In 2009, Sherman Cymru organised a whole week of activities, workshops, performances and concerts for Refugee Week. The aim was to connect Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in Wales – from all different ages, cultures and backgrounds with people living in Wales.
The week was packed full of activities from dance workshops for young people with Earthfall to drama/theatre workshops with Robbie Bowman. The evening programe was rich and varied – featuring internationally renowned poet, Benjamin Zephaniah, Comedienne, Shappi Khorsandi, a wonderful children’s production ‘Little Leap Forward’ and a discussion on the role of theatre in places of crisis with with Hua Dan (China), Ice and Fire (UK) and Theatre versus Oppression (working in Uganda).
We ran a Women’s Community Choir for Refugee and Welsh ladies, preparing for many weeks leading up to Refugee Week with choir leader, Rabab Ghazoul, and with myself leading the week of rehearsals and the choir at the performance at the end of the week. The choir was attended by over thirty women during the course of it’s many rehearsals – and so the Community Engagement department at Sherman Cymru decided to continue supporting the choir – renaming it a Community Singing Group – with the goal to have the weekly sessions as an activity to foster friendships and connections between refugee, asylum seeker and Welsh ladies – and generally be creative through our voices!
I was asked to lead the singing group from May 2010- and it has now gone from strength to strength with 15 women attending the last session! We used to meet at the Welsh Refugee Council, Phoenix House, Newport Road and we now meet at the YMCA (off The Parade) in Cardiff from1pm-2.30pm – and we have members from many different countries, backgrounds, abilities and ages! Some of the ladies bring their small children, who play in the creché corner, or dance around us, or sing with us also. Since October 2010 we have also included men in the singing group and so we are now a Community Singing Group open to each and all!
The singing group has become a place where people can try out a new skill, get to know each other, eat together and for the refugee men and women to feel a sense of being at home with friends, where thinking and worrying about asylum claims or the every day worries of the world can be shelved for a few hours. One regular attendee called the group ‘yoga for the brain’. I like this, as it brings a sense of peace and balance – which is the power of the creative arts.
The singing group is free of charge (supported by Sherman Cymru and the Oasis Drop-in centre) and we are still looking for members. So please contact me by email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining us! No experience is necessary – just a willingness to learn simple songs from around the world, to chat over a cuppa and make friends!
Sherman Cymru Women’s Community Singing Group – performing at the Welsh Refugee Council’s 20th birthday party at Holland House, The Mercure Hotel, Cardiff.