Refugee Week is an opportunity to celebrate multi-culturalism and the contributions of refugee communities and individuals to our society and there was no better illustration of this that Sheba Arts' 'Diversity and Friendship' festival in Stockport.
The event was an uplifting and triumphant celebration that united the local Hazel Grove community and a wonderful variety of highly talented acts bringing their skills, their cultural traditions, heritage and love of the arts and expression to St Peter's Parish.
Although our selection of performances is a drop in the ocean of the North West's diverse community, together we demonstrated just how privileged we are to have the world on our streets.
We were joined by many amazing talents who helped to turn the evening into the most lively and inspiring occasion by sharing their cultural traditions and talents with the local community.
We enjoyed amazing performances including Irish dancers from St Peter's Parish, no doubt bringing pride and joy to the local community, many of whom revealed they were of Irish descent. We also enjoyed Guatemalan dancing from Sheba Art's own Sally Perez Hilton, performing her own Ixcanul Art project in her traditional Mayan influenced style. The room was on fire for the amazing Malayalee Association of Stockport MAS representing the state of Kerala with their Bollywood and Classical dance act.
Kurdish artist Amang brought us a wonderful paint-to-music spectacle along with Irish music from Lizzy, Connor, Dave and Abbey.
We even enjoyed traditional Morris dancing from Brendan and Dave who led the heavily audience-inclusive Country Dance with all the attendees dancing rounds on stage accompanied by Lizzy on the violin (who had performed earlier in the evening with Dave). We also were honoured to hear Lucy's wonderful singing and poetry from Jolivia.
The evening finally reached it's crescendo with the Culture Bridge organisation. These Kurdish artists had opened the festival with their musical act, and now they rightly would finish the event with the energy and spirit that only a Kurdish dabke can summon, bringing the whole audience to the stage for the final dance.
Meanwhile, the children were challenged to create their own flag designs for nations of their own invention or new designs for existing places and also had the opportunity to enjoy a drumming circle.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the event and helped to make this such a successful and special celebration of diversity from the acts, to the workshop facilitators, to the catering and the wonderful people of St Peter's Parish. We were also profoundly honoured to be supported by Stockport Council.
MUSIC AND DANCE WORKSHOP
I was commissioned by Sheba Arts to deliver a Music and Dance workshop for their new Explore Your Storyteller project in Leigh on Friday, 22 March 2019.
I was looking forward to the experience, but I was not sure what to expect as we did not know which of the women would turn up for the workshops, which are drop-ins in nature. I had prepared an outline of work. The women had been asked to bring a piece of music from their country, something that provokes a memory and/or a piece of dance. As is usually the case, people don’t bring music as they need encouragement from a tutor, so I introduced a song that brought back memories of my own childhood: “Cielito Lindo”, by Luis Alberto del Parana y su Trio los Paraguayos. I explained that my mother used to sing this as a lullaby to me when I was a child and we studied the lyrics.
We had four ladies at the workshop: two from Kinshasa in the DR Congo and two from Zimbabwe. The Zimbabweans were sisters and they explained that they had come from a small village and they did not have a radio or TV, so were not exposed to music until they moved to Harare when they were older. They then developed an interest African music and R&B. The Congolese ladies shared two songs about motherhood and became quite emotional remembering their own mothers back home. The songs were “Maman by Papa Wemba and “Limbisa Nga Maman” by Gatho Beevans. They even sang the songs to us.
Fereshteh Mozaffari from Sheba Arts then explained that music was banned in Iran following the revolution and so their family had had to destroy their music collection.
We then decided it was time to dance! This is where my 15 years as a world music DJ came into its own. I played some African and Latin dance music and soon we were all sharing dance moves. Even one of the Zimbabwean ladies who had a pulled shoulder muscle couldn’t resist the opportunity! Finally, Fereshteh shared a traditional Isfahan dance with us and some of us also joined in. The whole experience was a positive sharing of cultures and really uplifting. I am looking forward to the next workshop in April.
27 March 2019