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East Midlands
04 November 2015  -  06 November 2015

Platforma Festival – Conference & International


Booking is now open for the Platforma Conference on arts and refugees, including the first ever Platforma International.

The Conference, for artists, performers and anyone working in the arts relating to refugees and migrants is free to students and those on low/zero wage as part of the Platforma Festival organised by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with ArtReach.

“Conferences can often be a little bit dry, but the two days you organised went by too fast. Packed with great discussions, thought provoking work, this was a very happy event. While a lot of stuff discussed was challenging material, I could not help but noticing the smiles on people’s faces.”  Platforma Conference delegate, 2013

Book now for day tickets or all three days: 

Platforma International (4 November, 1-5pm) – Curve Theatre, Leicester

Platforma invites artists, organisations, academics and others (including policy makers and funders) working in the arts relating to refugees and migrations to join us for our first international event held in partnership with the Department of Media and Communication at University of Leicester

The aim will be to share practice of those working entirely or in part outside England (whether based in England or elsewhere) and to explore the potential for new collaborations and networking. Speakers will include Carolina Triana, Arts and Culture Coordinator at Settlement Services International (Australia), Lalya Gaye (Attaya), playwright and poet Zodwa Nyoni, Dima Saber (Birmingham City University)

Attendance is free but unfortunately we are not able to cover the costs of travel or accommodation.

Attendees are encouraged also to attend the Platforma Conference at De Montfort University on the following two days. 

Platforma Conference (5-6 November) – The Venue@DMU, Western Boulevard, De Montfort University Leicester

The third Platforma Conference in partnership with DMU  brings together artists in all disciplines, organisations, academics and anyone with an interest in the arts by, about and with refugees and migrants.

Featuring a selection of presentations and talks plus performances from artists including poet Kayo Chingonyi, Somali Lullabies featuring Maryan Anshur, musicians Haymanot Tesfa and Danto Aiyya, artists Jonathan Raisin and Nairouz (talking about their work for Sola Arts’ Festival 31)  and performance from Mina Mikhail Salama and Aysegul Balkose.

Thursday 5th November, 10.30-5pm

Workshops will include:

Bobby Lloyd and Jess Linton – Inhabiting The Uninhabitable, Art Refuge UK in Calais and Kathmandu.

Against the shocking backdrop of new realities and needs facing the millions of people who have been displaced across the world in 2015, Bobby and Jess (both visual artists and HCPC registered art therapists) will introduce Art Refuge UK and its response to supporting post-earthquake Nepal and the large and growing refugee camp in Calais, Northern France. The workshop will explore the relationship between art therapy and social action; art and activism; psychosocial support / approaches; the importance of local and international partnerships and the concept of Portable Studio.

Simona Scotto – Migration through Movement. Artistic Director of Counterpoint Dance Company, talking about her new work, Migrations Europa Exchange, a project based on celebrating the exchange of migrant and British culture. The session will include a practical contemporary -based dance workshop on how we explore migration through movement.

Natasha Davis – Body, memory and identity explored through installation-based performance Internal Terrains. A talk with slides to discuss how she has used body and memory in her performance works to create material about identity and migration, based on autobiography, mythology, historical facts and fiction. She will specifically focus on her recent performance Internal Terrains, concerned with life as a choreography of decades, in search of what is at stake as we move from one decade to another. 
Natasha Davis is a performance and visual artist creating work that explores body, memory, identity and migration.

Economics, People and Place: policy versus participatory arts practice in the context of migration. The 2015 Budget paints a very partisan picture of the parsing of the public purse with harsh everyday effects for diverse communities of place. Can we credibly claim to engage in socially engaged and community-led arts projects without also grappling with the language of economic policy? Do we shy away from such discourse and debate at our peril? Can we re-frame economic relations with values of empathy, care and humanity? What might this do to participatory arts practice? Join us for a Counterpoints Arts’ Learning Lab Round Table exploring the critical space between economic policy, inequality, participatory arts and communities of place.

Pod Collective – Dispersal Project. In response to the fifteenth anniversary of the asylum dispersal programme Pod Collective have led art, print and writing workshops with affected women affected throughout Greater Manchester. The participants were given the space to share their stories of their life in the UK culminating in the publishing of a newspaper distributed in conjunction with International Women’s Month.

Dash Arts – Twistov. Dash Arts creates artistic experiences that change the way we see the world. Founded in 2005 by Artistic Directors, Josephine Burton and Tim Supple, Dash Arts has rapidly emerged as a unique international creative force, producing new theatre, dance, music and art events in collaboration with exceptional artists from abroad. This winter Dash Arts will be teaming up with site specific theatre company Teatro Vivo to develop a new performance piece inspired by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Twistov will tell a tale of London from the point of view of those who have migrated here. Created by Dash Arts’ creative associate Sophie Austin, Twistov will be a promenade production that will celebrate the diversity of London’s immigrant communities and take its audience on a thrilling journey down back streets, alleyways and into the heart of this metropolis. Join them for a practical workshop as wthey explore the themes of arrival and survival and share Dash Arts approach to making work. 

Valentina Zagaria, Ilaria Vecchi and Agnes Woolley – Storytelling on and about Lampedusa. A site of both tragedy and hope, the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean has become infamous as the first point of call for migrants crossing to Europe from North East Africa. But Lampedusa is also crisscrossed by another group of transient dwellers: journalists, writers, photographers and artists seeking to document the stories of the new arrivals. Valentina Zagaria (dramatist and anthropologist), Ilaria Vecchi (activist and organiser of the Lampedusa Film Festival), and academic Agnes Woolley (Royal Holloway University of London) discuss the ethics and practice of storytelling on and about Lampedusa, and consider wider questions about the role of the arts in the current crisis in migration. Supported by the Humanities and Arts Research Centre, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Community Arts Northwest – Hidden Histories: Bringing Refugee Narratives to Life. Manchester-based Community Arts North West (CAN) will share practise and learning from its oral histories project- Lisapo – The Congolese Tales which recorded, preserved and shared the untold stories of the Congolese community living in Greater Manchester, who have been migrating to Britain since the late 1980’s as a result of the destabilisation of the country and consequent civil war. 

Coffee Shop Conversations – Unity through Creativity. Running for 6 sessions in October-November as part of Journeys Festival, Coffee Shop Conversations brings together people from different backgrounds, ages and communities in Leicester. Each session hosts a specialist arts practitioner and is chaired by an appropriate advocate for the refugee and creative community. This workshop will be a chance to learn more about the project and meet some of the people involved.

Friday 6th November 10.30-5pm

Workshops will include:

Syria on the Road: Stories of Conflict, Migration and Place – a partnership film programme comprising Counterpoints Arts’ Learning Lab, Highlight Arts, RHUL, Outgrain,  the British Council and the Phoenix Cinema. This day long film event focuses on the changing nature of screen storytelling and film production in the context of the Syrian civil war. What motivates screenwriters, filmmakers and producers to engage in creative storytelling in the middle of a violent conflict? Or when experiencing and/or witnessing dramatic human displacement? What are the new methods of capturing and re-imagining stories of everyday life for people and places undergoing transition because of conflict? There will also be two screenings in the evening – read more.

Kooj Chuhan, Alex Randall and Andrew Baldwin – Footprint Modulation: art, climate and migration. Popular ideas of climate change rarely connect with migration even though migration is probably the largest human consequence of climate change. The creative work presented in this project is led by artist and producer Kooj Chuhan (Metaceptive Projects) in partnership with academic Andrew Baldwin (University of Durham) and with collaboration from activist Alex Randall (UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition). It moves on from often didactic climate-art approaches from a decade ago without ducking strong critiques, and harnesses fresh perspectives from migrants and global voices. Artists and activists at all levels from internationally acclaimed to local and emerging, and from countries including Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Iran, Brazil and Australia were involved. This session will include the premiere of a short film about the Footprint Modulation exhibition showing how the artists and their work have addressed the growing yet hidden issues around climate and environmental migration. It will also be a chance to hear from leading voices in this complex yet critical sub-theme within the wider context of human displacement.

Michael Cretu – Gipsy music and the influence of exile. Speaking from a personal and family experience and more broadly,about gipsy musicians, Romanian-born musician and composer Michael Cretu will examine how travelling gipsy musicians have been influenced by the culture and music of the country’s and lands they travelled through. 

Ismail Einashe and Agnes Woolley –  Art, Occupation and Citizenship in Italy.  Drawing on Ismail Einashe’s journalism, research and writing on migration in Europe, this workshop focuses on first and second generation migrants fighting for recognition in Italy. The discussion will touch on issues of legality, activism and artistic expression as strategies for asserting agency for migrant populations. Supported by the Humanities and Arts Research Centre, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Anne Smith – Creative English; from participant to volunteer through drama. Creative English is an applied drama project for adult refugees and migrants, which teaches functional English for everyday situations through a playful, improvisation-based approach.  This involves an ongoing plotline featuring familiar characters, shaped by the group.  It developed from PhD research into using drama to create a sense of belonging.  It is currently being delivered by volunteers in faith and community settings across the UK. 

Mussarat Rahman and Beate Dehnen – Therapeutic Arts Offering Refuge In Our Community. A tandem workshop led by two artists and therapeutic practitioners based primarily in Bradford and Leicester respectively,  with a wide range of experience in community settings. The workshop will explore the theory behind their practice, empathy and audience, and the creation of collaborative work.

Maria Rovisco (University of Leicester) and Emma Cox (Royal Holloway University of London) – Performing Non/Citizenship This workshop will look at some of the ways concepts of citizenship and non-citizenship are negotiated, reimagined or embodied through contemporary artistic performance and in performative interventions such as protests, occupations or demonstrations. Presentations will combine academic analysis with documentation of creative practice. The workshop is oriented toward an expanded understanding of performance that includes film, activist practices, political rhetoric, media representation and legislative actions.

Domenico Sergi (Horniman Museum; PhD candidate, University of East Anglia) – Connecting Museums with Refugee and Asylum-Seeker Organisations. What discourses have museums in the UK built around refugees and asylum seekers, and  to what extent have they engaged with resettlement and dispersal? The presentation also discusses the insights gathered in a seminar  a seminar (pdf) organised in February 2015 at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts focusing on the practical implications of building and maintaining relationships between museums and refugee organisations.  

Dates and details above are subject to change. More programme details and speakers will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Online booking for  4-6 November:

Platforma Festival Performances

Confirmed performances for the Platforma Festival include:

Internal Terrains by Natasha Davis (4th November)

The Edge by Transport Theatre (5th November)

Nine Lives by Zodwa Nyoni (6th November)

Sanctum by Quite Right Theatre (7th November)

More performances and exhibitions will be announced in the coming weeks. 


The Platforma project manager, Tom Green, based at Counterpoints Arts said: “The first two Platforma Conferences brought together hundreds of people from across the UK and internationally. We’re really looking forward to bringing the next Conference to De Montfort University and are delighted to have their support.”

Below you can short videos about the Platforma Festival in London 2011 and in Manchester 2013. You can also download the Platforma Festival 2013 Booklet.

Barbara Matthews, Pro Vice-Chancellor/Dean, Faculty of Art, Design and Humanities De Montfort University, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the Platforma Festival Conference at DMU and look forward to a rich debate and celebration of art inspired and created by refugees and their communities.”

The Platforma Conference is part of the Platforma Festival which will run in Leicester across the first week of November 2015, featuring a range of artistic events, screenings and performances. Further details of the programme will be announced soon.

David Hill, director of ArtReach, said:

“ArtReach is incredibly excited to bring the Platforma Conference & Festival to the East Midlands, and looks forward to hosting an event with such rich and vibrant content. It’s particularly poignant to hold this national event in Leicester as it complements and drives forward the work ArtReach does through its Refugee Arts platform – Journeys Festival. Both these events help to highlight the inspiring contribution artists from these often marginalised communities make to the UK’s cultural landscape.”

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 of any background or political status (e.g. refugees and non-refugees), whose work examines the varied experiences of refugees both before and after they arrived and settled in their host country. We hope that the quality and diversity of the work presented within the Platforma project will encourage new audiences to relate more closely and empathetically to the experiences of refugees.

Platforma is managed by Counterpoints Arts in partnerships with organisations across England.