Musicians and artists join a day of community, creativity and hope

By Nick Pelling

The Festival of Sanctuary sends a simple message of welcome, with some of Hastings’ best musicians and artists once again showing their support for the act of seeking sanctuary. Organised by Hastings Community of Sanctuary, and raising funds for Hastings Supports Refugees, the festival celebrates the power of community, of creativity and of hope.

Taking place for the first time in the centre of the town at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, the event, previously known as Festival by the Lake, is now in its fifth year. Many of Hastings’ brilliant musicians have supported the event, and this year’s fantastic lineup includes Buddha Triangle, Helen Sharpe and Clair Nicholson, alongside festival regulars Jamal, Alaa & Zahi, renowned Syrian musicians now based in Brighton. As well as a solo set, Bev Lee Harling will be performing with Lucy Mulgan from Barefoot Opera and the Refugee Buddy Project. Hastings’ younger generation of artists will be represented by Kay Iris and Poppy Sharpe.

Around the grounds of the museum you’ll find storytellers, art workshops, poetry readings, drumming sessions, fun for kids, community stalls and delicious food. You can also take a walk through the woods to the Bohemia Walled Garden – a sanctuary for nature in the heart of the town – for a guided tour.

Inside the museum, you can see a British Museum Spotlight Loan Crossings: community and refuge, a new exhibition featuring the moving Lampedusa Cross made by Francesco Tuccio from the remnants of a refugee boat wrecked near the Italian island of Lampedusa, alongside poignant boat artwork by Syrian-born artist Issam Kourbaj. Made from repurposed bicycle mudguards tightly packed with burnt matches, 12 tiny boats represent the fragile vessels used by refugees to make their perilous voyages as a response to the ongoing tragedy in Syria.

The exhibition is co-curated by the Refugee Buddy Project, who have run workshops with the local refugee community across a series of weeks on the exhibition’s themes, whose work will also be displayed. There will be talks and workshops responding to the themes of the exhibition, including from Issam Kourbaj, exhibition curator Jill Cook from the British Museum and a speaker from the UN Agency for Refugees. A display of original postcards, donated by local artists, will be sold to raise funds for vital work supporting refugees in the UK and in Europe.

With so much conflict around the world, and an increasingly hostile environment in the UK, it is more vital than ever to send out a message of hope

Polly Gifford

Festival organiser Polly Gifford said, “We’re excited to be able to bring people back together this year, and to be working with Hastings Museum. With so much conflict around the world, and an increasingly hostile environment in the UK, it’s more vital than ever to send out a message of hope, and no better way of doing that than through music, art and community.”

Cllr Paul Barnett, Deputy Leader and Lead for Culture and Regeneration at Hastings Borough Council, said, “The council is really delighted that this wonderful festival is taking place in and around our Museum and Art Gallery this year. At a time when the world is increasingly concerned about the plight of refugees, and in a town which does 

so much to welcome people from wherever they come from, we can all learn so much from the experiences and words of those who have successfully settled in Hastings. So, a big thanks to all those volunteers at Hastings Community of Sanctuary and the Refugee Buddy Project who have worked hard to make this happen. I am looking forward to this special day so much.”

Hastings Community of Sanctuary is part of the national City of Sanctuary network. Their vision is for the UK to be a welcoming place of safety for all. A place that is proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. Find out more about their current campaigns and how you can get involved at their stall and at hastings.cityofsanctuary.org, where you can also sign the City of Sanctuary Pledge. Find the latest festival news on the Hastings Supports Refugees Facebook page.

Hastings Festival of Sanctuary Sunday 12th September 2021, 12-6pm, Hastings Museum & Art Gallery. Entry is free and open to all, so bring your picnic (and your dancing shoes) and join them for a day of solidarity, community and culture.

For more information about the festival contact [email protected]

For more information on the exhibition go to britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/crossings-community-and-refuge


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