This weekend, Glasgow will host its first ever Friendship Festival, offering a VIP celebration to welcome arrivals from Hong Kong coming over in a new visa scheme.
Around 140,000 people from Hong Kong have arrived into the UK following the introduction of British Nationals Overseas (BNO) visa scheme offered by the UK Government in January 2021. The event, centred around the Lunar New Year festivities, will celebrate the coming together of cultures and draw in on traditions, food, and fun activities that many would usually enjoy when back home in Hong Kong.
Glasgow’s event is expected to attract over 600 people and will be hosted at Newton Mearns Baptist Church on January 28 2023 at 11am and finishing at 3pm. Local authority figures will be in attendance, as well as churches, musicians, and other organisations. The event will feature a range of different stalls, music, children’s entertainment, along with Hong Kong cuisine, and it is hoped arrivals will feel the welcome from the breadth of Glasgow city.
Adrienne Cartwright is one of the Festival’s organisers. She says:“We’re really excited to be expecting up to 600 people over two sessions. As a church we’ve been working for Hong Kong arrivals for about nine months.
“We hadn’t realised that there were so many folks living in the area from Hong Kong, it made us realise what we should be doing to welcome them. We ran the Welcome Course run by Welcome Churches and that attracted a good number and it’s spiralled from there.
“We run regular events now to attract people who have moved to the area and help with practical things like how to buy a house in Scotland and how to get things from the pharmacy. We also do fun things like teach them how to say funny Scottish phrases and pronounce our place names!
“It’s like having so many new friends from different parts of the world, you welcome them into a particular area and offer friendship which has been so important to many of the new arrivals as they felt so lonely. They have now found a place to belong and meet other people.”
Organised by UKHK, a project of the charity Welcome Churches, and in partnership with many local churches, the Festival aims to build local friendships, and encourage Hong Kong arrivals to feel more confident in asking for help and accessing the services they may need. Friendship Festivals held in localities across Britain over the last year have welcomed over 7000.
This event is one of the first of a series of nine Friendship Festivals across the UK over January, February and March. Partially funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, these events and activities are part of a national effort to help welcome those arriving from Hong Kong.
Emily Shepherd, joint CEO of Welcome Churches, says, “Thousands of people from Hong Kong have made a hugely difficult decision to move themselves and their families to the UK on the BN(O) visa route. We want these Friendship Festivals to be a place where Hong Kongers can come together, share their challenges and experiences together, make new friends and experience a true welcome from their local communities.
“UKHK exists to ensure every new arrival from Hong Kong has the support and connections they need to build a life here in the UK. Our hope is that every Hong Kong arrival - and those still in Hong Kong thinking of moving over - will be welcomed, make friends, and know that they can call this country their home.”
In addition, every child attending the family-friendly event will receive an exclusive book entitled “Welcome to the UK”, written especially for children from Hong Kong and help them adjust to life and culture here in the UK.
For more information on the Glasgow festival, please visit the Friendship Festival organisers website.