across Yorkshire. They are a resource centre that supports Gypsy and Travellers living in Leeds and passing through. 


Here are some resources below to learn more about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. 

Learn more about the history of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers with this animation

Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

This is a House of Commons Committee report with recommendations to the Government.