There are many ways people can respond to world events.
I am currently working with the Oxford Concert Party, a music group whose basic ethos is around the healing power of music. Their latest project began in mid-January and will last 6 months. Originally inspired by the images on our screens over the past couple of years of boat people struggling to find safety in a new country, the project has gained added relevance during recent times.
The project is described thus:
“WAVING HELLO is to celebrate diversity and to recognise the importance of trade and travel in the history of Western art, in particular as it is reflected in the collection at the Ashmolean Museum. In doing so we will challenge preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers, exploring our common humanity in a creative and interdisciplinary way. The project will involve music, storytelling and/or poetry and visual arts and will be in collaboration with the education officer at the Ashmolean. The focus is likely to be on journeys - life journeys, physical journeys, storytelling through objects, the creation of written pieces that may become songs or performed pieces. It is very important that the finished ‘products’ and what they might be are inspired by the people taking part, many of whom spend their time as refugees/immigrants being ‘done to’. Our intention is to create and guide a process within which the participants have the opportunity not only to give voice to their stories but also shape the outcomes.
“This will be an intergenerational project bringing together refugees and asylum seekers, primary and secondary school groups. Key to developing an understanding of what it means to leave home and the concepts of asylum and refuge is the involvement of people who have actually made this journey, whether they are still awaiting decisions of their final destinations (those at Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre), are in Oxford still attempting to find a permanent home (Crisis/Big Issue) or have already found a home of some kind in Oxford.”
The project will deliver over 55 creative sessions to groups including primary schools; secondary schools; Refugee Resource; Crisis/Big Issue; and Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre. These are being facilitated by arts practitioners (musicians, visual artists, poets, storytellers) who all share the same concerns about the demonisation of refugees and immigrants.
There will be a large public event in central Oxford at the end of June to share the work created by the project and to raise public awareness of the contribution of refugees to the UK. Check out the Oxford Concert Party Facebook page for details and photos.
Isabel Knowland, Joint Artistic Director of Oxford Concert Party and driving force behind the project, was recently interview for Oxfordshire television about the project: