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Migration Matters Online festival celebrates sanctuary

A festival that hopes to spark a global celebration of sanctuary is going online this year, with music, workshops, dance and theatre broadcast around the world from Sheffield.

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The show '3 Mothers' at last year's Migration Matters.

Coinciding with Refugee Week, the fifth edition of Migration Matters runs from 14 to 20 June and celebrates the positive impact migrants and refugees have had both on Sheffield and the UK.

"The festival is rooted in Sheffield," organiser Tchiyiwe Chihana told Now Then. "We have a global lineup with a vibrant and inclusive series of events, and we intend to engage with local, national and international audiences."

Highlights include Live from the Incubator, a showcase of grassroots hip-hop curated by Sheffield Poet Laureate Otis Mensah and starring Lando Chill, Lucy DK and K.ZIA.

There's also family events such as a storytelling workshop by Alim Kamara, who will share his own stories as well as tips and techniques for performance, confidence building and digital storytelling.

All events are free, with festival organisers asking for donations to Lesbian Asylum Support Sheffield and South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice.

"I'm really excited about the virtual opening party, which is lined up with dynamic global acts such as Taiwan's Kuo-Shin Chuang Pangcah and the Music & Love Band," said Tchiyiwe.

"I'm also looking forward to Virtually Global with Koni Music. It will feature world music and culture from the Middle East and Africa."

On 17 June Tchiyiwe hosts an In Conversation event with Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, where the poet will take audiences on a journey through her debut collection, Postcolonial Banter.

Pizza Shop Heroes opens the festival on Sunday 14 June, starring four refugee young men who travelled to the UK as children from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Albania.

After telling their stories to the Home Office as part of their asylum claims, they have now reclaimed them for the stage and will present a digital version of their play followed by a live Q&A.

The festival opens after weeks of protest around the world following the murder of George Floyd, with events exploring the systemic racism in this country and the United States.

On 17 June, the African Voices Platform will explore the concept of decolonisation with the Racial Justice Network, asking whether it is in danger of becoming a buzzword on university campuses.

"When we started to plan the festival, it was especially crucial that it resonated with people as a glimmer of hope in the pandemic," said Tchiyiwe.

"We didn't anticipate that it would have further depth in the context of the world standing up against racism. The festival celebrates, champions and offers a platform for oppressed black and brown voices."

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Wiyaala performing at last year's Migration Matters.

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