We’re very proud that our Festival of Sanctuary award has been renewed by the national City of Sanctuary team at the opening of this year’s Journeys Festival International. This is particularly special for us as we were the first festival in the UK to be recognised with the Festival of Sanctuary award. An honourable title indeed and one that we’ve spent the last decade trying to live up to. Working on projects with, by and for people with experience of and personal connections to migration has been at the very core of our festival activity and delivery since we started in Leicester in 2013.
In 2016, the festival expanded to deliver in Manchester and Portsmouth too. With almost 20 editions of the festival across the UK since it began and including a 3-week digital festival in 2020, we have strived to keep the festival a safe space for communities and artists to explore stories and issues that are important to them.
From commissioning large-scale outdoor theatre performances to intimate shows between one artist and a single audience member, we’ve hosted award-winning photographers, musicians from across the globe, we’ve put performances and exhibitions in churches, libraries, derelict buildings and shared many creative workshops exploring arts and crafts from around the world. But through it all, one thing remains consistent with the festival we’ve offered a valuable platform for hundreds of artists to share their work with audiences across the UK, with the positive effects of that engagement clear to see.
Sian Summer-Rees, City of Sanctuary UK Chief Officer on our festival’s award: “We are over the moon that Journeys Festival International has been re-accredited as a Festival of Sanctuary. As the UK’s first Festival of Sanctuary, this incredible team has been leading the way – for years they have been celebrating and promoting artists with a sanctuary seeking background and platforming the stories that urgently need to be heard. From following the lead of people with experience of seeking sanctuary to actively finding ways to support these artists through professional development workshops and assisting with grant applications, Journeys Festival International truly embodies what sanctuary in the arts really means.”
As well as being able to share the talents of incredible artists, we’ve also delivered many projects with the local community at its heart. Together with people who are newly settled in their cities, we’ve decorated kites and origami swans in Manchester, created new cardboard cities and learnt about portrait photography in Portsmouth and we’ve shared global cuisine and created new union flags in Leicester. For each art exhibition or performance, there’s been a multitude of engagement opportunities for local people to share their own stories of migration.
Occasionally it’s hard to hear about some people’s real-life experiences and that makes festivals like ours and organisations like City of Sanctuary so important today. These voices need to be heard. These experiences should not be forgotten.
Maddie Smart, Executive Artistic Producer for the festival explained further, “It is vital that our work connects with and is meaningful to people who have lived experience of the themes that the festival explores and shares. Our work with local communities enables us to support new arrivals in Leicester to become more confident in their new environment, to learn more about the city and their new homes, and to experience culture locally. The stories that we platform and tell through the festival programme help our audiences see the world from a different perspective, and hopefully connect with new cultures from across the world. We’ve always worked hard to balance a programme for the festival that attracts audiences and allows difficult conversations about difficult subject matters in a safe space, but also creates positive and enjoyable experiences for people to come together.
Plans are already in development for Journeys Festival International in 2023. Until then, we’re working with Dash Arts this October to bring a tale of myth, theatre and music to Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth. Dido’s Bar is created and performed by a multilingual international ensemble of actor-musicians, bringing to life a classic tale of migration, love and assimilation. The work is inspired by director Josephine Burton’s encounter with Kurdish Iranian refugee and now Finnish resident and composer Marouf Majidi and is written by Hattie Naylor. Read more about Dido’s Bar here: What’s on