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JFI Leicester reaches increased audiences – despite the weather!

In spite of the changeable weather, larger audiences than ever supported and enjoyed the exciting range of high quality art on offer at Journeys Festival International (JFI) Leicester.

The 10-day Festival (17-26 August), celebrating the talents of refugee artists, included a powerful and eclectic range of work from the screening of world famous artist and activist, Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow to a Pop-Up exhibition of artwork from the Calais Jungle.

Peppered throughout the ten days were special activities such as the New Walk Museum Takeover offering a Saturday of creative workshops in the museum environment and world cookery demonstrations at Soft Touch Arts.

There was the chance to gain a better insight into artist and photographer, Farhad Berahman’s exceptional “postage-stamp” LOOK UP exhibition with an Art Walk and Coffee Shop Conversation. Led by the artist and Leicester Print Workshop, attendees finished the evening with complementary tea and cake!

A great many events took place under Arabella Dorman’s powerful installation, Suspended in Leicester Cathedral. A fantastic partner to JFI the Cathedral witnessed a series of moving music events, debates and moving image, including stories of refugees and asylum seekers from the LGBT+ community.

Naturally, a highlight of the Festival was the jam-packed finale Weekender.

Saturday featured a day full of newly commissioned Street Theatre performances alongside a spectacular VOICES parade, all part of our European project, funded by Creative Europe. The parade was the fruit of several weeks of workshops with participant volunteers enjoying crafts and performance rehearsals with SBC Theatre and Enter Edem, and including a final rehearsal week before the Saturday performance. Their work paid off as passersby were treated to a bright and colourful parade travelling from three different locations in the city centre. The dancing and revelry culminated in a finale performance in Jubilee Square where the group sang uplifting messages of “welcome” to their audience.

Bookending this were a variety of VOICE performances. Parrabbola Theatre gave families the chance to experiment with making beautiful wind-powered music during their performance, Wheeze: Winds of Change. Many loved the ArtReach commission of an interactive large scale musical instrument, before the Generalissima and her evil henchman came to spoil the fun in a performance cleverly using the universality of music to sidestep language barriers.

Following this, another VOICES performance, Arte Studio’s One Table and Five Chairs, Or Actually Six wowed audiences. A seemingly simple game of tables, chairs and costume, the dance theatre piece, created by a company from Rome, explored boundaries and identity and held a large audience in fascination.

Then the final VOICES performance saw Teatrul National Radu Stance (Sibiu, Romania) combine street art, theatre, dance and music in Behind the Wall.

For Sunday’s JFI Weekender Music Programme, audiences kept up morale thanks to plentiful free tea and coffee from Syria and Morocco. Their cheerfulness maintained a feeling of warmth in the midst of the pretty continuous rain. Indeed, the artists bounced off this positive audience energy to in turn encourage everyone to dance and sing all the way from Lydia Unsudimi’s opening performance to Krar Collective’s finale.

Ending the day was new writing from Michael Morpurgo in Safe Passage and the popular screening of Another News Story at Phoenix Cinema. Both created a satisfying conclusion to this year’s eighth outing of the Festival.

Journeys Festival International Leicester continues to feel welcome in its home city as it again saw a successful 10 days of theatre, music, art, films and workshops, bringing communities together in multicultural Leicester

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