Bringing People Together with Music for Refugee Week

Crisis Choirs performance. Image blurred to protect individuals.

Crisis Choirs performance. Image blurred to protect individuals.

As part of Refugee Week, we wanted to visit one of the many projects we have supported that work with refugees. We chose to go to Manchester to attend a special Crisis Choirs performance, run by Music Action International (MAI).

Crisis Choirs is a music programme supporting refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) in Greater Manchester in partnership with refugee support service providers. It enables and encourages social interaction through weekly music sessions for people of all faiths and ethnicities, and connects divided communities through uplifting public performances, promoting empathy and understanding.

RAS face multiple problems once in the UK; many are here without friends or family and struggle to connect with their new community due to language and cultural barriers including faith. By having a safe space for people to interact, they are able to create trust and friendships. The performances are then shared within communities to help build stronger and safer neighbourhoods.

Within areas of deprivation where RAS are typically located, such as Gorton, the need to bring communities together has increased due to a rise in reported Hate Crime and racism. These music programmes help to make communities safer and happier for residents, building positive social connections between RAS and their neighbours.

The performance was held in the beautiful Gorton Monastery, with stained glass windows as a backdrop. The performance came after weeks of preparation and rehearsals learning songs from around the world in languages including French, English, Swahili, Tigrinya, Farsi, Arabic, Kinyarwanda, and Albanian.

Seby Ntege  and his band

Seby Ntege and his band

Not only did we get to watch Crisis Choirs, but we also got a show by renowned Ugandan musician Seby Ntege and his band as part of their UK tour. Seby is respected as one of the most accomplished resident East African musicians in the UK and an ambassador of traditional Ugandan music.

It was a joy listening to all the songs in different languages. One of Crisis Choirs aims is to improve engagement, wellbeing and confidence, and reducing isolation amongst RAS. It certainly seems to us that they’re doing a good job of it! As one of the participants put it: “These classes helped my mind and my stress, I’m happy to meet other people in these classes.”

We think this project is a great example of bringing people together, and are very glad we were able to see it with our own eyes! Within a community which faces many difficulties, this choir is a real symbol of hope.

Maya Shapiro