The project underwent several transformations due to the conflict between artistic objectives, legal necessities, organisational commitments and my own personal journey which including periods of ill mental health.
Very briefly, the funds have led to the development of:
An asylum-led theatre group:
This group was fully funded during its first 6 months of development by Futures Venture funds. These funds enabled us to resource the design, development and presentation ofRefugee and Asylum Participatory Action Research(RAPAR) first ever theatrical production, devised entirely by a cast of people seeking asylum with workshops from Manchester based artists who have lived experience of asylum. FV funds paid for a full-time facilitator who was at the time an unpaid support worker at RAPAR. These funds allowed us to experiment with the model of flipping job roles and decentring crisis management as being one of the main modes of engagement RAPAR participates in. To clarify, FV funds enabled RAPAR's housing and health caseworker to put into practice their existing creative skills and shift their job role to part time support work and part time drama facilitator. The benefits of this for our members mental health as well as the mental health of individual RAPAR caseworkers has been clearly evidenced over the past year. This flip of caseworker into artist and vice versa was so successful that RAPAR's housing and support worker, Maddie Wakeling, has now left that role to dedicate her time commitments to RAPAR solely as a creative practitioner.
The funds also enabled to the theatre group to develop weekly drop-in sessions at the Niamos in Hulme. The funds paid for: practitioner wages, travel expenses for every participant, a budget line for food for during workshop, venue hire for rehearsals and other associated production costs. The companies first devised piece, 'Incredible Week for the Banks' had its debut performance at the Niamos with a sold-out show followed by performances at Bury Met theatre and finally HOME for Horizons Festival.
DJ and Music Production workshops:
The funds paid for over 6 months of R+D for DJ and Music Production workshops where we paired a local producer with a person seeking asylum who wanted to either explore existing music skills further, learn new ones or just collaborate with other artists in the city. Principally we worked with members of the Congolese community as many of the Congolese diaspora in Manchester are already phenomenal musicians. This was a wonderful opportunity for artists from different parts of the world to explore musical styles, one-on-one, and develop tracks/songs/performances that were showcased at a variety of fundraising shows across the city.
Film and Video Production workshops:
The funds enabled us to test-road a series of workshops working with RAPAR members to produce small films and campaign videos. We attended regular protests outside the Zimbabwean Embassy providing technical solidarity to the political party - Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). We are now in the process of securing funding to create a series of asylum-led films exploring the supply chain of resources extracted from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Funding the Legal Casework Team:
The FV funding was used to pay for 6-months legal support for every single participant in any of the projects above. Thousands of pounds, nearly half of the budget was used for wages for 2 legal case-workers being paid at $15 an hour. This wage was collectively decided by the whole organisation, whether our members had a UK passport or not. We had to be very clear with our wording and accounting procedure in order for us to ensure that everyone was paid for their emotional and physical labour properly, equitably and without complication. Due this, the casework team have secured the status of over 15 members since we recieved FV ventures funding, including many participants of every creative pathway.
Manchester Refugee Rights Collective and No Borders Festival:
Between the intersection of arts, politics and community we have a wonderful triangle of organisations that have developed in the past 1.5 years since these conversations were brought into the same place. The organisations are: Ku'umba, Manchester Refugee Rights Collective and No Borders. As an artist and community worker I support all three groups. All 3 groups have directly or indirectly received funds from FV.