Historic 'one o'clock time signal' to sound at 2pm in Sheffield on day of action for migrants

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A march will take place and a historic siren will sound at an unusual time on a day of action in Sheffield to show solidarity with migrants.

Sheffield One Day Without Us is happening next Saturday, February 17, and is part of a national campaign intended to celebrate diversity and the contribution immigrants have made to British society.

The initiative launched last year, when tens of thousands of people across the UK organised more than 160 events including rallies and protests. Trade unions, businesses, universities and other organisations supported the movement, believed to be the first of its kind.

Sheffield's contribution was low-key in 2017 but a fuller programme has been put together for 2018. Activities will take place under the slogan ‘Proud to be a migrant, proud to stand with migrants’.

There will be a march from Devonshire Green, starting at 1.30pm ahead of a rally at the Town Hall. At 2pm a 'national moment of unity' is to be observed; to mark the occasion, the council will sound the 'time signal' outside jewellers HL Brown in the city centre for 10 seconds.

The siren has been in operation since 1874, sounding at 1pm every weekday to help people set their watches. "For one day only the siren will sound at 2pm to show our support," said the council’s community cohesion officer Angela Greenwood.

Afterwards there will be speeches from deputy lord mayor Magid Magid and other representatives of the city's migrant communities.

Magid, who came to Sheffield aged five with his family from Somalia, said: "Migrants have played a key role in our society, and in the current climate it's more important than ever to come together and celebrate the incredible contribution migrants have made to our country. That is what this day of action represents."

From 2.30pm to 4pm there will be an exhibition of photographs of migrants and refugees by photographer Jeremy Abrahams inside the Town Hall. Jeremy will talk about his work, alongside live music and poetry.

Separate events are being held at the Fir Vale Community Hub in Page Hall. At 2pm members of the Sheffield Roma Network are reading a poem about the persecution of Roma people during the Holocaust and showing a film about migration. Then, at 6pm, the hub will be launching a video called ‘Pioneers’, about the history of Pakistani migrants in Sheffield and their role in the steel industry, followed by food and discussion.

"We live in a multi-cultural and multi-faceted society with different dynamics, but many communities that came to the UK in the 1950s through to today feel they contribute massively and are part of the fabric of this society," said Shahid Ali from the Fir Vale hub. "This is to showcase some of their contribution, which is often glossed over."

One Day Without Us was founded by the writer and journalist Matt Carr, from Meersbrook. He was worried about a rise in hate crime and xenophobic attacks in the wake of the vote for Brexit in June 2016, so placed a message on his Facebook profile asking whether others would be interested in staging a day of action. The response was swift - Matt set up an online group which attracted around 5,000 people within a week, and out of that came the campaign.

Visit www.1daywithoutus.org for details.