A celebration was held on Seafield Green in Tynemouth on Valentine’s Day to celebrate the blue plaque that had recently been unveiled on 55 Percy Park. The house had been a Kindertransport hostel that had housed 20 Jewish girls fleeing Nazi persecution during World War ll. The owner of the house, Martin Anderson, joined the gathering of approximately 40 residents and told the story of its inhabitants, most of whom lost their parents during the holocaust.
The celebration was led by the campaign group Tynemouth Together with Refugees, who focus on raising awareness of the plight of refugees and have held various events in the borough over the past two years. Their spokesperson, Penny Henry said:
“The plaque is a reminder of the compassionate approach the UK government had towards refugees in the past and the culture of welcome it showed towards those needing safety and sanctuary. The residents of Tynemouth should be rightly proud of this history of welcome.”
Solidarity with refugees
The campaign group felt that Valentine’s Day was the perfect time to celebrate this demonstration of compassion and to show Tynemouth’s solidarity with refugees.
“We are in a different scenario now with a government that chooses to punish, rather than protect refugees. We are showing that this community not only has a history of welcoming refugees, but continues to campaign for a fairer treatment of those fleeing war and persecution.”
At the event a resident of Percy Park came forward to speak of the fact that a number of Basque children were accommodated at number 40 Percy Park in 1937 after the bombing of Guernica (which led to 4000 child refugees moving to the UK).
Tom Scharf, Professor of Social Gerontology at Newcastle University and Tynemouth resident said:
“There was obviously something special going on at the time, especially along Percy Park, where refugees were welcomed by many, if not all residents.”
There was a carnival atmosphere at the event with music, banners, flags, and orange hearts.
Harry Gallagher, a local poet read one of his poems called We Are Each Other which is a call to action in the face of injustice.
We need to relearn to sing Find our voices again Til our harmonies ring as discords loosen the cement Of the walls that hold us in
The celebration ended with a singalong to All You Need is Love by John Lennon.
This article is based on a press release from Tynemouth Together with Refugees