Last Saturday, the Woodlawn Center next to our office in Streatham was changed into a magical and colourful place full of joy, relaxation, and community. Many people came from all over south London to stand in solidarity with each other, to learn something new, to increase their well-being, or to just eat together. After one and half years of staying at home and almost no face-to-face community spaces, this was more needed than ever! – Last Saturday, we co-hosted the annual Migrant Connections Festival!
Since 2017, the grassroots organisation Migrant Connections organises this festival. Every year they host the festival together with another local charity. Last year, SLRA and Migrant Connections already started to plan this family event together but due to the pandemic we needed to postpone it. Now, we could finally put our plans into actions and welcome people to fantastic workshops, delicious food, beautiful performances, and much more!
The idea of the festival is to celebrate migration and to get an idea of a world without borders. Therefore, the whole event is for free, there are free services like massages and haircuts, and they support people with low income with travel money to be able to visit the festival.
The preparation for the fourth Migrant Connections Festival started with many online meetings in May, where the Migrant Connections team and SLRA discussed the theme of the festival, different workshops, potential covid-19 restrictions, and all the other logistics behind such a big event. During these months, we decided that this year’s theme would be health and well-being because this is what we all needed! Additionally, the festival is always a great sign against the policies of the hostile environment and the new immigration bill by the Home Office.
Further, the team developed a great programme full of health and well-being workshops like yoga sessions, crystal healing, singing workshops, embroidery, and Kung Fu and migrant-led workshops from the Refugee Council, Settle our Status campaign, and Refugee Action’s Asylum Seeker Voice. Another important part of the festival besides the different kinds of workshops, was the fantastic performances that included No Direction Home comedy, Actors for Human Rights and the Samba Sisters!
Especially the final weeks before the festival, the whole team and organisation was really busy with preparing the day for example our different groups like women and men’s group, supported the festival with the beautiful decorations, people we worked with agreed to support the festival on the day as a welcome volunteer or as an interpreter, and we invited many people and organisation to the event!
On Saturday the 18th of September at 10.30am a small opening ceremony started the festival and during the day more and more people came to Streatham to celebrate until 8pm. The garden of the Woodlawn Center became a real meeting point where people watched the performances on the tree stage, children ran around, and people got their haircuts and massages. Highlights were definitely the sining blanket performance by our SLRA women’s group, the kids’ parade, and Ibrahim as the final act of the festival!
The festival is completely organized and ran by volunteers because the migrant connections team organises this event voluntarily and we had a great group of day volunteers who made everyone feel welcome, played with the children, helped with the food, and answered many questions around the workshops! A big THANK YOU to everyone who made this day special and for Migrant Connections to choose us as an organisation to co-host this incredible event.