Fill the Skies with Hope 23_09_22 CREDIT SIMONE J RUDOLPHI-6672

Top tips to #FillTheSkiesWithHope from Tynemouth coalition member

We’ve been following the many changes in government closely over recent weeks and are dismayed that the re-appointed Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has shown a clear redoubling on the commitment to banish refugees to Rwanda.

That’s why Together With Refugees is strengthening our efforts to show opposition to the cruel scheme and urging members to take part in the #FillTheSkiesWithHope action, which will now continue into the new year.

If you need some inspiration to plan your own #FillTheSkiesWithHope action, below Penny Henry, from coalition member Tynemouth Together With Refugees, shares her top tips on how they delivered their event, generated media coverage, promoted it on social media and got their MP involved.  They are just one of the more than 50 events that have taken place across every region of the UK – with more than 1,500 planes and people!

Can you tell us a bit about your group?

Tynemouth Together with Refugees came together in October 2021. We are a group of 14 friends who have supported refugees for a number of years by fundraising, raising awareness and volunteering. We have built up approximately 200 supporters locally who we contact via email with updates from Together With Refugees, Asylum Matters, and share any local events we are organising. 

What did you do for your #FillTheSkiesWithHope action?

Around 50 of us gathered on the beach at King Edwards Bay in Tynemouth on Friday 23rd September. We had a table with pens for people to write messages to their MP. I spoke  on the Rwanda scheme and attendees included members of the West End Refugee Service (WERS) with refugee backgrounds. We launched the planes whilst shouting ‘Stop the flights to Rwanda’ and finished with a call for people to donate to Care4Calais to fund their legal costs for the court case.

We asked people to hold a plane in each hand to maximise the impact for photos, and we decorated the area with the Together With Refugees orange hearts and banners and drew a message in the sand saying, ‘Stop the Rwanda Scheme’. This looked really eye-catching as you can see from our video!

We raised awareness of the event on social media, and our local press reported on it. We contacted our local MP, Sir Alan Campbell, for a photo opportunity with the planes which we also shared on social media after our event.

What tips can you share that helped you plan your #FillTheSkiesWithHope event?

Our event was planned fairly quickly and easily, only a week beforehand. Here are our main tips!

  • Call a meeting: We held an initial meeting to plan the event and discussed the Together With Refugees action resources and suggestions.
  • Decide a location: We held it on the prom above the beach in Tynemouth, which we chose because it is a public place, it is slightly raised to help with flying the planes, and we knew the whole area would be good for photographs. 
  • Sort materials and paper plane making: We ordered orange A4 paper and invited people to join in with paper plane making at our local café / hub a week before the event. We made at least 150 planes, wrote messages on some and left others to write messages at the event.
  • Invite people to the event: We spread the word on Twitter and sent out a press release in advance, invited our supporters via email and contacted volunteers from local refugee charities. We also invited local leaders to attend, and if they were unable to, to send words of support to be read out at the event.

What are your tips on getting good media coverage?

We sent a press release two to three days before the event, including quotes from local leaders and people with lived experience. We worked closely with IMIX who checked our press release and gave us local press and media contacts. Our press release stated the event was part of a national campaign which was important for showing journalists the significance of the #FillTheSkiesWithHope campaign.

We invited a journalist who attended the event, and I was also interviewed by another journalist on the phone after the event.  We invited a photographer to attend so that photos could be taken while we threw the planes. Our event was visually interesting and colourful and really helped create some wonderful photos and videos which were shared on social media, and you can see these below too!

The story was covered in the Chronicle and the North East Bylines.

What are your tips on engaging your local MP?

We presented our planes to our local MP, Sir Alan Campbell, a week after the event. We arranged this by contacting his agent, who is also our Labour councillor and a supporter of Tynemouth Together With Refugees.  We asked for a photo opportunity outside the MP’s office as a simple action, and as you can see this was a success!

Meeting with Sir Alan Campbell, Labour MP for Tynemouth

Do you have any final tips you want to share with others who are thinking of planning their own #FillTheSkiesWithHope event?

There are so many ways to make it your own, but you are never without support. With media support from IMIX, campaign guidelines from Together With Refugees and local knowledge from WERS we quickly created a successful event. We showed the public that our actions were recognised and valued by local leaders and groups to show our strength. We considered the long-term impact of our event by connecting with our MP afterwards. I would also say that a call to action is an important ending to an event, including giving people hope that we can make a difference.

Finally, enjoy the wonderful video created by Tynemouth Together With Refugees!