Edinburgh stages Friendship Festival to welcome new arrivals from Hong Kong
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Tens of thousands of Hongkongers have chosen to come to the UK following the introduction of the British Nationals Overseas (BNO) visa scheme by the UK Government in January 2021.
The festival, hosted at St Paul’s and St George’s on Broughton Street, starts at 10.30am and will feature stalls, music, children’s entertainment and Scottish dancing, along with British and Hong Kong food. Organised by charity UKHK, in partnership with many churches, the festival will be attended by several church leaders and special guests.
Mina Ko, one of the event organisers, who moved to Scotland on the new visa programme, said: “The Scottish people have given us a very warm welcome. They even slow their accents down just so we can understand them, which is very sweet and thoughtful. This event will connect people and allow different organisations to offer support to those who have moved from Hong Kong.
“We estimate there are more than 500 from Hong Kong living in Edinburgh, so it will be interesting to see how many we can get to this event. There will be a sense of cultural exchange and allowing everyone to see that Edinburgh is a city that welcomes people from other cultures. Friendships will be created which will only help people settling in.”
The event is one of the first of a series of eight Friendship Festivals across the UK during May and June. The UKHK project, founded by social entrepreneur Dr Krish Kandiah, is a partnership across organisations including the Welcome Churches network, Chinese Overseas Christian Mission (COCM) and others. They have recently received funding from the UK Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to run events and activities to help welcome those arriving from Hong Kong.
Dr Kandiah said: “Thousands of people have experienced huge changes and challenges as they have navigated moving 6,000 miles across the world to start a new life. Our hope is that we can really showcase the ‘best of British’ in our welcome of all those arriving in our communities, no matter what the reason they have come to the UK. Through meeting local people at these festivals, we hope Hong Kong arrivals will feel more confident in asking for help, accessing services and being able to rely on British friends to provide support and community.
"We want to celebrate the coming together of cultures, and build friendship with between BN(O) holders arriving and locals living in the same city. We want every Hong Kong arrival – and those still in Hong Kong thinking of moving over – to know that they are welcome, and that they can call this country their home.”
Every child attending the family-friendly event will receive a 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.