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Theatre of Sanctuary Network Assembly meets in Sheffield

City of Sanctuary’s Arts Stream has become more of a river than a trickle in recent months, with a second Theatre of Sanctuary Network Assembly event that drew together those working in theatre to promote sanctuary.

The meeting took place in the birth city of the City of Sanctuary movement in Sheffield, at Sheffield Theatres, on Friday 21st February 2020 and brought together 30 theatre practitioners, festival organisers and other arts curators.

City of Sanctuary’s founder Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal gave the group a warm welcome to the city reminding us that the arts are key in communicating stories of welcome in positive, creative and imaginative ways, to dispel fear and build cities of welcome and hospitality.

Credit: Smart Banda

The day also featured practitioners from SBC Theatre sharing their experiences of being involved in two collaborative theatre productions. For SBC Theatre, the experience of working with Taf and Emily, two artists with lived experience of seeking sanctuary, “changed the way we do theatre”. Emily and Taf shared very openly and honestly about how theatre became a ‘sanctuary’ to them and a safe space where they could process the difficult experiences they’ve had.

“I didn’t think I’d be listened to, and I thought I would just be pushed around. I thought there were only bad people in the world. But these guys listened to me and worked with me and made me realise there are still good people” – Emily

Credit: Smart Banda

The meeting also showcased some of the very moving photographs from the Women’s Voices photo exhibition from Leeds (see the article banner image above) led by Rose McCarthy from Refugee Council. In the afternoon, the group visited The Sanctuary, a vibrant community space where sanctuary seekers and refugees can come for information, advice and support, as well as FreeDome, a four-day arts extravaganza brought by Good Chance (The Jungle) in collaboration with Sheffield Theatres.

Drawing on the morning’s learning, the group explored how the Theatre of Sanctuary Network Assembly might nurture the growth in interest from theatre practitioners in responding to refugee issues. The group explored:

  • How the network moves forward in organisation and ‘code of conduct’
  • How to better communicate and share best practice
  • Whether a mentorship scheme might support both small independent practitioners as well as larger organisations
  • How to increase the participation of those with lived experience and ensure the movement is refugee-led (the importance of working with and not for)
  • Influencing others within theatre on the importance of being ‘Theatres of Sanctuary’
  • How to respond effectively to recent government legislation and the ongoing hostile environment towards migrants and refugees.
  • Bringing in more expertise from the refugee sector, the arts and political campaigning
  • Whether to choose an annual campaign to rally behind through arts and storytelling

Credit: Smart Banda

If you would like to be part of the above conversation, or if you’d like to join the Arts Stream mailing list to find out about the Theatre of Sanctuary Network Assembly, as well as other arts-related events, please contact Sam Slatcher.

The next Theatre of Sanctuary Network Assembly will take place in August 2020. More details to follow.

Follow @CityofSanctuary and #TheatreofSanctuary on social media and do check out the Arts Stream website for more information of the Arts within City of Sanctuary and how your organisation could become a Theatre (or Theatre Company) of Sanctuary.

Upcoming events: 

Platforma meeting – Wakefield – 3rd April

The 6th biennial Platforma arts & refugees festival will take place in Yorkshire (October 2021). Join Counterpoints Arts at The Art House (Wakefield) to discuss plans so far and to consider how we might work together to develop the programme. 2-5pm. All welcome.

RSVP [email protected]

Credit: Smart Banda