Maison Foo: Meet Your Neighbour- innovative new project launches this September


Meet Your Neighbour- innovative new project launches this September

A new pop-up miniature neighbourhood, bringing doorstep tales from around the world to just down the road in Derby

This new installation from Maison Foo sees artists and designers from around the world fuse together audio storytelling, visual art and new technologies to bring to life the tales and passions of neighbours currently seeking sanctuary in the UK.

From sunrise mountains to outer space and joyous swimming, to green fingered gardening, these stories help highlight the commonality between all of us, regardless of which country we were born in.

Meet Your Neighbour was inspired by Maison Foo’s touring show, (A Thing Mislaid). The theatre had just been given ‘Theatre Company of Sanctuary’ status, and throughout the tour of their show, they met with many inspiring people who were newly arrived in the UK, and who had many stories to share of their homelands and their experiences of arriving into a new country, along with tales of things they loved, the people they cherished and their passions in the world. With an ambition to give voice to these stories and bring them out into public spaces, the idea of the Meet Your Neighbour installation was born.

Bethany Sheldon, Artistic Director of Maison Foo, said: “This project is all about neighbours and neighbourhoods and the role we play in a local and a global community. It’s about stepping into the role of ‘neighbour’, taking the time to listen and get to know people as just that, people. Removing the ‘refugee’ badge that so often people seeking sanctuary are forced to live with and meeting them as friends, neighbours.”

Meet Your Neighbour is co-hosted by local people living in Derby who are currently seeking sanctuary. It takes place on Sunday 19th September 12-4pm, on Cathedral Green, (outside the Museum of Making). This pop up multi- sensory experience celebrates people seeking sanctuary in the UK through photography, mixed media art, audio and design, housed in a miniature model neighbourhood. Storytellers have been working with artists and model makers to devise a street made up of different houses. Each house contains a story, which visitors can experience through headphones.

The Meet Your Neighbour neighbourhood has been created by a range of people, from creative storytellers and artists, to theatre designers and model makers, they have journeyed from many countries including Iran, Yemen and Syria

There is also a range of other activities happening across the day, including a community feast with food from across the world.

Bethany continued: “With the current situation in Afghanistan I don’t think there’s been a more important time than now to be a good neighbour, to open the doors to our communities, to welcome and to take the time to listen and get to know people as people.”

Basema Hashas, Meet Your Neighbour storyteller from Syria, said: “This project helped me to take the first step after I lost everything. It’s given me hope, confidence, to be useful, and I believe now that nothing is impossible.”

Maha Alomari, Meet Your Neighbour artist from Yemen, said: “It has been a great struggle for me as an artist in the UK. It’s a very competitive industry. Being part of this project opened up opportunities and introduced me to an amazing network. It also gave me the confidence of being the artist who I am anywhere. It is a privilege to be part of this cause.”

Ben Margolis, Regional Coordinator for City of Sanctuary said:
”Maison Foo are transforming lives and perceptions through their impressive commitment in ensuring that people seeking sanctuary are not just talked about in their plays but are at the very heart of everything they do.”

An online Meet Your Neighbour platform will also be launched later this year.
As well as hosting a digital version of the installation and ‘Notes to a Neighbour’ a way to send messages back to the neighbours that people have met through the installation, it will also have a ‘get involved’ page. A place where you can go and find out about the local charities in your area supporting people with ‘refugee’ or ‘asylum seeker’ status and details of how you can get involved.

Bethany continued: “We didn’t want the artwork to just land in a city as a ‘piece about people seeking sanctuary’. We wanted the artwork to be embedded in the communities it looks to celebrate. We managed to secure a National Lottery Community Fund grant which has enabled us to build a regular creative group with local people seeking sanctuary. We have handed over ownership of the event to the group. They will be hosting a street party at the Meet Your Neighbour miniature street.

This has been an empowering experience for the group and it’s been so exciting to see their confidence grow, as they step into the role of ‘party planners’ and ‘party hosts’. They will be the ones welcoming people to ‘their’ party, ‘their’ neighbourhood. And for a lot of them this will be the first time in the UK they are able to be the welcomers rather than the welcomed.”

These hosts come from a range of countries including, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, Turkey and Cameroon.

Meet Your Neighbour is free to attend, advance booking for a guaranteed timeslot to experience the street installation is now open https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/meet-your-neighbour-installation-community-street-party-tickets-166928023211?aff=

For more details about Meet Your Neighbour, please visit www.maisonfoo.com

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