A new project to celebrate cultural diversity and highlight the plight of refugees has been launched by Shrewsbury Folk Festival.
Organisers of the annual four-day music festival have secured a £95,000 investment from Arts Council England for the 18-month Room for All initiative that will include a new music commission featuring refugee musicians and a programme of education and outreach work in the county. Shropshire Council has awarded the festival a £1,000 Arts Revenue Grant.
Room for All follows on from the festival’s successful All Together Now programme that focused on introducing a new audience to world music and dance during 2015 and 2016.
The new music commission will be led by duo O’Hooley and Tidow and an ensemble of refugee musicians and will premiere at this year’s festival.
Room for All will include performances by culturally diverse musicians at the 2017 and 2018 festival, an outreach talent development programme for young people led by inspiring artists to pass on different folk traditions and nurture new talent, music workshops in Telford schools giving young people an introduction to folk music, Indian Kathak dance workshops in schools, continued support for the Shropshire Youth Folk Ensemble and for Shropshire’s only school rapper side at Ford Trinity School, which is a legacy from All Together Now.
Festival Director Alan Surtees said the idea for Room for All came as a direct response to the racial hatred and opposition to refugees that emerged during the Brexit campaign.
“We felt so despondent and downhearted at the division, negativity and prejudice that surfaced during the campaign we decided to try and bring some decency and optimism to the plight of refugees, if only to our own small event,” he explained.
“Room for all to grow and thrive encapsulates the festival’s welcoming philosophy of celebrating diversity and fostering talent. Through this project, we are hoping to encourage understanding of different cultures in a world that can sometimes seem less that welcoming or tolerant and, with that deeper cultural understanding, we can build a better legacy for the future.”
Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted to be investing in Shrewsbury Folk Festival’s plans to celebrate and promote cultural diversity through this new project.
“It’s essential that England’s diversity is reflected in our arts and cultural landscape, Room for All is a perfect example of how that can be done. By collaborating with traditional and refugee musicians as well as hosting workshops and promoting outreach work this project will inspire new artists and nurture talent in rural Shropshire.”
Project Manager Joy Lamont said the festival’s growing commitment to education and outreach work had been widely welcomed by the schools it had reached so far.
“We recognise that in many rural parts of Shropshire it can be hard to promote cultural diversity and understanding through the arts. Room for All aims to continue the work we started with All Together Now and provide high quality and multi cultural arts activities to schools and young people in Shropshire.”
* This year’s festival runs from August 25 to 28 at the West Mid Showground and tickets are available at www.shrewsburyfolkfestival.co.uk.