By Julia White.

migration matters

In early May, we filmed twenty minutes of footage for a short promotional video on The Moor outside Theatre Delicatessen. This area is located in the heart of Sheffield city centre and we were curious to see how many Sheffielders passing by spoke other languages.

Of the ten people who stopped to chat we heard seven different languages: Cantonese, Thai, Spanish, Mandarin, Pashto, Persian and English. To speak to such a diverse group in so little time says so much about the makeup of this city and the extent of the journeys people have taken to reach what is becoming less the Steel City and more a city of sanctuary.

Migration Matters Festival has itself been an exhilarating journey. We have put together a programme of events run by artists, theatre companies, charities & community groups, with established names such as: ice and fire, Target Theatre, Eclipse Theatre and Chris Thorpe, alongside local Sheffield based projects: Open Kitchen Social Club, intercultural drama group Side by Side, refugee led dance groups Umoja African Dance and One Way Belongings. These people, with their varying cultural backgrounds, will share a stage for our nine-day festival. Without a doubt there is a certain soul and energy to the festival, which will remain defiant whatever the outcome of the referendum vote on the 23rd.

Along with festival support from charities City of Sanctuary Sheffield, British Red Cross, the Refugee Council and SYMAAG, Theatre Delicatessen – based in the former Woolworths – have allowed us to use the venue for nine days free of charge and have provided great support towards the Migration Matters cause, without them we’d simply have no place to stage the delights that will take place a week on Friday. [17th June 2016]

The response to the festival has been incredibly positive. Members of the public, many of who aren’t familiar with the plights and struggles of the asylum system and the hardships faced by refugees, have spoken about how important it is to have a festival like this for the city. We have also been reaching out to many of the city’s migrant communities, including the drop-in centres in the city centre, where we have been learning about the problems faced by refugees and asylum seekers. The team have attended talks, meetings and charitable events for those who are newly arrived to Sheffield. It has affirmed the reasons for putting on this festival as part of Refugee Week recognising the issues surrounding migration.

With now just ten days till the beginning of the festival, nerves of excitement are creeping in as we look towards the redesign of Theatre Delicatessen’s ground floor space, as the café, exhibition and performance space are refashioned, creating a ‘welcome’ buzz for Refugee Week. We are currently on the lookout for volunteers as there are many jobs ranging from: decorating and assembling sets, and handing out our festival brochures, to working with artists and companies in the space. It is sure to be a rewarding and joyful experience to be a part of. We hope you can join us for the celebration.

Please get in touch for more information on the festival at: