As Journeys Festival International 2021 took place from the 15th to the 24th of October, we want to say a big thank you to everyone for joining and supporting us in Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth!

We had incredible 10 days of festival activities in these three cities across the UK and are thrilled to have been able to welcome so many audience members to the events as well as meeting our amazing partners and artists in person again. Delivering the festival in Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth – made possible by funding from Arts Council England – was a wonderful (and challenging) task for our team and an incredible experience seeing thousands of visitors being able to enjoy the programme in different cities at the same time. By bringing the refugee experience and global cultures to a wider audience, Journeys Festival International offered once again a platform to show artworks depicting stories of forced migration created by artists from refugee and sanctuary-seeking backgrounds.

With a varied programme of exhibitions, performances and installations, audiences were able to immerse themselves in light and sound, experience outdoor animations, take virtual reality tours, see artists creating live-paintings, performing new contemporary dance and many more.

The mesmerising sound and light installation Where There is Light by Squidsoup attracted thousands to Leicester Cathedral, Holy Name Church in Manchester and St Mary’s Church in Portsmouth, inspiring audiences to reflect on what brings light into their lives by listening to the voices of sanctuary-seeking communities from all over the UK – a powerful reminder in times of isolation and social distancing. With the changing lights being particularly appreciated by the young ones, Where There is Light fascinated visitors of all ages as well as local communities to come together and share a moment of contemplation. Thanks to BID Leicester, Leicester Cathedral, The Organ Project and Fratton Big Local for their incredible support in bringing the light to audiences in all three cities.

At Bloodland Embrace, audiences experienced an outdoor animation on the big screen in the fantastic atmosphere of Green Dragon Square in Leicester and Cutting Room Square in Manchester, defying rain and wind on some of the screening days. The Creative Europe funded animation by Kalico Jack with beautiful music by James Hamilton depicts stories of home and belonging, closed borders and displacement. If you didn’t make it to see it on the big screen, you can watch (or re-watch) it here.

Audiences at Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre in Leicester and New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth were able to get acquainted with new technologies when taking a virtual reality tour of a water tunnel in Iran, being able to walk through the tunnel and creating graffiti art themselves. Parham Ghalamdar and Steven Lake digitally recreated the location Parham used to design graffiti artworks with fellow artists, which later became a focal point for political and social protest after their forceful destruction. 

Performed at Curve Theatre in Leicester, Martin Harris Centre in Manchester and New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, the short film and performance piece Reckoning by choreographer Akeim Toussaint Buck, filmmaker Ashley Karrell, animator Benedetta Fasson and writer mandla rae as part of Creative Europe offered an insightful narrative of experiences of displacement showcased in contemporary lyrical dance, archive, animation and storytelling. Akeim Toussaint Buck further tied the stories together in a breath-taking dance performance in each city.

With many more exciting events and activities taken place – such as Look Up, Wonderland, Journeys into Film, Tale of Tresses, Halabja: In the Golden Days and more – we want to thank all of our amazing artists for the fantastic work they have created. And many thanks to our incredible funders and partners for their continual support, making the varied programme of Journeys Festival International 2021 possible!