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Music Action International Talking through sound for Migration Matters Festival

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Music Action International work to connect divided communities and support survivors of conflict using the power of our common language: music.

They're joining Migration Matters Festival this week to hold events and performances celebrating diversity and interconnecting cultures. The festival, running from 15 - 20 June, aligns with the annual Refugee Week and seeks to recognise the global mix of Sheffield's communities as well as artists from all over the world through a rich and soulful programme.

As part of the festival today (Thursday 18 June), the Music Action International project Everyday People are holding an open session and debuting their latest composition.

We caught up with Nick from Music Action International to see what they're all about and find out more about the event.

What is Music Action International?

Music Action was founded in 2010 and was set up to support people affected by war, torture and armed conflict. It is all about using music to help people recover from traumatic experiences. We run therapeutic music programmes primarily for refugees. We also do a few international programmes within affected communities.

Music is used as a means to connect people across the community divide. Within the UK it means those that have had to come here to escape conflict, usually parked in deprived communities which are sometimes hostile to their presence. Through creating music the newcomers can showcase what they're all about.

How essential is music in bringing people together?

It's often found that people don't really perceive music as an immediate need, especially for people that live incredibly deprived lives. The difference is that even though it isn't something that keeps them alive in practical terms, like food or water, it makes life worth living.

The overwhelming feedback we get is that because these people live isolated lives, through our programmes they feel like they have family. They can relax and be among people that understand their experiences.

A lot of the participants have had to leave their countries due to violence or persecution and most of our facilitators are also from that background. Coming to a place where they can identify with others and exercising a cathartic expression is essential to the participants carrying on and building a life in the UK.

How has the pandemic altered the way you operate?

We have been primarily delivering our programmes over Zoom. we've had to adapt our work model quite considerably. We usually have mostly goal-orientated activity, striving towards something that initially seems impossible but then working to achieve it, then going on to perform to an audience that they wouldn't normally have contact with.

Of course that has been massively disrupted. So now we are trying to piece together - in a very slow process - original compositions through extending ideas online and putting them together into a final recording.

This is what we've done with the Everyday People project and we're opening up a session to showcase our new methodology and share what we've been working on.

What is the Everyday People music project?

This is a London-based project in partnership with the British Red Cross, delivering music sessions to young people that have come to the UK without family. This has been running for around four years and its core aims are to bring refugees together through relaxation exercises and musical composition activities. It's about making connections and breaking the ice in a safe space. We're not prescriptive about what's created. the young people choose what they want to talk about and create, often reflecting the genres they like.

What can people expect from the Everyday People session with Migration Matters?

The first half of today's event will be an insight into the Everyday People creative process and the journey these young people have been on, discovering what it's like to be a part of one of our sessions. Then the young people themselves will tell the audience about what they've created and the message behind it. They will teach a part of the lyrics of the song and the melody, then people can join in if they want to (remember that everyone will be on mute so you don't have to be a great singer!).

How can readers support Music Action International?

We are a small, grassroots charity and rely on donations and volunteers. Your generosity makes a huge difference to the work we do. We also generally spread awareness of campaigns on our social media and through our programmes so that others can show their support for these too.

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