Journeys Festival International – A unique festival setting a standard for 2017

November 9, 2016


After 46 days of events between August and October, 180 cans of spray paint, 110 metres of gaffer tape, 15 pop-up performances, a theatre world premiere of Belarus Free Theatre’s Burning Doors, a UK moving image premiere of Sanctuary/Sustenance: The Story of Many Journeys in the ethereal setting of Portsmouth Cathedral and an epic #JourneysFest Manchester Museum Take Over, we are proud to announce that Journeys Festival International showcased the work of more than 150 artists, both international and UK based, supported by 30 fantastic partner organisations, across 3 cities. The annual Journeys Festival International in Leicester, and our inaugural events in Manchester and Portsmouth have drawn to a close for 2016.


[Above] Journeys Festival International, Leicester 


Across the host cities of Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth four core strands of activity took place - Look Up, Coffee Shop Conversations, The Container Project and the presentation of Burning Doors by Belarus Free Theatre – amongst a huge variety of other events that were enhanced by the landscape of each city. With each programming decision, relevant to each city, a different audience was engaged with the work and the issues raised by Journeys Festival International.


The Container Project initiated the Festival in each city. A shipping container, symbolic of export and transference of place, was positioned in a significant location, becoming an innovative project space. Street artists were commissioned to transform the exterior of the container and provide an individual comment, illustrative of the Festival core mission. In Leicester, local urban artist N4T4 created a vibrant mural of a welcoming woman, with palms outstretched, indicating an all-important aspect of Journeys Festival International – celebration.


[Above] The Container Project: [Left] Nomad Clan, Manchester [Right] N4T4, Leicester


Manchester saw acclaimed graffiti collective Nomad Clan create a mural on the container in the city centre location of St Ann’s Square, reflective of their experiences in the Calais ‘Jungle.’ In partnership with contemporary art gallery Aspex, the Portsmouth container hosted the WELL-COME project to kick start the festival. Placed in the central square of the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty for Creative and Cultural Industries, local artist M-One worked alongside members of the refugee and asylum seeker community to produce a text based mural depicting a map of the world. The piece documented personal stories of displacement and travel across land and sea, in order to seek refuge. The container became a map, dotted with personal messages from the refugees’ experiences.



[Above] The WELL-COME Project, Portsmouth


For the duration of each Festival, the containers played host to innovative artistic projects, from screen printing (with City of Sanctuary and Leicester Print Workshop), Youth Cultures with unaccompanied young refugees working (with After 18 and Soft Touch Arts), to hosting pop up theatre performances – the containers were animated, both inside and out.


[Above] Stitching My Syria Back, Leicester Look Up


Look Up is a high impact, large scale outdoor visual arts exhibition that took place across the three cities and showcased bodies of work by three different artists, offerings a connecting space for the general public to engage with the artwork of an international refugee artist, in unexpected settings. In Leicester, Journeys Festival International presented the poignant photographic series Stitching My Syria Back by Syrian artist Mohamad Khayata. Khayata is currently seeking asylum in Lebanon, from his home in Syria. On his travels he has photographed dispersed Syrian refugees, shrouded in a colourful “Madeh,” a traditional Syrian patchwork quilt. As a result of Look Up, Khayata was invited to exhibit his paintings at the Beirut Art Fair, raising his profile and establishing himself within the arts scene of his temporary home.


[Above] Installation at St. Peter's Square, Leicester


In Portsmouth the Festival presented the work of internationally renowned Greek artist Nikos Papadopoulos through his Plasticobilism series. Papadopoulos creates dioramas that provide a thought-provoking comment on society, through the use of innocent Playmobil figures. The figurines offer a challenging comment on current refugee and asylum seeker issues. Papadopoulos then posts his artworks to his network of 30,000 followers on the Plasticobilism Facebook page. The challenge presented by the artworks stood out across the Portsmouth landscape.


[Above] Plasticobilism, Portsmouth Look Up


In Manchester the Festival presented The Beholder series by Jamal Jameel, a refugee from Iraq and photography student at Salford University. Jameel created a series of assisted self – portraits of members of the local refugee community, providing a realistic depiction of a group whose identity is very often skewered. ArtReach will be developing Look Up further to increase impact and profile in presentations next year.


[Above] The Beholder, Manchester Look Up