On Friday the 4th of October, I had the pleasure of attending the Journeys Festival International Manchester launch event at the International Anthony Burgess Centre.
As we waited for the performances to begin, we were warmly invited to share a range of refreshments and to engage in conversations with the various other people also in attendance.
The first performance was by a member of their Roots project, in which various young people came together to create poems and stories about their experiences of living in the UK as refugees.
The first performer was Mandla Rae, whose powerful story focused on her experience as a child immigrant from Zimbabwe, and how that affected and informed the way that she processed other experiences. For example, the moment the immigration detention officers came to her home to detain her grandmother and the corresponding pain of feeling like you don’t have an identity. The diaspora leaves many with dual identities and yet not feeling completely comfortable in wholly embracing either. The beautiful and slow paced way in which she dictated her poem left a warm silence in the room that spoke volumes, and allowed us as the audience to not only learn but to support and be present in Mandla’s stories.
The second poet was a lovely Iranian man who’s name I am unable to find on their artists list, but his impact was definitely memorable. He entertained the audience with his comedic charm by describing a trip to the museum in which the artefacts spoke back to him. However, there were profound moments that left us pause and ponder. Such as: why is it that many western countries idolise artefacts from third-world countries and keep them well-maintained, but fail to show the same regard for the many people who flee conflict from the same countries? Or, why are artefacts being studied for clues of the current conditions of countries, when their people’s cries are being ignored?
It was these questions that left me puzzled, trying to find an answer and wanting to do better. This launch event was a very powerful night of unity, to allow those with silenced voices to be heard.