May 26 2011 by Gary Fanning, Hamilton Advertiser
CHILDREN in Larkhall have united to give sectarianism the red card.
A total of 250 primary seven pupils gathered at the town’s St Machan’s Parish Church for an event to celebrate their work in tackling sectarianism over the last 12 months.
It has become an annual event for both non-denominational and Roman Catholic schools in Larkhall who remain determined to tackle religious and other forms of intolerance in their communities.
Over the last five years, this work by Larkhall schools has been supported by a wide range of organisations including Rangers and Celtic football clubs and Nil by Mouth.
This year’s event – like last year’s – was instigated by the town’s Machan Trust which obtained £2200 funding from the national body Sense Over Sectarianism. The council’s Larkhall Problem Solving Group also backed the project.
As well as parents and invited guests, around 250 pupils from Craigbank, Dalserf, Glengowan, Hareleeshill, Machanhill, Netherburn, Newfield, Robert Smillie Memorial, Stonehouse and St Mary’s primaries attended. They performed drama workshops building on work they had done throughout the year. Actor, playwright and director David Carmichael had visited each school and worked with children to write and produce their own short plays.
Theresa Breslin, author of The Divided City, which concerns sectarianism, also attended.
The renowned author is a long standing supporter of this work in Larkhall schools and had also visited each school to discuss her work and share her tips and techniques on writing with the pupils.
Children also produced a range of innovative art displays to help highlight their work.
A DVD and electronic workbook will be produced from this year’s event and distributed to other schools as a learning resource.
Hazel Shaw, youth development worker at the Machan Trust, said: “This project is making a difference. The young people involved are saying to us that ‘it does not matter what school you go to or what team you support, you can still be friends.’
“Furthermore, by encouraging family and friends to come along, it’s taking the massage into the home. Hopefully, the young people will act as a catalyst to change the views of their parents.”
Council education committee chairman Mary Smith said: “The performances at this event were thought-provoking and inspiring. This is only one of the many projects and initiatives being run to tackle the issue of sectarianism in all of our schools.”