The Angel FreeHouse and Microbrewery, August 2017
Hope of arriving in my home
We were hugely proud to launch The Welcome Tent tour in Nottingham, this our adopted home for many years - Sparky was born nearby in Rutland and I studied Law and French at Nottingham Trent University.
Poet Mohammad AKA The Dream who we had first met two years earlier in Calais, read again in Nottingham the poem he read to us on that first day, and again it touched our hearts. His words, "the hope of arriving in my home, where my tears are my own", articulate the dream of so many.
Our experiences in Calais and the people we met there had a profound affect on us, and now here we are, having quit our jobs and our lives in the UK and heading on the journey of a lifetime with The Welcome Tent. Behind the scenes, a crew of people from all over the world, many who have travelled long and arduous journeys to make it to safety, volunteering alongside current UK residents who are seeking freedom and justice for all.
The Legend lives on
The Angel Microbrewery, a beautiful and historic building which has recently undergone its own transformation, was the perfect setting for our event to be opened by Robin Hood with support from volunteers from Nottingham Refugee Welcome Group.
Chai tea and doughnuts were served on arrival and later a Sudanese taster plate which was ‘Bazinjan’, fried aubergine with peanuts, ‘Foul Madamas’, broad beans with cheese, egg and coriander and ‘Adas’, spiced lentils. Abdulaziz joined us on Saturday afternoon to prepare, travelling down in a car share from Newcastle with a Scottish football fan on a day trip to Derby. We shopped locally, exploring the international food shops in Forest Fields.
Later in the afternoon was a delicious Persian dish, prepared by Nahid, mum of Parisa, performer and founder of Nottingham-based Acoustickle music collective. Nahid came to Britain as a student in the late 1970s and political problems meant she couldn’t return to Iran. She stayed in the UK but would have loved to have returned to her homeland. She prepared an Iranian National Dish ‘Ghormeh Sabzi’, which normally would have lamb or chicken but the flavours work just as well vegetarian. The ingredients for this stew were kidney beans, fried fresh herbs, dried mint and dried limes and it was accompanied with Saffron rice and Salted yoghurt with rose petal and raisin and cucumber.
But what starts with a community who loves food, also becomes a space for learning from each other through other universal languages. The Welcome Tent celebrates our shared humanity through the arts, poetry and music: the incredible lineup of musicians, speakers, poets and artists who supported our launch at The Angel really speaks for itself.
What really shows how great an afternoon it was were the magical moments of spontaneous collaboration, where people shared stories, art and music. As performances were happening, Myriam Weisenfeld a French artist documented stories and song through live pen and ink drawing.
Hamsa, one of the lead singers with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, with accompaniment by Feras Shoufan, opened the day with her first public performance in English and ended with a beautiful medley 'gift' for the Syrian people. Gulwali shared his incredible story, which continues to inspire as he now heads to Coventry University to study a Masters in Public Administration. Mohammad shared poetry about his experiences of the journey from Sudan and arriving in the UK. An impromptu collective performance of Mathematics, Hollie's poem with over two million hits on YouTube exploring immigration, complimented her readings from recent publications Nobody Told Me and Plum. Parisa East, daughter of Nahid, social activist extraordinaire and founder of Nottingham based Acoustickle, created musical magic alongside Chai Larden. Laura Khoury, 17 years old and recently arrived to Nottingham from the Middle East, performed on the guitar drawing from her own personal experiences of arriving in the UK.
Equally inspirational were the exhibitions and live art from Laxmi Hussain who exhibited her incredible 'Blue' Exhibition, from which she will be donating sales proceeds to The Welcome Tent, while printing hand-cut The Welcome Tent ink stamps on tea-towels; and Gladys 'Chav' Harvey's Paper People were created to the incredible tunes of DJ Kat Richmond playing music from people escaping conflict worldwide. A collection of beautiful and timeless Palestinian artisan goods were on sale from Souk.
At one point Sue described how she encouraged children in the 'jungle' to express themselves through art and one day met a lad who communicated using Hamsa's music: Sue met Hamsa in The Welcome Tent. Where Laxmi met Hollie. Bagzad met Rob. Myriam met Mohammad. Hamsa met David Keys and performed the most incredible music together in the street. Where Gladys met Gulwali. Where we all met the real Robin Hood. It was these spontaneous moments that were truly special. The Welcome Tent - where people arrive as strangers and leave as friends.
Thankyou to the Nottingham based projects who came along to the event. Caroline from Bras Not Bombs is on the look out for a volunteer team and good quality brassieres and knickers for refugees all over the world; Francis is on the look out for guitars for restoration and lessons with refugee communities. Also attending was the Young People’s Project which is part of the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum and Bill and volunteers from the Nottingham Welcome Group and the Red Cross.
Thankyou to everyone who made this event happen: Ben, Steve and the team at The Angel Microbrewery; Robin Hood for a legendary welcome to Nottingham; Parisa and Geoff for spreading the word; the incredible performers, artists and musicians who gave up their precious Sunday afternoons in between busy summer Festival circuits; David Keys for the amazing piano music in the street outside; Nahid, Abdulaziz and Mohammad who prepared such delicious food; support from the Persian Supermarket in Radford Road and international volunteers who shared the food around. Thankyou to great friends behind the scenes - Duncan for the photography, Charley, Gib, Rob, Hannah, Sarah, Little Rach, Joshi, Nick 'Beardo' and the techno whatsapp crew. Also thankyou for the inspiration from people who could not be there with us - you were definitely with us in spirit.