Manchester Museum awakens with interactive performances from refugees

  • Manchester Museum hosting interactive peformance celebrating refugee history and culture tomorrow
  • Show highlights injustices refugees worldwide suffer

Manchester Museum is coming to life this weekend with a celebration of refugee culture and history through song and dance. 

The Flying Carpets show tomorrow (Saturday) is one of many taking place during the Wider Journeys Festival around Manchester for the next fortnight.

The interactive promenade through the museum halls transports its audience through centuries and civilisations, to hear stories from those who have suffered from persecution in their homeland. To set you off on this journey is narrator, Abas, who leads you along with his jovial delivery and prancing step.

Abas fled from Iraq in 2003 during Saddam Hussein’s leadership and came to the United Kingdom to finish his master’s degree in theatre. 

“I feel like a stranger here in England. I speak the language, I know the culture but I feel like a stranger. I don’t feel accepted,” he said.

“If people don’t know [our stories] then we will keep on fighting. There will always be a wall that separates us from everyone else,”

One performances is that of Emmanuela Yogolelo, who fled from the Congo over a decade ago, leaving behind the violence but bringing with her a passion for music. She is dressed in a Kanga, a traditional Congolese garment that has secret messages sewn into it to communicate with other women, an act of defiance against a culture that offers women limited freedom of speech.

The performances force the audience to reflect on the realities of the refugee community through thought-provoking audio-visual pieces.

Cheryl Martin has been directing such shows since 2010, helping tell stories that would otherwise be left untold. She has seen theatre workshops help refugees express themselves and come to terms with the circumstances they find themselves in.

She said: “During the first production we did we were approached by a student who had researched the benefits of workshops and rehearsals and how they improve people’s wellbeing.

“You have women who are destitute, sleeping on benches, stripped of everything that have found that expressing themselves through the arts has helped them cope and understand.”

The performance concludes with a short speech by the narrator, who reminds the audience of the importance of connecting with each other.

Showtimes are at 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm. Inbetween shows will be workshops for adults and children to make their own flying carpet.