Ayrshire College 1, Bigotry 0

Ayrshire College students were recently challenged by the anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth to provide a cutting edge idea for their next campaign.

Nil By Mouth’s campaign director Dave Scott has kindly agreed to write for us about the competition, and the charity itself.

Nil By Mouth

Sectarianism is a hot topic in Scotland these days. It conjures up images of anger, noise, violence, intolerance and chants on football terraces. But how much do we really know about this complex problem? And what is being done to tackle it? Can we separate fact from fiction?

That is the challenge Nil by Mouth sets itself as we work with schools, colleges, workplaces and communities right across Scotland.

The charity was set up by Glasgow teenager Cara Henderson in response to the brutal sectarian murder of her friend Mark Scott. She believed that sectarianism was being swept under the carpet and it was time to do something about it. She set the charity up with the aim of challenging people to think about these attitudes and the harmful impact they have on our society.

The aim of our work is not to preach but simply to ask questions, to encourage people to revaluate old stereotypes and prejudices, and perhaps ask as many questions of their own views as they do other peoples.

Over the last few years we have been working in partnership with Ayrshire College to raise awareness of sectarianism and offer students and staff the opportunity to have their views heard on the subject. We have worked with sport students and the coaches of tomorrow – asking them how they would address problems on the touchline or the dressing room. We have spoken with lecturers and staff about how it can manifest itself in the workplace.

One of the areas we have been keen to highlight is the growing use of social media to subject others to sectarian abuse. Students seemed stunned as we showed them the potential consequences of online abuse and the negative impact being exposed as a ‘twitter troll’ can have on your reputation and employment prospects. They seem equally surprised when they discover that two thirds of arrests for sectarian behaviour have nothing to do with football. And participants have also given us things to think about, asked us questions that we did not have the answer to. We’ve enjoyed every session we have ran across the college and students and staff have always been open and welcoming.

In May this year, young people on courses at the College’s award winning HIVE (Hope, Inspiration and Vision in Education) facility took part in one of our ‘Pitch Perfect’ competitions, which gave them the opportunity to come up with their own campaigns aimed at raising awareness of the issue across Ayrshire.

It was fabulous to see groups from the various campuses present their ideas and it was clear that they had put a lot of thought into them. It was the first time many of them had taken part in a programme like this and they all gave an excellent account of themselves. Not only have they learned a lot about the harmful impact of sectarianism on our society but they have also come up with their own campaigns to create positive change.

The college has a smashing group of staff and students and a real commitment to equality. We greatly value our relationship with Ayrshire College and the opportunity it has provided us to spread our message that Scotland is bigger, better and bolder than bigotry.

For more information on the work of Nil by Mouth visit our website http://www.nilbymouth.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on twitter: @NBMScotland

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