Promo: Maison Foo. A Seat At Our Table event.

Maison Foo, Derby CAN and Friends invite you to take….


The Dining Room, Pickford’s House, Derby

11th – 16th October 

A multisensory celebration of food, family and friendship co created with friends seeking sanctuary in Derby. 

For hundreds of years, stories have been shared in this dining room, around this table, and yet, there are still stories missing…

Join Maison Foo and their Creative Sanctuary Group as they take over the dining room at Derby Museums’ museum of the Georgian home, Pickford’s House. Reimagining what and whose stories are told in spaces such as these. Set around a ‘dining table’, this is Pickford’s House, but not as you know it!

This intimate and heart-warming experience gives audiences a chance to hear personal stories from newly arrived friends from all over the world. 

Using audio story, visual installation, theatre design and live conversation to bring to audiences an infectiously joyous celebration of this very special community and their collective love of food, family and friendship.

“Inspired by our love of cooking, food, and memories of family kitchens all over the world; these are stories we would love to share with you.’ The Creative Sanctuary Group

The project aims to give local residents with Refugee and Asylum Seeker status in the city, a positive platform from which to tell and share their stories with Derby and beyond, in places where their voice has previously been unheard.

Bethany Sheldon, Artistic Director of Maison Foo, said: “I don’t think there’s been a more important time than now to open our hearts and communities to people seeking sanctuary in this country. With war still continuing in places like Ukraine and people in Afghanistan still coming to terms with new rulers, we need to show solidarity not inhumanity.

When Derby CAN asked us who in the local community, we would like to co create a show with, we didn’t even need to think twice, we knew we wanted to use this commission to give local friends seeking sanctuary an opportunity to be heard and to share their stories with Derby.  As a Theatre Company of Sanctuary we are very lucky to get to spend time every week with people seeking sanctuary in the city. We have now been running creative activities, events and making work with people seeking sanctuary in Derby and beyond for 5 years.”

Beth continued, “A Seat At Our Table is an invitation to be part of changing the story of where refugees’ voices are heard. By sitting down at our table and listening to these stories you’ll be part of making history too, as these stories will be served up in the dining room at Pickford’s House. A grand historical dining room where stories have been told across the table for hundreds of years, but refugee dining stories until now have been missing from the house’s history. In October we will change that and add a new story to the history of the building.”

Nasrin Samavi, Maison Foo Community Associate, who is originally from Iran, said: “I love that we have chosen this historical house because this house has a lot of stories, it has been here a long time. But when we take over the dining room it doesn’t matter about what is this house, or who used to live in this house, because now we are here telling our story.  In that moment our story is the house’s story. We are here and we can change the history by changing the story that is told about this house. The past has gone and the moment we change the story, we can change society and change the people. And our story about the house is a story about a dinner party with food and friends from around the world, a community, a newfound family, who now live here, in Derby. I hope through this show people can get to know us better than before, enjoy hearing our stories and enjoy learning about our culture.”

Not only is this project an important and innovative way in which to help provide voices, to those who are often silenced, but the work of Maison Foo and the inclusion of those who have fled from other parts of the world has provided a opportunity to reduce isolation and loneliness that can often exist in sanctuary- seeking communities.

Nasrin continued, “I think the creative projects Maison Foo do is like therapy. There is a lady new to the group, before she came, she had anxiety and depression and today she said thank you so much for inviting me to this group. She told me this morning she rang her mum back in Iran and said ‘Mum, I’ve finally found another family.’”

Each member of Maison Foo’s Creative Sanctuary Group has a different story to tell, a different journey they have travelled, but what they all have in common is Derby, and the desire to become part of a city and a community they now call home.

“It’s not easy having to leave everything. When we came here, we had no idea what was going to happen. 

I was really scared not just for me but for my wife and children. 

It would be really nice for people to sit down with people like us and have a chat and learn about why people come here. Like in my case, we had to leave because being realistic if we hadn’t left by now we probably would be dead. 

Because of gangs back in El Salvador we were sentenced to death by them. We chose England as it was one of the far enough countries away as possible to cut everything with Latin America and so they can’t reach us, so we can completely disappear.” Creative Sanctuary Group Member from El Salvador.

Kat Ralls, Lifelong Learning Programmer, Derby Museums, said: We are delighted to be supporting the work of Maison Foo and their Creative Sanctuary Group. It has been a privilege to get to know all those involved in the project and find out more about their lives and unique cultures. This project is particularly important to Derby Museums as we work towards becoming a Museum of Sanctuary, where we can welcome those seeking sanctuary in the city, provide access to arts and culture, and most importantly a place for friendship. From the three museums under Derby Museums care, Pickford’s House is symbolic of the home, which makes it a perfect place for this powerful art installation to invite visitors to meet their neighbours and share stories around the dining table.”

Sam Rushton, Derby CAN Producer, said: “Derby CAN is thrilled to be commissioning Maison Foo and their wonderfully creative and engaging group to create ‘A Seat At Our Table’. Our hearts are lifted and our souls are fed (quite often literally with amazing edible treats!) every time we engage with work created by Maison Foo, the participants who we meet through them and the doors they open for all to feel welcome and safe.  Arts and culture should not be limited to a select few, it should be a right for everyone to have access to creative nourishment, experience shared moments together and let their talents shine through.  We cannot wait to experience more stories and moments of connection through their latest project and continue to develop Derby Theatre’s relationship with the community as a Theatre of Sanctuary and make all CAN partners doors open and accessible to a variety of people.”

A Seat at Our Table runs from 11th – 16th October at Pickford’s House, Derby.
This is a free event, however tickets do need to be booked, as seats are limited.
To book tickets-

A Seat At Our Table’ is commissioned by Derby CAN (Arts Council England Producing HUB) in partnership with Derby Museums and Oddfellows UK. 

For more details about A Seat At Our Table, please visit

This work follows on from the success of Maison Foo’s Meet Your Neighbour Installation

Beautifully framed…each of the stories a little gift… A simple idea executed with such care and delicacy’
Lyn Gardner


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