Emma Attends Launch of Exciting New Website

January 20, 2016

Last week Emma was invited to attend the launch of a new South Shields website created to showcase the rich contribution made to South Shields by the Yemeni community.

The event held at Laygate’s Al Azhar Mosque, UK’s first purpose built mosque, was well attended, the project that was two years in the making was the brainchild of local resident Leyla Al-Sayadi.  Layla is a third generation Yemeni living in South Shields and who’s 101 year old grandfather, moved to the town in 1948 after working on British ships.

Not many people are aware of the history of Yemeni community in Shields which is home to the first settled Muslim population in the UK.  The majority coming here through working in very harsh conditions as part of the British Merchant Navy.

The website is a unique record and a fantastic way to preserve the rich history of Yemenis in our community.  It is a celebration of multiculturalism, containing many personal stories and historical photographs and news clippings.  The website which was entirely funded by the people of South Shields can be found here www.theyemeniproject.org.uk  and Emma’s speech can be read below.


Thank you Leyla and everyone for inviting me here this afternoon, and for all the hard work you have done in getting this website up and running.  It is always a great honour and privilege to be invited to join such a warm and friendly community.

The Yemeni community has played an integral part of the history of South Shields for over a hundred years and the contributions of you, your fathers, mothers, grandparents and great grandparents have helped to make the town of South Shields the wonderful, vibrant and rich society it is today.

Your ancestors came to Shields at a time when we needed you. They went on to form a vital part of the towns local shipping industry and served alongside us during the war. But with them they brought so much more than that, they taught us their culture, their values and harmony.

They showed us through friendship, appreciation, and together as one community, with respect and tolerance, our town could go on to welcome other communities and cultures and be stronger together.

But more importantly, I don’t believe South Shields is about lots of different communities living in one town, to me South Shields is one big community.  As someone who was born here and lives here, I am so proud of Shields and proud to be part of our South Shields family, our shared history is something we should all be proud of.

People are often surprised to hear that Shields was and still is home to the first settled Muslim population in the UK, as well as this building we are in here today being the UK’S first purpose built Mosque. So it is fitting that we are here today in this Mosque, to see the launch of your new website which I hope will go on to help inform others and preserve the Yemini story in Shields for future generations spreading the message of harmony and togetherness as one community.

And whilst this is a day of celebration we must also not forget the current humanitarian situation currently occurring in Yemen right now, many people here will have friends and family who are affected, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those people who along with Muslim Aid are doing what they can to help.  I know I will be doing all I can in Parliament to put pressure on our government to do what we can.

It remains to say I hope you all enjoy this afternoon’s event and that this website will go from strength to strength


Speaking after the event Emma said

‘I would urge everyone to access this website, it contains a wealth of material about the history of Shields and our community. I found the stories, pictures and short films provided an emotive, informative, warm and entertaining account of the Yeminis’ past and ongoing contribution to Shields.’

yemeni web photo

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