Posts Tagged Migration Matters Festival
Refugee Week celebrates its twentieth birthday this year. Twenty years of reminding us all that refugees are people – people like us in circumstances that some of us can barely imagine. Twenty years of celebrating the contribution that those refugees have made to the communities in which they have found sanctuary. Twenty years of drawing our attention to the needs of desperate people who have been forced from their homes by war, famine, persecution.
I’ve been blogging for Refugee Week only for six years. When I look back at what I’ve published previously, it can be discouraging. Has anything really changed (for the better)? Can we hope that things will, in the next six, or the next twenty years, change for the better, given the shift to the right, to nationalism and nativism and xenophobia, across Europe and across the Atlantic?
In a sense it doesn’t matter whether we think there are glimmers of hope. We have to carry on saying what needs to be said, whether or not. We have to carry on arguing, campaigning, telling the stories that need to be told, whether or not.
So this year for Refugee Week I will as usual be posting something every day. I’ll be revisiting some topics I’ve written about before – the particular hazards, indignities and injustices faced by LGBT refugees, the story of the Kindertransport and its messages for our times, the life of the refugee camp (Goma, or Zaatari). It also happens to be the year of the World Cup, and (as I did in 2014) I’ll be looking at the countries who are competing this year, at the people to whom they give refuge and at the people who seek refuge from them.
This Refugee Week, if you are in the vicinity of Sheffield, don’t miss the wonderful Migration Matters Festival. Kicking off on 19 June, it’s a five day celebration of migration, belonging, sanctuary and community, featuring performance, film, workshops, music, food and much more. Check out the website for the full programme and book your tickets in advance.
Migration Matters Festival 2017 is a five-day theatre and arts festival taking place in Sheffield during Refugee Week (20-24 June). Its aim is to celebrate diversity, and recognise the positive impact migration has on the city.
Sheffield was the UK’s first City of Sanctuary and it is a city that remains rich with diversity and interconnecting cultures. This year’s festival seeks to celebrate this history and culture with a vibrant and inclusive series of events.
Opening on the 20th June, Migration Matters Festival will run alongside the annual Refugee Week celebrated across the UK.
The festival takes place across a series of city centre venues, uniting Sheffield’s communities and cultures.
The 2017 line up features established companies, emerging artists, community arts groups and charitable organisations. It’s a rich and soulful programme that brings the diverse and global mix of Sheffield’s communities together with artists from all over the world in a celebration of food, culture and performance.
Check out the full programme – there’s truly something for everyone!
All events are Pay-What-You-Decide though you are recommended to reserve tickets for high profile events – follow the link and search for Migration Matters to see everything that’s on offer.
What is it they want, all these people?
What do we want? What do we hope for, for ourselves and for our children? We may hope for prosperity, for a nicer house in a nicer part of town, a better job, for our kids to be successful as well as happy. But if what we have was taken from us, what then?
We’d want to be safe. If our home, our street, our place of work, the school our children go to, the hospital they were born in and where we go if we’re sick, are bombsites and warzones, we’ll take our chances to go somewhere that perhaps just might be safe.
We’d want to be safe from violence and the constant threat of violence, because we believe in the wrong god or in no god, because we love the wrong people, because we support the wrong political movement, because we are the wrong race. We’d want to be safe from rape and the constant threat of rape, from abuse, from mutilation in the name of tradition. We’d want to be safe from the constant threat of starvation and disease, the desperate quest for enough food to just stay alive, the desperate quest for help when we or our children are sick.
But we’d want more than that.
We’d want to have a place where we can shut our door and hang up our hats, and sleep without fear, and be with the people we love. We’d want the chance to work, to use our skills to earn enough to provide for ourselves and the people we love, to prepare healthy meals, to buy new shoes for the children as they grow, to be warm enough in winter. We’d want the chance to learn, new languages and new skills, and we’d want our children to go to school and learn all that they need to make their way in the world, and to make friends and play.
We’d want to become part of a community. Paying our way, making a contribution, chatting to our neighbours, free of the threat that there will be a knock on the door early one morning and we’ll be sent away, back where we came from, or just away, to anywhere that’s not here.
And with all of that we’d want not to be told in the headlines of the newspapers that we’re a threat, that we’re terrorists, that we’re spongers, that we’re liars, that we’re cowards. We’d want not to see in the eyes of the people we meet that they wonder whether that’s true.
We’d want to be welcome.
Tuesday 21 June – Migration Matters Festival
British Red Cross Refugee Awareness Workshop (2.00 pm): find out about their work, and how you can get involved
Displace Yourself Theatre – Free to Stay (7.30 pm): An exploration of life without nationality, through physical theatre and projection, telling the stories of individuals with first-hand experience of statelessness
This year things feel different, in the run-up to Refugee Week. When I started blogging about refugees it felt like a neglected topic – even though organisations like Refugee Action and CARA and many others were working incredibly hard to support refugees and asylum seekers, and to raise awareness of the issues, they weren’t making headlines.
Since the photograph last September of that small boy, who came to stand for so many other children washed ashore as their flimsy, overcrowded boats sink in the Mediterranean, refugees have hardly been out of the headlines.
That’s a double edged sword, of course. Whilst many, many people have been stirred to do something, moved by looking into the eyes of grieving parents, frightened children and traumatised young men and recognising that they are like us, that they could be us, others have used the same images to stoke up hatred and suspicion.
The theme this year is ‘Welcome’. The heady days when refugees were greeted with smiling crowds and flowers faded pretty quickly but the people themselves are still with us, and more are coming, because they have no choice. Those who are here already can’t go home because home isn’t there any more for them, just as those others who are leaving now, grabbing what they can carry, handing their money over for a hazardous passage to an uncertain future, can’t just say, well, you know what, perhaps we’ll stay put after all.
We have to keep pressing our governments to make them welcome. We have to keep challenging the miserable, hateful lies that are told daily about them. We have to keep telling their stories so that more people make that leap into understanding and empathy.
Over the next week I’ll be trying to do some of that. As in previous years, I’ll post at least one piece each day. If you like what you read, feel free to reblog/share.
Tonight at the Migration Matters festival in Sheffield, Ice and Fire Theatre present their Asylum Monologues, based on ten years of gathering and disseminating testimonies of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. And they’ve a packed and varied programme throughout Refugee Week as well, including Ardi Mejzini’s one-man show based on his own experience as a refugee from Kosovo (Monday, 20.00). All events will take place at Theatre Delicatessen, 17 The Moor and are Pay What You Decide.