Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre has become one in only a handful of theatres across the UK to be awarded Theatre of Sanctuary status, recognising its commitment to becoming a welcoming and safe place.
The award was presented to the Theatre during an event to mark Universal Children’s Day on Tues 21 Nov, which featured a showcase of music, artwork and live performances by Syrian Refugees in collaboration with the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre in partnership with The Children’s Society and Positive Youth Foundation.
Dr. Seyedeh F. Naseriniaki, a member of the City of Sanctuary assessment panel, and Reem Doukmak, Community Participation Officer at Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre and President of Student Action For Refugees, presented the award which was accepted by the Belgrade’s former General Manager Claire Simpson.
In order to achieve this status as a Theatre of Sanctuary, the Belgrade has demonstrated to a visiting panel its ability to raise awareness of what it means to be a person seeking sanctuary and take action to support the inclusion of sanctuary seekers and refugees in its activities.[slideshow_deploy id=’15689′]
Earlier this year, the theatre held an event to mark Refugee Week 2017, which included a panel discussion on what it means to be a place of sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers, involving leading figures from organisations working with refugees in Coventry and beyond. Throughout the week, the theatre also hosted a free exhibition of community artwork based on the themes of home, belonging and identity.
The Belgrade’s Associate Director, Justine Themen said, “We are delighted to have been awarded the status of Theatre of Sanctuary. The Belgrade prides itself on welcoming and building strong relationships with the diverse communities in the city – whether as audiences, participants or artists. We recognise that a city is a continuously evolving place, and that we need to be responsive to change within it. Whilst continuing to build our longer term relationships with existing communities, we want to open our doors to newly-arriving communities to share their stories and build understanding. We look forward to the challenges and inspiration that come with this. A theatre is a space for dialogue within the city and celebrating both our differences and our shared humanity.”
Together with the Community Participation Officer at the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, the Belgrade Theatre will be co-designing a short pilot programme of four workshops for newly arrived women. The workshops will use drama to build confidence and language skills. If the work is found to have significant impact, the partners will work to explore the possibilities of rolling out a longer programme.
Universal Children’s Day, organised internationally by the United Nations and UNICEF, encourages people around the world to come together to help fight for children’s rights, campaign for better welfare and help them fulfil their potential.