Yorkshire theatre company working with sanctuary seekers in Hunslet to create art together

Yorkshire organisation Stand and Be Counted Theatre (SBC), create and deliver work in the UK and internationally that is made with and for those seeking sanctuary.

By Alex Grant
Sunday, 13th March 2022, 11:45 am

As part of LEEDS 2023’s ‘My World My City My Neighbourhood’ SBC have been working with sanctuary seekers in Hunslet to create art together. Rosie MacPherson and Firas Chihi from SBC can explain.

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We had been looking for ways to be involved in LEEDS 2023 right from the start of the bidding process, back in the days before Brexit stopped the city from being considered as a potential European Capital of Culture.

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It was important to us that we developed ideas around what the project and resulting outcomes would be with those who were taking part. Picture: Smart Banda.

When it became clear that Leeds – being Leeds – was going to get on and deliver a year of culture anyway, we knew we had to find the right way to be part of it all. ‘My World My City My Neighbourhood’ was the perfect fit because it would allow us to do a hyper local project in Hunslet, an area we knew well.

It was important to us that we developed ideas around what the project and resulting outcomes would be with those who were taking part: we wanted to create with them the journey that the project would take.

Being able to work like this is really inspiring; you are able to connect with people so much more closely, and to really understand what would mean the most to them. It also allowed us to be supportive of people who are going through all this.

As the news once again fills with images of refugees now, more than ever before, we need to help those who find themselves taking refuge in Leeds.

So much will be included in our final ‘show’ on 23 March at the Dewsbury Road Community Hub. Picture: Smart Banda.

It's not just about support though, it’s about celebration and friendship. Dozens of people now calling Hunslet home have been happy to be part of the project, to share their stories and help others.

We have held a series of workshops over the last few months and new, different participants got involved each time. We also worked really hard to make sure that these workshops - where we planned what the culmination of this project would be – were as accessible as possible so that people were more likely to take part.

The result is a collection of writing, artwork and even food that we will present to the rest of the community, and city, for them to experience later this month.

So much will be included in our final ‘show’ on 23 March at the Dewsbury Road Community Hub (10.30-2pm - drop-in, stay as long as you like!). Music, food, expressive artwork - lots of different things that represent what makes all those people who have joined in and shared their stories and ideas, distinctive.

We want to support any potential for a project to continue after our work comes to an end and this project is something that could grow and develop over time, providing a safe space for those who are making a new home in the city to express themselves creatively.

It is genuinely exciting to look forward to next year and whatever fantastic events are planned, as well as to see the platform it gives to the brilliant, talented and interesting people that are already here living their lives, creating amazing work.

The benefits that LEEDS 2023 will bring to communities across the city are far reaching. Already, we are encouraged to try new things and make connections to other parts of the city that we don’t know, bringing us together in a celebration of our city and all its people.

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