Curious Blog: Creative Sanctuary

Curious Blog: Creative Sanctuary

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Rethink Rebuild Society Children's Choir with Music Action International as part of Journeys Festival International in Manchester 2018

Creative welcome for newly arrived children in Greater Manchester

We believe that creativity can have a big part to play in breaking down barriers and making people feel welcome in our communities.
Dan Williamson, ArtReach Producer for Journeys Festival International, shares some insights from his research work with Curious Minds about how creative and cultural education can support child refugees as they settle in new communities.

There are many urgent priorities for children who have just arrived in the UK, having fled war and persecution in their home country. These include safe access to food and shelter, help learning the language, legal aid with their immigration paperwork, understanding and accessing the social service support that they entitled to. Then of course there is both their physical and emotional health to consider and their wider education. It is a complex situation that many children as young as 11 face when starting a new life in the UK today.

Where does creativity fit in?

For many working outside the creative industries, it would appear pretty low down on the hierarchy of needs. But as an arts organisation working with refugee communities in the UK, ArtReach, through programmes such as Journeys Festival International, has experienced just how creative activities CAN have a positive impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as their integration into local communities.

So, how can creative activity aid aspects of integration and have a positive impact on the wellbeing of children in these situations? How can creativity help build stronger social bonds and break down barriers to children connecting and making new friendships? These are some of the questions we are exploring through a new research project, working with Curious Minds.

Through interviews with a range of partners - such a social workers, support charities, local authorities, arts organisations and schools - we are building up a picture of what life is like for these children in Greater Manchester today. We are looking at whether provision for creative interventions to aid welcoming children into schools and communities exists. And, if so, how it is happening and who is involved.

We know that what most children want is the same, regardless of nationality or cultural background. They want to make friends and be accepted by those around them for who they are. We also know that, when students feel safe and welcome, they can thrive and reach their potential. We believe that creativity can have a big part to play in breaking down barriers and making people feel welcome in our communities. However, we are also aware of the complexities of the needs, environments and circumstances some children are living in and how these can impact on children having the opportunity and ability to engage.

This period of research and development will help to create new connections and networks between partners and allow us to learn more about the current situation in Greater Manchester. We hope this will lead to collaborative projects tailored to meet the needs of those involved and fill the gaps that currently exist. We look forward to reporting back on our findings later on this summer.

Save the date!

Curious Minds has developed an exciting partnership with Journey’s International Festival, researching the experiences of refugee children and the schools that support them. We’re looking at how art, culture and creativity is being used (or could be used more) to support them to adapt to their new lives and to cope with challenging circumstances.

If you would like to hear more about the findings of this research and be part of a conversation about next steps, please save the date for our forthcoming event:

‘Curious about … creative sanctuary’
Wednesday October 9th at a central Manchester venue (TBC) from 3:00– 4:30pm
The role of cultural education in the lives and education of refugee and asylum seeker children.

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