In February 2020 we began work on an arts/media project with a group of teenage boys, Syrian Refugees, whose families had been resettled in Leeds.
The boys met twice weekly at a youth club for 2 hours on a Friday and they played football on a Tuesday evening.
The ambition for the project was to introduce the boys to a range of different forms from the creative industries, taster sessions, and those that had the most impact on the lads we would then take further do some more sessions on and , for Refugee Week 2020, this week of course, create a mini festival or exhibition of some sort to showcase the new work or journey the boys had been on over the past few months.
Then Covid hit…
For a few weeks we discussed with the Communities Team at Leeds City Council, the funders for the project about how to proceed. What came out of these discussions through March and April was how we were all doing personally, socially and emotionally, in the early stages of Lockdown with the virus seemingly gathering pace in the UK.
In one of those conversations over ZOOM, of which we are now all too familiar, one of us mentioned casually that the Syrian families we were working with had been through similar social trauma, the like of which we were now experiencing, and that their thoughts on how confused and frightened the UK population at large were clearly right now might be a worth exploring in comparison and contrast to what life had been like in Syria in the early days of the civil war.
From this early group ZOOM came the idea, developed over the next few days, of Lockdown Reflections. We planned to ask Syrians, resettled here, their thoughts on a handful of topics that might resonate today but also highlight their past experiences some more and to turn these into practical infomercials, increasing awareness of their lived reality but also maybe helping anxieties now about overcoming dangerous situations.
Several further ZOOM meetings were set up and with several Syrian families and individuals during the main stage of lockdown through Early May, before any easing had occurred, and we asked each of the participants questions that broke down into the 6 areas and topics we see now in the finalised short films.
As an British artist who has no more than 10 words of Arabic, the sections requiring translation were an eye-opener and somewhat of a challenge (understatement), but…again, Zoom- screen share to the rescue here! But we are really delighted to be able to share these films now, at this time and on this Refugee Week, exactly when the original project should have been culminating.
Adapt and evolve…we are going to all of us adjust to that as a mantra aren’t we?
Watch the rest of the films: