2019 marks another successful year for Journeys Festival International Manchester as it returned to the North-West to deliver its fourth edition and explore the refugee experience through artistic and creative encounters.
Over the 10 days (4-13 October), the Festival presented a range of activities from informative coffee shop conversations to visual art exhibitions.
Following its launch event, the Festival started strong thanks to performances of Phosphoros Theatre’s Pizza Shop Heroes at HOME. Placing refugees centre-stage to tell their own stories and powerfully reclaim them, audiences went on a global journey with the talented performers.
Performance also featured in Dance Away The Spiders, a show by local refugees and asylum seekers, produced by ArtReach and Sheba Arts, which was shared at HOME before the performance was seen by the public as part of Journeys Live.
In fact, the Journeys Live event was a standout moment of the 10 days. Passers-by were drawn in by artist Isobel Tarr’s The Channel as well as Ibukun Jesusanmi Baldwin’s banner-making workshop.
Then music and performance kept their eyes riveted to the Journeys Live stage while holding on to a plate of delicious Pay-What-You-Feel food from Sanctuary Kitchen, a combined effort from Manchester City of Sanctuary and social enterprise 4Lunch.
First up was Gambian Kora Master, Jali Nyonkoling Kuyateh. He soothed all with his enchanting sounds in the morning, while the diverse influences of Manchester International Roots Orchestra (MIRO) revved up the crowds to close the event with aplomb.
MIRO also entertained at the launch of This Garden of Ours at Manchester Museum. A collaborative horticultural project led by artist Jessica El Mal, the exhibition explored stories and links between the migration of plants and humans across the planet. Utilising a range of techniques, the work provided much material for discussion – particularly useful as the launch featured a panel and Q&A before the attendees could then chat and mingle to MIRO’s music.
Collaboration was additionally a feature of a co-commission between ArtReach and Commonword. As part of Letters to Our Mothers and Fathers, poet Mandla Rae worked with participants to explore the ways we interact with our families. These workshops culminated in emotive performances, which often explores personal but powerful stories of loss.
Similarly, the Women’s Unity Choir was a very moving collaboration between communities including The University of Manchester music students, Manchester University Music Society, Olympias Music Foundation’s Women’s Voices Choir and Amani Community Choir. They first performed in the University of Manchester’s impressive Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall before the crowds for Journeys Live to great applause.
Still there was clearly an appetite for more informational events as well as the emotional as seen by the turn-out for the Festival’s Coffee Shop discussions. Topics such as Protest Art and Culture in Post-Revolutionary Iran or The Uncomfortable Truths of our Coffee and Tea Drinking set up some fascinating debates that will no doubt continue beyond the parameters of the event and overall Festival.
In fact, the busy 10 days of performance, music, art, dance and workshops helped bring about various forms of collaboration between diverse groups of people. More importantly however, some of these relationships and connections fostered over the course of the Festival seem ready to last far beyond the confines of the Festival period.
Some of Journeys Festival International Manchester exhibitions are still open to the public. For more details, see the Journeys Festival International Manchester programme here.