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 in August 2017, our adopted home for many years. Poet Mohammad AKA The Dream read again the poem he had first shared with us two years earlier in Calais, his words "hope of arriving in my home, where my tears are my own" articulating 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, living and working from our van to head on the journey of a lifetime with The Welcome Tent. Behind the scenes in Nottingham, a volunteer crew of people from all over the world, many displaced through conflict, side-by-side with UK residents seeking peace 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 The Welcome Tent UK which was opened by Robin Hood with support from Nottingham Refugee Welcome Group. Sudanese Chai tea and doughnuts were served on arrival followed by a taster plate ‘Bazinjan’ fried aubergine with peanuts, ‘Foul Madamas’ broad beans with cheese, 'Adas' egg and coriander and spiced lentils. Abdulaziz joined us from his adopted home in Newcastle to prepare the food, shopping locally in 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 was unable to return to Iran. She stayed in the UK but would have loved to have returned to her homeland. She prepared ‘Ghormeh Sabzi’, the Iranian National Dish which normally would have lamb or chicken but for us the flavours worked just as well without meat. 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. All of these dishes will be shared in our forthcoming 'recipes of HOPE' book.
But what started with a community who loves food also became a space to celebrate our shared humanity through the other universal languages of art, poetry, music, dance. The incredible lineup of international artists who performed at The Welcome Tent really speaks for itself.
With accompaniment from Feras Shoufan, Hamsa Mounif a lead singer with Damon Albarn's Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, opened the day with her first public performance in English and ended with a beautiful medley 'gift' for the Syrian people. Gulwali Passarlay shared his incredible story of travelling to the UK as a child refugee and the huge challenges he faced along the way: this story is captured in his best-selling book The Lightless Sky. Gulwali continues to inspire us all as he now heads to Coventry University to study a Masters in Public Administration and as recent Co-Founder of My Bright Kite, providing projects and support for young refugees in the UK with a 'Lessons of HOPE' toolkit. A collective performance of Mathematics, Hollie McNish's poem with over two million hits on YouTube exploring immigration, complimented readings from her recent publications Nobody Told Me and Plum. Parisa East, daughter of Nahid, social activist and Founder of Acoustickle, created musical magic alongside Nottingham based Chai Larden, singer, songwriter, poet and performer. Laura Khoury, age just 17 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 pieces from her incredible 'Blue' Exhibition, from which she will be donating sales proceeds to The Welcome Tent, while creating hand-cut The Welcome Tent prints. A collection of beautiful and timeless Palestinian artisan goods were on sale from Souk. Gladys 'Chav' Harvey's humanitarian art project Paper People were created to the incredible tunes of electronic music producer and DJ Kat Richmond playing global beats from people escaping conflict worldwide.
These magical moments of spontaneous collaboration were documented through live pen and ink drawing by French artist and UX designer Myriam Weisenfeld which are now on sale as a limited edition set of illustrated postcard art. Contact us for details.
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 brilliant 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.