Following the success of Highly Sprung’s In Transit project in May 2022, we were delighted last September to work again with the Heart of England Community Rail Partnership last September, on a new and exciting project. A Day Like This invited people who had never experienced train travel to understand more about how to book tickets, how to keep safe during train travel and the exciting opportunities that travelling by train provide.
A Day Like This gave us the opportunity to work once again with another of our longstanding partners at the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre. The project offered 25 newly arrived people in Coventry the opportunity to work with us to gain confidence about the possibilities that train travel might have for them.
Back in September 2022, we held our first session in the newly opened community room at Coventry Railway Station. We were thrilled to be joined by brilliant families who had all recently made Coventry their home. The project started with lots of fun and games as an opportunity to get to know each other. This was supported thankfully by the brilliant Lingo Links who provided translation and helped us to better understand each other, so we could fully enjoy the project’s possibilities.
Each week we met at the train station and went through a series of activities. These gave families the chance to get to know the station better, to understand how to go about booking train travel and learn to feel safe about travelling by train. All of this was achieved through a mix of information sharing, games… and generally a lot of fun!
“The group was very joyful, and I really thank them for the efforts they made to make this joyful and comforting.”
The most exciting point of the project happened once we had learned the basics about train travel when we worked with the families to plan a very special day out. Having got to know more about each other during the sessions we were able to plan a day which really celebrated the interests, hobbies, and passions of the families we were working with. There was plenty of interest in wanting to experience the opportunities that being in nature provides, especially the chance to see different animals that the families perhaps hadn’t ever seen in their home countries. So, after much discussion it was decided that a trip to Mary Arden’s Farm in Stratford-upon-Avon would be the most exciting day out.
On a very sunny day in October, we began our journey at Coventry Railway Station where the families all gathered in excitement, they were almost as excited about the trip as we were. Even more excitingly the families had arranged a picnic full of homemade treats and dishes from their different culutres.
Boarding the train at the train station was easily done thanks to the support from platform staff who demonstrated just how accessible train travel from Coventry can be. Only two out of the 25 family members on the trip had ever travelled by train before, so we enjoyed the opportunity to talk about what that first experience felt like as we hurtled through the Warwickshire countryside. My favourite comment was from one participant who couldn’t believe how smooth the train felt on the tracks and explained that at home the trains were so bumpy that you almost fell off your seat. Another highlight was seeing our youngest participant, only three years old, seeing sheep and cows for the first time and learning how to make the animals’ different sounds, the train carriage was soon full of moo-ing and baa-ing.
“Traveling by train was amazing, I didn’t expect it to be that fun.”
Mary Arden’s Farm was only a short walk away from the local train station in Wilmcote. When we arrived, we were not disappointed! The farm provided everything we had all hoped for. Plenty of green space, games, and activities and of course the very important farm animals. The star of the day was definitely the donkey, who provided lots of laughter. And of course, we all thoroughly enjoyed the incredible picnic made by the very talented families.
After the day out the families were invited together again to think about their experience and all that they had learned on the project. We were blown away by how much the families had learned about train travel and how differently they felt about arranging a train journey of their own. Many of them felt more confident and safer on the trains, a way of travelling that before the project they had never experienced.
“It involved lots of things, it was great and an amazing experience, especially taking the train.”
A really wonderful aspect of the project was that we captured the families experience of the day trip on film and we are delighted that we can share that more widely, so that other people can see how special the day was and what was learnt from the project. Not only does the film provide a great reminder of a brilliant day but hopefully it might encourage other newly arrived families to experience train travel and the possibilities that brings with more confidence and enjoyment.
Big thanks go to Julia Singleton-Tasker and the Heart of England Community Rail Partnership, Karema and Lingo Links, all the staff at Coventry Railway Station and Cross Country, Ammar, Ahmad and the staff at Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, Mary Arden’s Farm, and finally the brilliant family members who were so loving and generous.