Dr Felicity Laurence, Chair of Hastings Community of Sactuary
Raising funds for Hastings Supports Refugees, and Celebrating Hastings Community of Sanctuary
The third year of the Festival proved to be another wonderful and vibrant event, with 700 people coming along, including very many of our new fellow Hastonians who have found refuge here.
In the beautiful walled garden given to us so generously for this event by Ashburnham Place, stalls lined the perimeter offering food, information about local refugee-related initiatives including the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project and Freedom from Torture; creative workshops; children’s activities. While, in the extensive grounds outside the walls there was swimming, woodland walks and garden tours, further workshops and theatre performances.
The central stage resonated all day with amazing music, including Juliet Russell and the Hastings Vocal Explosion choir; later Gwyneth Herbert; and in the early evening slot, Sarah Jane Morris, Samaki Afrobeat and many more. There was compelling poetry performance from Keith Jarrett and others, and in all a stream of entertainment for the hundreds of people sitting on the grass with their picnics – or dancing along to the music.
Interspersed with the music and the poetry were speeches – from the initial welcome by Rossana Leal, Founder and Organiser of the Hastings & Rother Refugee Buddy Project, through several others, notably from our refugee Ambassador Fatima Esayli who spoke movingly of what it means to her and her family to find welcome and friendship with us after such difficult years in her original homeland. A strong focus of the Festival was the current Lift the Ban campaign of which Hastings Community of Sanctuary is one of the 200 members in the campaign’s national coalition. We were very pleased to welcome its national director, Andrea Vukovic, who travelled from London to speak about the campaign and join us on our stall, where we collected a huge number of signatures and expressions of support on postcards to be send to the Home Secretary.
Overall, the day was a demonstration of multifaceted celebration of the core commitment of our Community of Sanctuary – to strive to make ours a place of inclusion and welcome for all!