We are delighted to launch our video project We Walk With You which aims to help refugees and those seeking sanctuary feel welcome and at home at the city’s arts and community venues to mark Refugee Week which this year runs from 14 -20 June.
As a network of community and arts organisations working to make the arts more accessible to everyone in the city, we decided to interpret the theme of ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’ as an opportunity to show refugees and sanctuary seekers what to expect when visiting for the first time. Making use of the fact that many venues were sitting empty due to lockdown, a number of our partners made short films of their spaces, buildings, front doors and staff, during which they pledged ‘We Walk With You’ on camera to engender a sense of solidarity and companionship with viewers.
Funding was made available to help smaller partners make their films, with the result that twelve videos have been created by a wide range of Leeds-based organisations: BIASAN, Fall Into Place, Feel Good Factor, Leeds Libraries, Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Playhouse First Floor, Mafwa Theatre, Open Source Arts, Opera North, South Asian Arts UK, Space2 and Yorkshire Dance. Some were filmed on a phone, some by talented film-makers, and many were made by or included people with lived experience of being a sanctuary seeker.
Emma Hayton, Librarian Manager Art and Music, Leeds Libraries, said:
“It was such a pleasure to work on this project with amazing artist, Rahman Taha. He was the perfect person to show how we welcome everyone to Leeds Central Library and how much we are looking forward to working with people on the Arts Floor again.”
And Shreena Gobey, Youth Work Manager:
“Creating the We Walk With You films was a great opportunity for some of our Theatre of Sanctuary participants and staff to reconnect with spaces they haven’t been to for a while, due to the pandemic. We are proud and committed in making Leeds Playhouse a space for all to be welcomed, safe and be able to have fun in all things creative.”
Throughout Refugee Week, two videos will be released each day from the Arts Together Twitter account (@artstogetherLDS) and will also be available to watch on each partner’s contact page, as well as directly from the Arts Together YouTube channel.
Alice Gilmour from Opera North, who administrate the network, said:
“If even one person feels more confident to join in an arts activity, visit a venue or join a community group because they know a bit more about what to expect beforehand, then we’ve been successful!
“This project has also been a great reminder to us all that having a video like this on your website is beneficial for so many people in our society: people with disabilities, hidden or otherwise, people who may be anxious attending events in person after the pandemic, as well as people completely new to the city, our country and our customs.”
Watch all the videos here: