When coming to a new land, and in attempting to call it home, there are countless obstacles an immigrant faces, let alone a refugee. Isolation, language barriers, access to housing and food...it's an endless list.
The Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Welcome Group (https://hfrefugeeswelcome.uk/) is one organisation that pushes daily to reduce that list, and this holiday season it was no different. We joined them on Dec 16th to throw a holiday party to bring just a bit of good ole fashioned silly British festive joy. Tutors Alice and Johnny lead a holiday-themed, raucous session and joined in the Christmas feast and stocking share that the HFRWG put on.
The day before, we had hosted our own holiday party at our usual Croydon location with our PFP family. We gorged on Christmas crackers, satsumas, sweets, mince pies and christmas puddings while we raucously sang and jammed along to our favourite holiday tunes. Indeed, all was merry and bright.
So from our large, diverse, and loving family to yours, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Kongo Dia Ntotila
Our AIA guests this month were the amazing Kongo Dia Ntotila. Made up of John Kelly (guitar), Mike Soper (trumpet), Will Scott (sax), David Lessie (drums), and Mulele Matondo (bass and MC), their self-described and public-approved "JOYFUL jazz-inflected AFRO-KOSMIC edu-tainment" is something not to miss. Their groovy Congolese sounds filled up the entire council, bringing kids, staff, and volunteers together in a proper jam sesh. Check out their live music schedule and get yourself to a show! http://kongodiantotila.com/
On the chilly afternoon of December 3, we trekked from Croydon to Poplar with 15 unaccompanied teen refugees to the gloriously generous Poplar Union community centre. The kids didn't quite know what they were in for when we arrived, and they showed little restraint in expressing their initial 'HUH?!' when they were asked to don aprons and wash up for the first task of the day. But this changed immediately when the truly brilliant and inexhaustible Jean of E5 Bakehouse launched into his sourdough tutorial and told everyone to roll up their sleeves and get ready to bake some bread.
You might be thinking...'hang on, I thought you were a music charity?!...' Of course! But we are also oh so much more than that! Have a look at the photos below and on social media to see just how gorgeously the young people dove in, worked together in teams, competed for perfection, used the open stone fire, and ended up baking what would be part of their communal dinner-over 150 delicious pieces of flat bread fresh out of the oven.
As the bread proved, we had time on our hands. Enter: Sefiroth.
Self-described, Sefiroth is a 10-piece electro-acoustic chamber ensemble playing contemporary interpretations of traditional Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire, much of which dates back to the Medieval period and draws upon Arabic, Turkish, Greek and Eastern European influences. The musicians in the ensemble represent several nationalities and between them are versed in a wide range of musical idioms including Balkan, Middle Eastern, Arabic, klezmer, rock, jazz, early and contemporary classical, electronic and improvised music. https://sefiroth.bandcamp.com/
Lead by former PFP guitar tutor Alex Roth, visiting percussion tutor Simon Roth, and incorporating the glorious sounds that come from violin tutor and vocalist Alice Zawadski, Sefiroth gave our students an insight into the Sephardic music tradition, guided our students through making our own lyrics and ultimately our own song, taught one of the songs that they would perform later in the evening, and engaged with our students one-on-one, being sure to answer all of their keen questions, and hearing their own musical offerings.
After we gorged on the glorious food Jean and the E5 Bakehouse team prepared ahead of time, which accompanied our fresh bread, we had the delight to sit front row to soak in the musical offering that Sefiroth delivered to a full house. When encouraged by the band to jump up and dance at the last number, our crew didn't disappoint. It was truly a gift of a day...
TO BE CONTINUED...
You can bet your bottom dollar that we will be back at Poplar before too long. We are already in discussion with the team to see when we can return to deliver our own performance. Until then, check out their awesome events, and go give Jean and the E5 Bakehouse team all the love you can!
Poplar Union: 2 Cotall St, Poplar, London E14 6TL, UK
A special thing happens once a week at the Refugee Council Children's Section. It can be fun or thought-provoking, meaningful, it's sometimes very quiet or very loud, but it's always positive, and it's a time just for girls. It's called Girls Group, and it's organised by the brilliant Young Roots.
A vast majority of the girls who come through the Refugee Council have been in tension-filled, male-dominated environments for most of their journeys, if not most of their lives. Just as boys need time to spend together, the girls need some exclusive time too. As a majority-female, and female-lead charity, we knew we had to get involved.
We have been delighted to be involved with two of the girls groups events this past month.
First Girls Group
For the first, we invited jewellery artist, Esna Su, who was the hclub100 award winner for Art, Design, and Craft and is a refugee herself, to speak with the girls about art and work, and everything in between. Learn more about Esna and her incredible work below and online (insta=@esna_su).
Second Girls Group
For the second, three of our tutors, lead a brilliant workshop that involved everything from imbuing confidence like a queen and singing rounds, to learning dance steps to live Klezmer music, and enjoying a bit of Mozart. We were also joined by the driven actress/activist Juliet Stevenson, who in addition to being an extraordinary artist has a long history of campaigning effectively for refugee rights. We've said it before and we will say it again: joining together as Allies in Art and we will make the changes we want to see.
Check out our tweet from that evening to feel the sheer joy of it:
Tonight was a JOY! No pics to share this time-were having too much fun! Tutors Alice @lydiahillerudh @alyfrazier lead a room full of confident, incredible young women making music & more. We're stronger when we are #AlliesInArt Thanks YR @juliet945 @refugeecouncil
"To infinity and beyond!" The kind of inspiration you get when you introduce #youngrefugees to endless possibilities of creative industries in London. One of our flute players experiencing #VR for the 1st time! #integration #enablingleaders
We are not just a music programme. We strive to support our students in every way we can, from guiding them in times of crises, to ensuring they are receiving extra English lessons, to finding ways to help them improve their chances of success in this new country. The bottom line: we are invested in our young people's futures. That's why we devised an 'introduction to business' day, which included in-depth advice on interviewing, CV creation, and access to The Hospital Club's Creative Careers Fair, where our students were asked "how will you apply your creativity to change the world?" You just wait and see world! #careers #youth #inspiration #possibilities
We're all probably quite used to seeing that neon sign out front of Ronnie Scott's signalling that it's time for the music to begin, but we hadn't seen their charitable foundation logo before we were invited to be a beneficiary of their most recent Instrument Amnesty. Though this was back in October, we are still reaping the benefits. We were able to take on two new piano pupils thanks to some piano donations, one of our promising violin students was allowed to take one home with him, and our cellist has been practicing so much on her donated cello, that she is already developing callouses and asking for her own arrangements!
A big thank you to Ronnie Scott's for organising this event, which helps redistribute unused instruments to music charities who could REALLY put them to use. To all of you out there, remember, you don't have to wait until next year's event! We are ALWAYS in need of instruments, especially full-sized violins and light-weight keyboards (ideally that we can plug headphones into). Get in touch if you have an instrument you would love us to adopt.
November's AIA series was quite the special one! In addition to welcoming Ollie Tunmer and his extraordinary body percussion skills into the extended PFP family, we also welcomed renowned Conductor, Ed Gardner, and the team behind the "A Child of Our Time" Refugee Council Children's Section Fundraising Gala.
On January 15th, Ed, members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and well-known refugees and refugee activists will come together in support of the young people we work every week to support. Please join us in raising funds for the Council, which does such exceptional work, and without which, our students would not have access to the most crucial link to their success.
We are delighted to let you all know that we will also be performing that night! From 6:30-7pm on January 15th, you can catch us at the Clore Ballroom, performing, and running a few workshops so that you can take part in the joy that we get to experience every week. Don't miss it!
Click here to buy your ticket, support the social media storm, and learn more about the event: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/121997-child-our-time-edward-gardner-conducts-2018
Beat Goes On's Ollie Tunmer leading another exceptional body percussion workshop for over 40 young people plus our Southbank visitors!
Ed Gardner and the London Philharmonic Orchestra's "A Child of Our Time" Team getting into the swing of it! Official video and snaps to come, but don't miss the big event: January 15th at the Southbank Centre, The Refugee Council Children's Section Fundraising Gala.
The founders, Anna and Alyson