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Sanctuary Festival


Saturday 24 (evening) & Sunday 25 June (12-7pm)

Hastings Museum & Art Gallery




Community, Creativity and Compassion come together at Sanctuary Festival 2023

Sanctuary Festival sends a simple message of welcome to all, with some of Hastings’ best musicians and artists once again showing their support for the act of seeking sanctuary.  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 Compassion.

On Saturday 24th, 7-10pm, it’s the Sanctuary Comedy Special in partnership with Freedom From Torture East Sussex and Kamikaze Komedy.  Laughter is a powerful thing and there will be laughs a plenty with three fantastic acts – Jen Ives, Josephine Lacey and Jason Patterson – with Tim B’vard of Hastings’ legendary Bavard Bar as MC.  There will be an auction of special promises to raise funds for Freedom From Torture and Hastings Community of Sanctuary.  You can bid for 1-2-1 singing lessons with Jazz legend Liane Carroll, a creative writing session with the creator of ‘Smack the Pony’ Doon Mackichan and an encounter with horses courtesy of Equine Affinity. Tickets are £15, available from Eventbrite.

Sunday 25th is the main Sanctuary Festival, now in its seventh year, kicking off at midday and free to all.  In the grounds of Hastings Museum you will find live music, creative workshops, storytellers, drumming, community stalls, fun for kids, food and friends.  The music line-up includes Sudanese poet, songwriter and composer Bashir al Gamar, who found sanctuary in England in 1993, after being imprisoned for writing a poem. HCoS are very excited to be working 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.

Award winning musician and composer Gwyneth Herbert has been collaborating with students at Ark Alexandra Academy to create a song about what sanctuary means to them, and some of the students will be performing the song with Gwyneth at the festival.  We will also be displaying an installation made by people seeking sanctuary for Hastings Library.  Both of these projects are part of the institutions’ applying for a Sanctuary Award which shows their commitment to embedding support for sanctuary seekers in their organisations.

From Hastings we have Las Cabras Cubanos, a new jazz trio from saxophonist Lynda Murray, drumming sensations the YYPPFDs, The Shady Pines and the Lifted Up Community Choir based in Bexhill.  The festival loves to support young artists and this year we are proud to showcase singer/songwriter Clara, The Fat Tuesday Second Line Youth Band and Imran, a young man from Afghanistan who discovered his passion and talent for music during lockdown.

There are lots of creative things to do throughout the day.  Artists Anne-Marie Watson and Fatima Esayli are inviting you to make festival bunting, and Rhiannon Armstrong will be creating poems from words found in the bin!

Inside the museum there will be talks and discussions, responding to the Refugee Week theme of Compassion. Communities Not Camps, programmed in collaboration with The Refugee Buddy Project, will explore the impacts and ethics of government plans to house people seeking asylum in the UK in segregated accommodation centre.  Pockets of Joy will focus on the role of arts and creativity for people in immigration detention and navigating the asylum system.

Delicious food will be available from Liban Coast and Mama Putts, and we’re delighted to welcome back the Ben & Jerry’s team with their ice cream truck and free ice cream!  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 at this time, 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,

“The public narrative around refugees and people seeking asylum continues to be dominated by negativity and scapegoating, and so it is more important than ever to present a different story, that fosters understanding and compassion, which we are proud to do. People in Hastings have always shown amazing compassion for refugees and people seeking asylum and Sanctuary Festival exists because of that support.  It’s a great family day out that also sends a strong message of solidarity – we hope you will join us.”

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 2022.

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

Photos below by Alexander Brattell