Journeys Festival International, online, 28 September–18 October 2020, free entry - Visit now
Far from the great leveller it was first portrayed to be, Covid-19 has impacted upon all our lives but by no means equally. It has thrown disparities in wealth, health, social provision and other areas into even starker relief and exacerbated these problems further. Government intervention has helped some in the UK, but many remain left out or have fallen further down the ranking order of those who are taken care of in society – a system in which refugees and asylum seekers come far toward the bottom. Indeed, the experience of many displaced individuals (estimated to be around 26 million globally) over the past few months has drastically worsened. In the densely populated refugee camps of Bangladesh and Lebanon, the UNHCR has described the situation brought about by coronavirus as a ‘crisis on top of a crisis’.
All this makes this year’s Journeys Festival International – which explores the experiences of refugees from around the world through art – timelier than ever, whilst its digital staging (taking place online rather than across Manchester, Leicester and Portsmouth, as it would normally), adds to its global context. Produced by ArtReach, the organisers appear to have programmed what might be the festival’s most rich and dynamic edition yet. The offer is broad and interactive, spanning comedy, live music, performance, podcasts, artist-led workshops, immersive experiences and more. For the first time, each week of the festival’s run will also be themed – consecutively under the headings ‘Exploring the World We Live In’, ‘The Way We See the World’ and ‘Hope and Celebration’ – and centre upon one of three core commissions.
Of these, in week one, Glasgow-based Iranian artist and photographer Iman Tajik will present This is Not For Me Now – an exhibition of performative photographs responding to the pandemic and the experience of restricted movement. In week two, a film titled If You Want To Be Alive…Read My Lips by artist and Deaf female refugee Maral Mamaghanizadeh will explore the difficulty of engaging politically when you do not have access to sound through her work creating delicate bone china ear jewellery that replicates the experience of someone with hearing impairments when pressed to the ear of a fully hearing person. In week three, DOWN UP SIDE by Manchester-based Another Story Collective will lead audiences on a series of ‘intergalactic journeys’ from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the planet Mancunia, via a combination of spoken word poetry, soundscapes and 3D illustrations.
Alongside this, audiences are invited to take part in a series of remote cooking classes with Global Kitchen introducing different dishes from around the world, and listen to Somali-British activist and writer, Magid Magid, discuss human rights, politics and the current challenges facing Europe with guests including Yasmine Ouirhrane, named Young European of the Year 2019 for her advocacy work on social and gender justice. There’ll also be a host of additional online art exhibitions and free film broadcasts running throughout the festival, including the premier of a short documentary about ‘Radio Erena’ – an Eritrean pirate radio station established to share accurate, uncensored news with citizens living under the current dictatorship – followed by a Q&A with its makers.
Check out the full programme below!
Journeys Festival International, online