Across the weekend (20-21 August) ArtReach and the #JourneysFest team hosted the Core Festival in Jubilee Square. The festival entertained the crowds of Leicester, offering a huge breadth of diverse entertainment that celebrated the artistic talent and incredible stories of exceptional refugee and asylum seeker artists.
The music stage drew in the passing crowds and brought together international sounds and influences in a variety of guises, expertly curated by ArtReach Project Manager Holly Goodfellow. Didier Kisala opened the music stage at 1pm Saturday, effortlessly initiating the themes of the festival. Yasmin Kadi and Namvula brought soulful sounds through incredible vocals. Op Sa! Balkan kept the crowds moving on Sunday afternoon with their infamous wild beats and gypsy flair, as did the contemporary hip hop funk sounds of Afro Cluster, who graced the stage of BBC Introducing at Glastonbury this year – from Worthy Farm to Journeys Festival International!
The digital genius of Addictive TV gave a unique element to the music line up. Their “Orchestra of Samples” project connected 200 international musicians, intelligently stitching audio and video samples together into an electro-dance sound. A tangible element to their performance was added by the accompaniment by Iranian percussionist Arian Sadr. We hope this collaboration will continue into the future, as it perfectly demonstrates the connectivity we feel is integral to Journeys Festival International.
It was a particular pleasure to showcase Manchester International Roots Orchestra on the Saturday, who are closely linked to Community Arts Northwest - one of our partners as we take Journeys Festival International to Manchester from 01 – 10 October .
Between each performance the crowds were kept entertained by the moving image screen, produced by ArtReach’s Young Producer Hannah Pillai, that featured animations and factual films focusing on the refugee experience. Humans After All, Funfairs and Shabana provided the poignant stories of a young Syrian boy in Beirut, members of the Calais ‘Jungle’ and a feature on the torment of Aleppo.
There There’s intelligent and witty interactive performance, Eastern Europeans for Dummies, consisted of Eastern European stereotypes being presented in traditional British fete games, revealing the ridiculousness of these misconceptions and exploring the themes of integration, alienation and… immigration!
The wonderful Rita Marcalo had outstretched arms on the Saturday to dance and engage members of the audience with refugees currently in ‘The Jungle’ camp in Calais through her project Dancing With Strangers: From Calais to England. Rita created duets with refugees to perform with people in England. Unable to cross the border, Rita connected members of our audience with them, through the expression of dance, despite the geographical distance.
Community Kite Project held 'make-your-own' kite workshops, celebrating the kite flying traditions from countries such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and India. Children and adults put their crafty skills to the test, and it was incredible to see the sky above Jubilee Square full of kites with children and their parents running enthusiastically ahead.
International Kite Project was a digital take on similar themes and allowed the public to fly kites in the digitally created landscapes of the above. Created in association with our partners at Inspirate.
Before Aar Maanta took to the stage to close the Core Festival, Faceless Arts performed their incredibly poignant and touching performance Driftwood. A driftwood boat and puppets set out to sail across a metaphorical, vast body of water, processing through Leicester City Centre.
Expert puppeteers brought the figures alive and re-enacted the plight faced by many refugees. The performance was set to an emotive soundtrack, composed by Maria Jardardottir. Throughout the morning, children and adults alike had created flags out of foil blankets, decorated on the theme of ‘Welcome’. These were placed next to the stage as a beacon of light and hope on the mainland. The crew of driftwood puppets approached the shore and were welcomed off the boat by children from the audience wrapping foil blankets around them, showing the alien figures care and love. It was a moving testament to current affairs, and was a reinforcement to the purposes of Journeys Festival International.
Aar Maanta closed the festival to a crowd a crowd of people from a variety of backgrounds, dancing and singing, and uniting in celebration of sensational art and culture.
Journeys Festival International Executive Producer, Nicola Middler, said,
“The Festival weekend bought together a hugely diverse audience from Leicestershire and beyond to watch some incredible live music, participate in kite making workshops and take part in interactive performances. The weekend was full of special moments, displays of solidarity and above all everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity or background, coming together to celebrate and enjoy great art and music buy some of the UK's most exceptional refugee artists!”
Journeys Festival International continues artistic activity across Leicester until the end of August. Look Up features Mohamad Khayata’s photographic project Stitching My Syria Back on large scale, iconic buildings across Leicester’s cityscape.
Our innovative space, The Container Project, stands in Orton Square. Exhibitions will continue until the 27th August, featuring a photographic documentary behind the scenes of Belarus Free Theatre and the Zimbabwean Association’s exhibition ’12 years.’ Volunteers from Leicester City of Sanctuary will be on hand to discuss, inform and debunk myths surrounding the refugee experience.