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A diverse group sat in a circle.

Still curious about Creative Sanctuary

In Refugee Awareness Week last year, we launched our intention to work in partnership with Artreach. We wanted to find out more about how art and creativity were being used to support refugee children, particularly in schools, and to look for any gaps and opportunities to support, to innovate, to fundraise, or to invest.
ArtReach are the producers of Journeys Festival International (JFI) in Manchester, Leicester and Portsmouth. The festival explores the refugee experiences through great art and supports artists from a refugee background. JFI started in 2016 and in that time, it has developed a strong network of partners from both cultural organisations and refugee support organisations across Manchester and more recently Greater Manchester.

Curious Minds asked festival producer Dan Williamson to take on some informal research for us with the following aims.

We wanted to:

  • Research and explore the creative engagement of refugee children in schools – in particular how schools are (or could be) using arts opportunities to help welcome, support and integrate new arrivals or to create a culture of inclusivity in their schools.
  • Better understand if the creative talents, plans and passions of young people have been lost as a result of their forced migration or continue to be supported in and out of school/education. And if, they are still in pursuit of more creative careers, how they are supported.
Using an event back in October, and a year of conversations and interviews, Dan was able to speak with a broad array of charities, schools, local authorities and arts organisations across Greater Manchester including:
He developed a good picture of the activity happening across Greater Manchester (and a little beyond) and was told about other organisations undertaking creative work in schools with refugee children are about the experiences of refugees.
We know there’s more work out there and we’d love to hear from you. We especially want to hear from teachers and schools.

We think there’s potential for some more joined-up conversations, some more partnership projects, some sharing of good practice, maybe a joint funding bid (we felt a little more sure of that pre-Covid!). There was particular interest in these two suggested ideas/themes:

  1. Could a network of schools and arts organisations pilot a new initiative to test out what a ‘creative school of sanctuary’ looks like?
  2. How can we use art and culture in schools to help refugee children reclaim their stories from the authorities that have demanded they share them so frequently?

Covid has stalled us, of course, and it’s a hard time to move things forward. But we want to.

So we’re inviting you to meet (digitally) and talk with us in September as part of the Journeys International Festival. Share your work or interest in this theme with us and let’s see what we can make possible.

Journeys Festival International will take place from 28 September – 18 October. Head to www.Journeysfestival.com to learn more.

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