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Creativity of refugee community celebrated in Festival 31

Dorota Modlinger Mandala of Hope and Dreams New Moon Ritual

A month long celebration of refugee arts and culture has started as part of National Refugee Week. Festival 31 has launched this week and offers a series of unique and thought provoking art commissions and events exploring the refugee experience. Organised by Liverpool based charity SOLA Arts, the festival has been taking place in the City since 2014, but has moved online this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As part of Festival 31, 9 commissioned artists will see their work exhibited on the Culture Liverpool website, which is partnering with SOLA Arts and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse to co-ordinate this year's festival and showcase the creativity and cultures of both our refugee communities, and artists from refugee backgrounds. Artists were able to bid for micro grants funded by Culture Liverpool, Our Liverpool, Liverpool City Council's Refugee and Asylum Seeker Service, and the estate of artist Fanchon Fröhlich who studied and lived in Liverpool. The commissioned artists have responded to the theme of "Creative Connections" and what the number 31 can be, maybe:- 31 days, 31 hours, 31 people, 31 countries, 31 questions…

Festival 31's commissioned artists are:-

► Adrian Mejia - VIDA In The Time Of Corona.

► A mini documentary detailing the artist's personal experience as a gay asylum seeker living with virus symptoms.

► Becky Downing - 31 Letters In My Alphabet.

► A piece representing some of the voices, languages and accents that make up the rich range of dialects in Liverpool.

► Bisakha Sarker - Splash.

► A Zoom film presenting a number of 31 syllable poems.

► Dorota Modlinger - Mandala of Hope and Dreams - New Moon Ritual

► A visual interpretation of the dreams, signs and symbols shared in a live online performance.

► Kali Chandrasegaram - Move'in A Charm.

► A piece bringing together 31 hand artists exploring 31 magical charms complemented by an original soundtrack.

► Karen Wynne - dis/mis.

► A video piece, using a mobile phone camera whilst making a short journey through the artist's community on bike and on foot.

► Nesrin Yousef - The Will Of The Universe - Unexpected And Out Of Our Control.

► A poem and song reflecting where the artist and her cousin are currently up to in life, the artist in Liverpool and her cousin starting anew in Germany as a musician and singer.

► Nina Edge - The Fall

► A short film evoking the feeling of being deeply rooted in this land, whilst at the same time completely up rooted and wilted by the UK's prevailing cultural norms.

► Rania Alkhllo - Hope.

► A video of 31 different people expressing their hope for the future in their own way and language.

► The festival runs until Sunday, 12 July 2020 and all the commissions and activities can be found at:- CultureLiverpool.Co.UK.

Cllr Wendy Simon, Cabinet Member for Culture, Tourism and Events, said:- "The resilience of our refugee communities is reflected in the resilience of Festival 31 in adapting to these unusual times and moving its celebration of refugee communities online. SOLA Arts has seen these challenges as an opportunity to reach more people and build an understanding through sharing stories that might not usually be heard. Liverpool City Council is proud to support this year's micro commissions that once again show the depth of creativity that can be found in Liverpool and how this City can always find inspiration in even the most bewildering circumstances."

Julie Kashirahamwe, Refugee Programme Manager, Our Liverpool, said:- "Our Liverpool has been working with Culture Liverpool and local arts organisations to engage refugees in cultural activities in the City. We are delighted to support Festival 31, which enables refugee artists to celebrate their own culture, talents and contributions."

Adele Spiers, Managing Director, SOLA Arts, said:- "It's been such a great opportunity this year to develop Festival 31 in new, digital way. Working closer with Culture Liverpool and Everyman & Playhouse Theatres has meant reaching a much wider audience and enabling even more meaningful creative conversations around the refugee experience. This is what the festival is about; exploring, developing understanding and empathy, challenging yet meaningful conversations, connections and all through creativity. The need for a creative way of processing our current environment, including COVID 19 and the parallels between this and the refugee experience, makes this year's festival even more important to hold. With the current public discussions around social and personal consciousness of the black experience of which refugees are a part, confirms how important Festival 31 is."

Artist Becky Downing said:- "Festival 31 is all about creating a dialogue with refugees, and celebrating their cultures. For me, I was keen to explore this dialogue through poetry and language because I really believe that language is one of our most powerful tools in society, and poetry can be a great mechanism for finding a distinct voice that's personal and powerful within that. I'm really grateful to have been able to facilitate this work with the groups I connected with, and I feel like I've also learnt a lot in return through the sharing and creating process. Festival 31 is massively important because of its strive for connection and creativity. There's a void that's been created by the pandemic because of lockdown, and a feeling of isolation that accompanies that, which Festival 31 attempts to fill. It is an important project of both outreach and creativity to explore how our refugee communities can engage and express themselves, especially so during a pandemic where our interactions and access to a creative community are limited."

Artist Adrian Mejia said:- "I decided to make this short film series after having a difficult time in this pandemic as an asylum seeker. We were forgotten by the system and the Home Office, but the British people are always there for us. I hope this short clip series can be a cry out on behalf of those that can't claim for help."

Liverpool's Lord Mayor to make history - again!

LIVERPOOL'S 1st black Lord Mayor has been reappointed for another year as the City's 1st citizen. Councillor Anna Rothery's Town Hall position will be formally endorsed at a meeting of the City Council's cabinet on Friday, 19 June 2020. Councillor Rothery's term as Lord Mayor and her fundraising activities has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown and the decision to reappoint was unanimous among all party leaders. This will be the 1st time in the City Council's history that a Lord Mayor will perform 2 successive terms. Councillor Rothery, who was named the UK's most influential black politician at the National Baton Awards 2019, said she is overwhelmed and humbled by the honour. Speaking ahead of her formal reappointment she added the worldwide impact of the George Floyd murder has inspired her to redouble her efforts to be a role model for the black community and to encourage people to strive to achieve their goals, regardless of their background. Breaking the mould isn't new territory for Councillor Rothery, as in 2012 she made political history by becoming the 1st Liverpool Councillor to address the floor of the United Nations, in Geneva. Addressing representatives from more than 50 countries, Anna talked about religious linguistic and minority communities differences and impacts and the City's work undertaken to increase political representation. 1st elected as a Councillor in 2006, Anna is responsible for the Princes Park ward; an area she was born and grew up in.

Anna attended Granby St infants St Silas Primary School and the former Paddington Comprehensive School, and continued her education by undertaking a number of diplomas in various subjects including:- law, sociology and psychology. For more than 25 years, the new Lord Mayor has worked on business and community development initiatives, and now works as a consultant for Migrant Workers North West; an organisation which champion the rights of our diverse community. She is also the North West Ambassador for the British Institute of Human Rights. Currently Mayoral Lead for Equality and Race, Anna has always put the community at the heart of her work. She is a key player in Operation Black Vote; a scheme to get more black people in to politics and also plays an integral role in bringing various community, political and faith leaders locally, nationally and internationally together to deal with issues relating to inclusion, diversity and new and emerging communities. There is a particular focus on education, employment, business, cultural awareness and championing economic equality. Anna regularly chairs events at the International Slavery Museum and is involved with the Slavery Remembrance Day celebrations and commemorations, which will take place on Sunday, 23 August 2020.

Councillor Anna Rothery said:- "To be given the opportunity to represent my City for an unprecedented second year is overwhelming, although I wish the circumstances were different. Of course Covid-19 has had a terrible impact on so many in our communities but I've been so proud how people in the City have come together to support each other. As we slowly come out of lockdown I look forward to helping to celebrate those people and groups who have made an outstanding contribution to our City in this crisis. Being Lord Mayor has been the greatest experience of my life and having the opportunity to champion what I hold most dear: equality, diversity and community has never been so important, given what has happened around the Black Lives Matter campaign. Racism is a threat to our society and has no place in a multi cultural City. I will be working with all of our community, business leaders and educators to ensure we work together to eradicate it. There is no place in our City or in the hearts of our people for racism. I'm a working class woman brought up in Toxteth; where you come from should never stop you striving or achieving your goals, as Marcus Rashford has proved so powerfully this week, and these past few months have made me even more determined make a difference to the lives of others. It's been an exciting and emotional journey so far and hopefully at the end of this second term the charities I am supporting will feel not only the financial benefit. But will have given the the entire City a greater understanding of their wants needs and aspirations for their beneficiaries. All charities are suffering at the moment and I'm delighted I've got the opportunity to help make a difference."

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said:- "Anna has been a leading light in championing the City's diverse communities since becoming a Councillor in 2006 and she has been a credit to the role of Lord Mayor. We are a welcoming City with a wide variety of cultures which we want to champion and celebrate, and Anna's reappointment will hopefully inspire and educate in equal measure. It's been a shame her charitable fundraising has been so affected by Covid-19, but we all know Anna has the passion and determination to convert obstacles and challenges to an advantage. We can all take inspiration from her enthusiasm and be proud that we have a Lord Mayor who is so committed to improving equality in our society. We need people like Anna now, more than ever."

The Lord Mayor has 4 official charities:- The Anthony Walker Foundation, Amadudu Women's Refuge centre, LCR Pride and Merseyside Somali Association. She is also going to add two ambassadors for her charity work this year.

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