St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, will host a special concert on Thursday June 23 organised by the Red Cross, Belfast Friendship Club and NI Council for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) to mark Refugee Week (20-26 June).
The free musical event, #WelcomeFest, is set to feature a diverse line-up of local artists including Fiona O’Kane and Frances Mitchell, together with Ugandan drummer Donna Namusake, Sri Lankan beatboxer ‘Julius’, Mauricio Velezsierra and Heidi Heidelberg, with a number of other musicians and singers from the local refugee and asylum seeker community.
Organisers hope to showcase and celebrate Northern Ireland’s growing musical and cultural diversity, which they say has been enriched by new refugee arrivals from more than 50 different countries.
The Dean of Belfast, the Very Rev John Mann, said: “WelcomeFest is a great title for what the evening is all about – celebrating talent, experiencing diversity, promoting the richness of the wide range of Northern Ireland’s society today.
“Things are not always easy, individuals and families may be isolated, integration takes time and effort, but may this night open our eyes and ears to fresh sights and sounds, help us make new friends and bring a smile and raise spirits all round. Do come. You will be very welcome.”
Melanie Holmes from the Red Cross’ refugee support team in Belfast said: “We wanted to show people the positive side of our work. We see a lot of hardship and sadness in our jobs supporting vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, but each person we meet is an individual with their own story, talents and contribution to make to our society.”
Melanie added: “We’re very grateful to Beyond Skin who have shared some amazing artists with us, and enabled us to put on what promises to be a great night of music. ”
Stephanie Mitchell of Belfast Friendship Club, which welcomes new arrivals from across the world at its base in Common Grounds Café on University Avenue, said: “Belfast Friendship Club is delighted to be working in partnership with Red Cross, NICRAS and St Anne’s to celebrate the new face of Belfast in this way.
“We have been overwhelmed with offers of help and support from many organisations and individuals for what promises to be a great, family-friendly night. It’s a wonderful example of what true partnership working can achieve.”
WelcomeFest will take place on Thursday 23 June at 7pm in St Anne’s Cathedral. It is free, family-friendly event with activities and entertainment for all ages and is open to all.