Migration Matters Festival takes place from June 17 - 25 to highlight the positive impact migration and refugees have in Sheffield, as well as bring the whole city together.
Theatre, music, food and performance events featuring renowned artists are just some of the activities running in well-known venues, from The Leadmill to The Montgomery Theatre.
The festival shines a light on international communities which call Sheffield home but may not be widely known - such as people of the Karen group in Myanmar who have now settled in the S6 area.
Festival Director, Sam Holland said: “The festival shows you who is in the city. It shows you who your neighbours are and it is a lovely, eye-opening way of getting to know the richness of Sheffield. There isn’t anything more special than seeing community cohesion in action, to be meeting people of all the different places who have called Sheffield a sanctuary.”
Theatre producer Sam started working on the Migration Matters Festival in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum and Syrian refugee crisis. After the Windrush scandal and increase in hate crimes, including many assaults on East Asian people in Sheffield during the Covid-19 lockdowns, there has never been a more important time to promote unity.
Sam said the festival echoes Sheffield’s history of welcoming new people from across the world, and its status as the country’s first City of Sanctuary. He added: “The festival mirrors the times when the city has come together and reaches out to the different communities who call Sheffield home, combating the division that a lot of far-right press and organisations will try to espouse.”
Held during national Refugee Week, the festival celebrates different cultures and helps marginalised people to feel represented. It has grown to attract international artists, is the biggest UK festival of its kind and some 10,000 people attend festival events.
Sam added: “We try to dismantle the labels of migrant and refugee so that people can feel they are Sheffield. But at the same time some people really own those terms and love the fact there is a festival that celebrates them. People ask who the festival is for - it is for everyone.”
This year’s Migration Matters Festival will have a guest programmer. Taiwanese artist Howl Yuan has put together a strand of events, from talks to films and theatre, exploring the concept and notion of diaspora.
In a coup for the festival, acclaimed British author Lemn Sissay will talk about his extraordinary life through his book, My Name is Why, at The Montgomery. Nigerian musician Seun Kuti, son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, is to perform with Fela’s original band Egypt 80 at Foundry Sheffield and all-female world music supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique are to wow The Leadmill with a high-octane gig.
Seun, who is performing in a Migration Matters collaboration with La Rumba, said: “It is my pleasure to lend my art to the advancement of humanity anytime I am called upon. I appreciate the opportunity, and may the ancestors guide and protect us all as we converge to move the people.”
Opening and closing parties will feature food from Open Kitchen Social Club Sheffield, which offers shared meals for all in need. The Phosphoros Theatre Company, a dynamic company of lived experience refugee performers, will also showcase their latest play, All The Beds I Have Slept In, and walking group Peaks of Colour will help people experience the Peak District in a safe space.
All events run on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis and booking through Sheffield company Tickets For Good will open soon. Visit the festival website: migrationmattersfestival.co.uk
The festival is funded by Arts Council England, the University of Sheffield and the Evan Cornish Foundation as well as the National Lottery Community Fund.