Pupils, teachers, elected members and Community Activists celebrate their success.
Pupils, teachers, elected members and Community Activists celebrate their success.

The Lanarkshire community of Larkhall has become the first in Scotland to receive a prestigious award for its efforts to tackle sectarianism.

Local schools, community groups and church leaders have teamed up with Scotland’s leading anti sectarianism charity Nil By Mouth to successfully obtain its ‘Champion for Change’ charter mark.

The award will be presented at a ceremony today attended by pupils from schools across the community.

It represents  the culmination of several years of hard work across Larkhall which has seen a range of interfaith services, sporting competitions and creative projects between all of the town’s schools which have successfully brought together people from different religious and cultural backgrounds.

The award was clinched after a recent concert in St Machan’s Church where pupils showcasing songs from their own CD “Different Voices Best Of Friends” which they produced in conjunction with local musicians John Malcolm and Billy Stewart. The CD, which was funded through the Sense over Sectarianism partnership, conveys their views on bigotry and their hopes for the future.

The ceremony will be a double celebration after it was announced last week that the ‘Champions for Change’ scheme is to be funded by the Scottish Government and Larkhall’s efforts are being honoured with a motion in the Scottish Parliament.

Campaign Director Dave Scott said:

‘Larkhall is more than deserving of this award.  We’ve been hugely impressed by the energy, enthusiasm and commitment shown by this community in challenging sectarianism.

For too long people have made assumptions about this area and these pupils, teachers and church leaders have stood up and been counted.  The young people want a chance to define their own identity free from negativity or the baggage of the past.

They represent the generation which will defeat sectarianism once and for all.’

Hazel Shaw of the Machan Trust, the interfaith group which has helped co-ordinate these efforts, said:

‘The children hope that the message of their music will make a positive and significant difference to their communities and to the lives of all who suffer from the negative effects of sectarianism.’