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Sanctuary Festival

Helping to make Our Home a place of Sanctuary for All

To close Refugee Week in Hastings, Sanctuary Festival brings people together for a day of music, creativity and community – celebrating all the cultures that help make Hastings such a vibrant place to live.

For the eighth year, some of Hastings’ best musicians and artists are showing their support for the act of seeking sanctuary alongside artists and performers from around the globe who have made the UK their home. Organised by local charity Hastings Community of Sanctuary (HCoS), and hosted by Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, the festival celebrates the power of community, of creativity and of hope. The event comes at the end of Refugee Week, a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary, with a theme this year of ‘Our Home’.

The festival runs from 12-6pm and is free to all. In the grounds of Hastings Museum you will find live music, creative workshops, storytellers, community stalls, fun for kids, food and friends. The music line-up includes Fol’klor Musiqaa, a unique Syrian / Ukrainian collaboration between festival favourites Jamal & Alaa and duo Dina & Polina. Also Sanctuary Sounds, a new Hastings-based international group that has come together specially for the festival. The international flavour continues with Shiva Nova’s Orchestra From Everywhere and traditional Ukrainian folk music from Culbaba Theatre.

HCoS are very excited to be working for a second year with Hear Me Out, who run music workshops with people in immigration detention centres, contingency accommodation and asylum hotels. Band from the Barracks are a group of musicians currently living in temporary accommodation at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent who have been making music together in weekly workshops with Hear Me Out.

With choirs Soundwaves and The Shady Pines, a’capella group Now And Then and singer/songwriter Charlie Austen, the day will close with the fantastic Fat Tuesday Second Line Youth Band.

There are lots of creative things to do throughout the day including activities from Radiator Arts, circus and drumming workshops and storytelling sessions. And don’t miss the fashion show, created by a group of women from Sudan, Ukraine, Syria and Hastings with traditional and contemporary costume, some made specially for the event.

Inside the museum we are collaborating with the team from Playing The Race Card, who have created Black Joy! Up Close and Personal in the main gallery, a thought-provoking exhibition that highlights over 40 talented black artists from the South East. Curator Lorna Hamilton-Brown will be giving an exhibition tour and then chairing a discussion with some of the artists involved. Featuring Fatima Esayli, Gabrielle Anderson and Rahim Amartey, this insightful conversation will delve into how the migration backgrounds of these artists have influenced their artistic creations, and how the concept of ‘our home’ serves as a guiding force in their creative practice.

The second panel discussion explores what makes a place feel like home, and the role of institutions like museums and libraries in creating a culture of welcome. With Rossana Leal, Founder and Director of the Refugee Buddy Project, and Alice Roberts-Pratts, Curator at Hastings Museum.

Delicious food will be available all day from Liban Coast and Mama Putts, and The Dove Café will be setting up at the festival for the day, run by The Refugee Buddy Project and offering a warm welcome to all.

With so much turmoil around the world, Sanctuary Festival reminds us that community and creativity really do make a difference at a local level. Festival organiser, and Co-Chair of Hastings Community of Sanctuary, Polly Gifford says,

‘In the shadow of the cruel Rwanda Plan, that makes scapegoats of people seeking a safe place to be, we will tirelessly challenge the negative stories, promote understanding and value all those who contribute to our communities. Sanctuary Festival is a great family day out that also sends a strong message of solidarity – we hope you will join us.”


Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, Bohemia Road, Hastings TN34 1ET


Sanctuary Festival is our annual event held in June at the end of Refugee Week.  It is a celebration of community and solidarity with refugees and anyone seeking sanctuary in our town.

The festival started in 2017 hosted at Ashburnham Place, and in 2021, following the pandemic, found a new home at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery.  We’re hugely grateful to both of them for making it possible to grow the event, which welcomed over 1500 people in 2023.

In 2022, a short film was made by Mike Page from Megatrend Media.  Watch it here.

Photos below by Alexander Brattell