Little Amal Leeds: Large crowds gather to welcome giant Syrian refugee puppet to Millennium Square

Large crowds gathered in Leeds this evening to welcome Little Amal to the city centre.

By Abbey Maclure
Monday, 20th June 2022, 7:32 pm

The giant puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee made her way from Briggate to Millennium Square, joined by brass bands, drummers and hundreds of onlookers.

Little Amal, designed to highlight the plight of child refugees, became an international symbol of human rights after she journeyed from the Turkish-Syrian border to Manchester last July.

On Sunday, the 3.5m puppet began her New Steps New Friends tour, visiting 10 towns and cities across England to share her resilient and hopeful message: “Don’t forget about us.”

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The giant puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee made her way from Briggate to Millennium Square

Zoe Scott-Fitzgibbon, community partnerships manager at Opera North, was delighted to join the crowds at the event - and hopes the show of support will have a positive impact on refugees and asylum seekers living in Leeds.

Opera North gained Theatre of Sanctuary status in 2018 for its work supporting refugees, including hosting workshops and giving out free tickets to its shows.

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"It's really important for us to be part of Little Amal," Zoe said, before Little Amal danced to an Opera North brass quintet.

Zoe Scott-Fitzgibbon, left, of Opera North and Amy McMillan, right of the Refugee Council

"I know from working with refugees that a lot of people feel like they aren't welcome in Leeds.

"That's a combination of factors - part of it is the Government's explicit hostile environment policies.

"I really hope that Little Amal will say to all refugees that they are welcome here. There are so many people here who want to welcome refugees and asylum seekers.

"Hopefully it will help to combat that feeling of isolation."

Amal will go on to journey to the Liverpool docks, as well as meeting the communities in Birmingham, Cheltenham and Bristol’s historic Old City and Harbour.

She will return to the Southbank Centre in London and visit Stonehenge before finishing her journey on the beach in Folkestone in Kent – where she first arrived as a refugee a year ago.

Amy McMillan, who works for the Refugee Council, hopes that Little Amal's arrival will help to break down barriers between asylum seekers and others in Leeds communities.

Speaking at the event, she said: "It's nice to show that [the event] is friendly and that people seeking asylum, or refugees, aren't bad people.

"I think we need more spaces of sanctuary for asylum-seeking people and more awareness in the local community about refugees and why they've come - that they aren't that different to us.

"Leeds is great as it's so diverse, but in other areas it's more challenging to break the stereotypes."