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19 October 2017  -  31 October 2017

Platforma Festival 2017


The 4th national Platforma Festival for the arts by, about and with refugees and migrants will take place in Newcastle, Gateshead, Stockton and Middlesborough 19-31 October 2017. 

The main event is the 2-day PLATFORMA CONFERENCE in Newcastle 27-28 October.

For more information contact

The Platforma Festival 2017 is produced by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with Freedom City 2017, Northern Roots, ISIS Arts, ARC Stockton, Art and Christianity Enquiry, the Platforma network and a range of other venues, organisations and networks. Commissioned artists include Isabel Lima (pictured below), Henna Asikainen, Juan delGado, Natasha Davis and Katia Kameli.  


The FREE programme includes:

19-21 October: Common Ground, curated by Juan delGado, Vane, Newcastle

For Common Ground Juan delGado has curated a short artist moving image programme by and about refugees and migrants. From the every day to the cataclysmic, the films and animations are tender, funny and heart rending. The programme centres on Juan’s work Altered Landscapes – an immersive multimedia installation that traces a personal narrative through the scarred vistas of Europe in the midst of the largest mass migration in living memory. More details

reflections - common ground

19 October: As Free As A Bird!, Tyne Theatre, Newcastle (13.30-14.30)

Children from three east end primary schools in Newcastle have been hard at work in their schools, singing, dancing and rehearsing to put together a performance of a brand new musical As Free As a Bird! by Grumpy Sheep Music for the start of the Platforma Festival. See their first performance at Tyne Theatre! More details

19 October: “Connecting Communities”, ARC Stockton (14.00-19.00)

A day of performances and conversations about how the arts can bring people together around issues relating to refugees and migration. Featuring a performance of Borderline by PSYCHEdelight, and a new work by Natasha Davis. Plus a screening of Queens of Syria (directed by Yasmin Fedda) and contributions from United Voices.

Full details and free booking here:

PSYCHEdelight facilitated art based workshops in Calais Jungle throughout 2015 -2016. Sophie Besse, a theatre director and art-therapist, witnessed among the refugees an eagerness for comedy as a way to contrast and express their tragedy. This experience gave her the impulse to create Borderline in collaboration with Frank Wurzinger, a professional clown practitioner. The show is the result of 6 weeks devising period with an ensemble of European and refugee performers altogether from 7 different nationalities : Uk, France, Syria, Afghanistan, Chile and Sudan. It has played to packed houses in the past 12 months across the UK and internationally. (Borderline photos by Jose Farinha)



Queens of Syria
Queens of Syria (directed by Yasmin Fedda) tells the story of fifty women from Syria, all forced into exile in Jordan, who came together in Autumn 2013 to create and perform their own version of the Trojan Women, the timeless Ancient Greek tragedy all about the plight of women in war. What followed was an extraordinary moment of cross-cultural contact across millennia, in which women born in 20th century Syria found a blazingly vivid mirror of their own experiences in the stories of a queen, princesses and ordinary women like them, uprooted, enslaved,and bereaved by the Trojan War.



T-Shirts by Natasha Davis

What is your favourite t-shirt? Tell me a story about it… When did you get it, was it a gift or did you buy it? Are there any special occasions you wore it for? Has it travelled with you across borders? Using t-shirts as the playful start of an exchange, the performance choreographs memories into a visual poem, with t-shirts becoming the link to vivid and faded colours in our lives, stains and scars, people and places we love, and the choices we make when we can take very little with us on our journeys. A multi-media encounter with time and memory, with losses and liberations of living in transit – from Natasha Davis, an artist whose own performances and t-shirts have been crossing borders on five continents through the past decade.


T-shirts image

19-26 October: From Syria to Gateshead, Shipley Art Gallery

An artistic and musical exploration of belonging among refugee-background Syrian young people living in Gateshead.  Over a three-month period, the fourteen young people represented in this exhibition participated in research interviews and workshops with professional artists and musicians to produce works that reflect their ideas and experiences of belonging. From Syria to Gateshead is a partnership between Durham University, GemArts and Gateshead Council. Full details:


21 October: Gresham Wooden Horse (14.15-15.30, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art)

Isabel Lima will introduce her latest project made with the community of Gresham in Middlesbrough and commissioned by MIMA and co-commissioned by partners including Counterpoints Arts. There will be an opportunity to see an exhibition about the project, to join a community lunch,  and to take the short walk from the gallery to see the horse itself in Gresham. For full details contact

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21 October – Private View – Ritournelle (once more, from the top) by Katia Kameli (14.00–16.00 St John the Baptist Church Grainger Street, Newcastle NE1 5JG)
Ritournelle (once more, from the top) is the result of Katia Kameli’s artist residency  with Art and Christianity Enquiry at St John the Baptist, Newcastle, which has been programmed in collaboration with Platforma. In response to the invitation to consider themes of residency, migration and belonging within the context of this medieval church, Kameli has produced new site-specific artworks. More information


21 October – Screening: Place I Call Home (18.00-19.00, New Bridge Project, Newcastle)

Place I Call Home is a film about the migration of people to Hartlepool by Maxy Bianco & Students of Hartlepool Sixth Form College. In little over 150 years the population of Hartlepool has grown from thousands to tens of thousands, over 160 nations have roots in our town. This film asks the question, where do we come from? Produced by Jo Hislop and made by Maxy Bianco and students, Anthony Graham, Phoebe Hay, Ely King, Katie Kennedy, Ruben Gonzalez, Lydia Balmforth and Hayley Briggs. As part of a recent project with Hartlepool Youth Services the film was funded by HLF. A selection of other short films will also be shown.

Krimo still one

25-26 October: Counterpoints Arts strategic session (Newcastle / Gateshead)

Following on from their first arts and social change “retreat” in Dartington last year, Counterpoints Arts (the charity that manages the Platforma network) will be running discussions and workshops for invited guests on themes including popular culture and European networking. Feedback from this session will be presented as part of the Platforma Conference.

27 October: PLATFORMA CONFERENCE Day 1 (Newcastle, various venues): 10.00-18.00

Join us to share practice, ideas and inspiration with artists and organisations from across the North East, the UK and internationally. This first day of the Conference will focus on new work commissioned for the Festival, providing hands-on engagement with some of the most important issues relating to the arts by, with and about refugees and migrants. All events in this programme are free and open to all (unless otherwise stated).

To reserve a place at the Conference please email

10.00-11.30: Conference launch at St John the Baptist Church, Grainger Street, Newcastle NE1 5JG

Speakers will include:

– Abid Hussein, (Director, Diversity for Arts Council England)
– Almir Koldzic and Áine O’Brien, co-directors of Counterpoints Arts

There will also be an introduction from project curator Laura Purseglove a new installation at the Church, Ritournelle (once more, from the top) by artist Katia Kameli (pictured below), a French-Algerian artist commissioned as part of the Platforma Festival by Art and Christianity Enquiry, the leading UK organisation in the field of visual art and religion.



12.00-14.00: Art In The Park: Forage and The Big M, Nuns Moor Park, Newcastle NE4
From the church we will walk about 30 minutes together to the park (alternative transport provided if required) where, in partnership with ISIS Arts, we present a new work by Henna Asikainen, Forage. Produced with participants from local communities in Newcastle, and with the co-operation of the National Trust, the work will be made on the day from a collection of foraged materials. More details here:


ISIS Arts will also be presenting work curated by Juan delGado in their unique inflatable gallery, The Big M. 

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Plus  there will be free food, music, and discussion around aspects of the work displayed.

15.00-17.00: Parallel seminars 

1) Counterpoints Arts’ Learning Lab: The Art of Self-Organising, New Modes of Networking and Cross-Border Solidarities – Carliol House, Market Street Newcastle NE1 6NE

Self-organising has a long history in the arts and cultural sector influencing diverse methods of production and participation. Borne out of creativity, politics and necessity it has to date produced a rich range of practices and ways of working. Join us – artists, curators, producers, programmers, activists, educators, critics – in this open forum to explore a timely re-thinking of how self-organisation today moves beyond the somewhat limiting labels of ‘non-profit’, ‘artist-run’ or ‘alternative’. With visiting contributors from across the UK, Europe and the US we will share initiatives exploring new models of governance, new platforms for cultural participation and active citizenship plus innovative and strategic cross-border networking. Our discussion will be framed by a keynote from Adnan Abdul Ghani, initiator of the autonomous Support Group Network (SGN) at Restad Gard Asylum Centre, Sweden. This Learning Lab forum is a collaboration between Counterpoints Arts, University of York Migration Network and the Cultural Significance of Place Research Group, University of Newcastle.

2)  Displacement and art in the age of hostility – Hatton Gallery, Newcastle

The filmmaker Marusya Bociurkiw and the performance practitioner Elena Marchevska will discuss their most recent projects and will engage in a discussion with the audience about the ethical implications of creating work about displacement and migration. The session will start with a screening of an excerpt of the movie: This Is Gay Propaganda: LGBT Rights and the War in Ukraine, the most recent documentary by Marusya Bociurkiw . This will be followed by a short presentation of The Study Room guide on The Displaced and Privilege, project that Elena Marchevska developed this year in collaboration with Live Art Development Agency and Counterpoints Arts. Full details



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3) Broken Chords Can Sing A Little – Isabel Lima; ISIS Arts, 5 Charlotte Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4XF

This seminar will critically reflect upon the process of developing Gresham’s Wooden Horse, a participatory project developed with disparate communities living in Gresham, Middlesbrough. Inspired by the myth of the Trojan Horse, this project uses its symbolism to stimulate collective action among Gresham’s populations. Many of Gresham’s grids of terraced houses have been demolished or boarded up in recent years. Its population is diverse, including British workers and asylum seekers. Social deprivation discourages local people from finding mutual commonalities and reports suggest that different communities rarely interact with one another. Gresham’s Wooden Horse sets up an informal forum for cultural exchange. The project is a vehicle for residents of Gresham, old and new, to establish a sense of ownership of their neighbourhood, enabling a collective process of reimagining the area’s identity. This session will focus on the ethics of engagement; collaboration; stakeholders and sustainability of artist-led participatory artworks within communities.

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17.00-18.30: Hatton Gallery special viewing

An opportunity to see the “Kurt Schwitters: Collage & Assemblage”  exhibition at the newly refurbished Hatton Gallery. Schwitters, who fled Germany in 1937 for Norway and then England, is one of the most important figures in post-War art. Schwitters: Collage & Assemblage focuses on Schwitters’ pioneering career long use of collage, a significant development in 20th century art practice. Fascinating dialogues exist between these works and those of the Independent Group and early pop artists on display in Hatton Gallery’s “Pioneers of Pop” exhibition and Schwitters’ Merz Barn Wall, permanently displayed in the Hatton Gallery.


18.00-20.00: Stranger Tales, Reza Iranian restaurant, 87 Westgate Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4AE

Capacity limited – first come, first served, or email to reserve a place.

Stranger Tales is an intimate storytelling experience that will take you across the globe, traversing time and distance, travelling from Siberia to a UK city street, bringing you stories that have never been told before. Created by theatre maker Stella Barnes with two professional performers and the input of 20 members of the public who shared their stories, Stranger Tales is part of Stella’s ongoing work in the field of arts and migration. She has a special interest in the notion of hospitality and how it relates to arts practice and attitudes to migration. The work is a frame for exploring complex and sometimes conflicting perceptions and offer a ‘performance’ of hospitality. The word hospitality has its roots in the word ‘host’ which has two origins: the Latin for stranger or enemy, and conversely guest. Stranger Tales is presented as a work in progress in collaboration with The Southbank Centre, Counterpoints Arts and idle women. This event is not suitable for small children. 

Image (below) by Candice Purwin


28 October: PLATFORMA CONFERENCE Day 2 – 10.00-16.00

Newcastle City Library, 33 New Bridge St W, NE1 8AX
The second day of the Conference will be a chance to hear about a range of different projects and artistic interventions from around the country and internationally. There will also be a chance to reflect on work seen on Day 1 and elsewhere in the Festival. We will then be inviting attendees to consider a range of questions about their own approaches and what they have seen elsewhere, working towards ideas for a new Platforma Manifesto on the arts by, with and about refugees and migrants.

Inspirations will come from artists including:

Manif Halbouni, Farhad Berhaman, Alketa Xhafa Mripa

Workshop sessions will be led by Stella Barnes and David Nguyen.

All welcome, regardless of previous experience in this work and whether you are able to attend on the 27th or not. Please email to confirm attendance. 

At 3pm we will present a performance of the brilliant Borderline by PSYCHEdelight, the acclaimed “comedy about a tragedy” made collaboratively by a company of young refugees and European actors and a sell-out hit at venues across the country.


Plus there will be a performance by dance and choreographer Tim Rubidge and Afshin Emam drawing on work done for the Make/Shift dance project.


Attendance is free and open to all, whether you are able to attend Day 1 or not. Please email to reserve a place.

8pm: Borderline at Gosforth Civic Theatre

Another chance to see the acclaimed show from PSYCHEdelight developed with and performed by refugees who lived in the Calais camp on their way to the UK. “High Comedy amidst the Poignancy. Powerful. Important.” Huffington Post. Booking:

31 October: Migration Museums Network event, Main Hall at Discovery Museum

This is an event to bring together and share learning from the pilot of the Migration Museums Network. This network is aiming to increase and improve outputs associated with migration and related themes in museums and galleries across the UK. The event in Newcastle will be a practical day. Registration via Eventbrite


The biennial Platforma Festival brings together artists, organisations, funders and others for discussions, workshops and the chance to share practice and showcase new work. The first three took place in London (2011), Manchester (2013) and Leicester (2015).

Platforma arts and refugee network supports and develops arts by, about and with refugees and migrants from marginalised communities. It brings together groups and artists / performers of any background or political status (e.g. refugees and non-refugees), whose work examines the varied experiences of refugees and migrants both before and after they arrived and settled in their host country. Platforma is managed by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with organisations across the country. 


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Counterpoints Arts is a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and social change. Our mission is to support and produce the arts by and about migrants and refugees, seeking to ensure that their contributions are recognized and welcomed within British arts, history and culture.

About Freedom City 2017

The Platforma Festival is being presented as part of Freedom City 2017. On 13th November 1967, Newcastle University awarded Dr Martin Luther King an honorary degree, the only UK university to do so in his lifetime. On accepting this award, Dr King made what was to be his final public speech outside of the US before his assassination in April 1968. In a moving address, he called for us to join him in the ongoing struggle against war, poverty and racism. Freedom City 2017 brings together international artists, musicians, filmmakers, academics and community groups to inspire a new generation to contribute towards tackling the issues that Dr King spoke of in his acceptance speech.

On Sunday 29th October a great drama will engulf NewcastleGateshead, inspired by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and epic civil rights struggles from across the globe, both past and present. Out of the buildings and through the streets of NewcastleGateshead will come a unique afternoon of theatre, music, dance, circus and art to celebrate the courage and sacrifice of those who have led the long march for civil rights. Starting from different locations across the city, the stories from Alabama 1963, India 1919, South Africa 1961, Manchester 1819, and Tyneside 1936 will be woven together in a unique immersive performance featuring a local cast of hundreds that will develop throughout the day. As night falls, an uplifting climax will bring the city to a standstill for a memorable moment of light, sound and theatre.

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