Citizen Songwriters was inspired by the success of our flagship project, Stories of sanctuary!
The project began in the summer of 2018 after singer-songwriter Sam Slatcher was awarded Arts Council funding to run a project that brought together residents of the city of Durham with newly settled Syrian refugees.
A year later the project had not only resulted in a series of workshops where original music had been written by participants, and a professionally recorded album, but ALSO a UK wide tour…
The choir consisting of a pool of 30 participants are all seeking sanctuary of a kind – from Syrian refugees in County Durham, to asylum seekers living in Teesside, to local residents who sing with the choir, to a viola player from the National Syrian Orchestra.
This year’s tour emerged after the Stories of Sanctuary project visited the Houses of Parliament in November 2018 as part of partner organisation City of Sanctuary’s annual Sanctuary in Parliament event. The group found the experience so empowering, they decided to run a Crowdfund Campaign and by January 2019 had successfully raised £5500, with an additional £2000 in donations off line.
The tour began in the North East in March, launched at Durham Cathedral to coincide with the St Cuthbert Festival, followed by a performance at ARC Stockton. The story of St Cuthbert features as one of the stories within the project, as a much-loved northern saint whose resting place in Durham Cathedral came about after a long and painful exile from the Vikings in the 8 – 10th century in Northern Britain.
In June, the project made the most of Refugee Week with a performance at the Migration Matters Festival in Sheffield as well as Hull University, one of City of Sanctuary’s University of Sanctuaries.
For Aisha from Guinea Bissau, the tour made her realise that acting and singing is the future she wishes to pursue:
“Telling stories, putting people together from different backgrounds to tell their stories, sharing their experiences, it’s the most beautiful thing”
In August, the project were back on the road and visited two more cities: Stourbridge for the International Festival of Glass and Leicester Cathedral for Artreach’s Journeys Festival International.
Sabah, a member of the choir and tour coordinator talks of her experience singing in the performance:
“Music is the language of the world. When I was singing I felt every word I sang. I sang from my heart to all the hearts of the audience. I wanted to tell them that despite pain and sadness, we are brave because sometimes you just need to hope and have faith that things will work out.”
The project will visit one more town in November 2019: Chandler’s Ford in Hampshire who collectively contributed almost £2k to the Stories of Sanctuary Tour Crowdfund Campaign.