Promo: Meet Your Neighbour Online! Maison Foo Theatre of Sanctuary.

Meet Your Neighbour Online! 28th January 2022 1pm-2pm

Maison Foo Theatre of Sanctuary hosts online event to celebrate the launch of their ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ website, giving a unique insight into the lives of those seeking sanctuary in the UK. Back in 2021, Maison Foo launched their innovative ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ project, this creative installation saw 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 those currently seeking sanctuary in the UK.

This pop up multi- sensory experience celebrated people seeking sanctuary in the UK, through photography, mixed media art, audio and design, housed in a miniature model neighbourhood. Storytellers (those seeking sanctuary), worked with artists and model makers to devise a street made up of different houses. Each house contained a story, which visitors experienced through headphones. The positive impact of ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ was felt by many of those who took part and their wider family who attended the event back in September 2021.

Basema, who is originally from Kuwait was a storyteller for the project, said: “This project helped me to take first step after I lost everything. It gave me hope, confidence and to feel useful, and I believe now that nothing is impossible.” Ghani, who came to the UK from Syria, and was a guest at ‘Meet Your Neighbour’, said: “This is the first time since arriving in the UK that I feel I truly belong. Thank you for this gift, I am so happy today I have tears.”

Bethany Sheldon, Artistic Director of Maison Foo, said: “For me this project and all of our work as a Theatre Company of Sanctuary is about being the change you want to see. And for me, that change is about being part of making the UK not just a place of welcome but also a place where people seeking sanctuary feel they can truly belong too. Using creativity and the arts to build positive supportive communities and life moments where everyone feels their lives matter and their voices are heard.”

Now, this project has been re-imagined as a website, which launches on the 28th of January 2022. As well as hosting a digital version of the model houses 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. Maison Foo felt that a ’Meet Your Neighbour’ website was the most effective tool to develop the project long-term. They wanted to create a permanent place where anyone from across the UK could come to visit the ‘Meet Your Neighbour’ community, whenever they felt a need to connect to a welcoming neighbourhood. People that are seeking sanctuary may find themselves leading transient lives, and so Maison Foo felt it important to not just rely on a live tour of the neighbourhood created, but to create a permanent home for it too.

The ambition is to have a wellbeing section to the site, but also a place where people can come and listen and learn from various podcasts too. As part of the online event, audience members will have the opportunity to hear from creative team members Maha (originally from Yemen) and Khaled, (originally from Syria), as they talk about their lives in their homelands, their reasons for leaving, and how they feel about certain media headlines in the British media, in relation to those people who are seeking sanctuary. Beth continued: “We are currently living in a country where the UK government is pushing to make the UK a less welcoming place with their Nationality and Borders bill and on top of that a place where people’s beliefs and opinions about others can often be formed by what they have absorbed from media headlines. Headlines that are often based on misleading statistics, designed to create fear about people seeking sanctuary in order to sell papers. This is not the country I personally want to live in or choose to sign up for. Beth’s ambition is to provide an antidote to current attitudes and perceptions that can be displayed by the British media.

She said: “Meet Your Neighbour’ is about the complete opposite of newspaper headlines and government plans. It is about putting the newspapers down (and who knows maybe even in the bin) and actually taking the time to meet the humans behind the headlines as neighbours not strangers. Breaking down barriers and dispelling some of that media spun fear.”

Meet Your Neighbour online takes place on Friday 28th January at 1pm, Places are free and can be booked here- https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/maison-foos-meet-your-neighbour-online-launch[1]registration-242739108207?aff=ebdssbdestsearch (Images from the Meet Your Neighbour live event- 2021

www.meetyourneighbour.co.uk will be live for all to experience after January the 28th

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