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Impact Story Posted • 17 Oct 2022

Extending an arts festival’s reach into Muslim communities

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BE FESTIVAL has taken place annually since 2010, pushing boundaries when it comes to theatre, dance, music and the performing arts in general.

Over a decade ago Birmingham European Festival set out to blur the lines between artists and audiences whilst celebrating different cultures. As an organisation based at the heart of a city as diverse as Birmingham, where more than one person in five is Muslim, they understood that they needed to make their main stage festival at the Birmingham Rep more appealing to and representative of a broader audience. Before applying to Amal for funding, explains Sadie Newman, BE FESTIVAL’s General Manager and Producer, when they tried to expand their reach, they didn't know where to start or who to contact.

“Working with Amal has led to positive change within our programming... We didn't have contacts in those communities”
BE FESTIVAL’s General Manager and Producer

Amal supported with Funding

Amal’s funding prompted them to explore ways to build stronger connections and trust with communities and to think about how they could reach new young people by working with artists and participants from diverse backgrounds. BE FESTIVAL started by casting a Muslim performance artist, Mokhallad Raseem, to perform on their main stage at the festival and brought him to their 'BE NEXT' youth theatre workshops to talk to the young people about his work. In addition, they took them to see Mokhallad's performance at the festival, entitled SoulSeekers, which focused on migration, hope and the meaning of home and memories. As many participants were from immigrant families and English wasn't their first language, Sadie felt this topic would resonate with some of the participants.

As part of its support for its partners, Amal also offers networking and learning days. 

“I attended one of these, had many valuable conversations with other Amal partners and heard a lot about what other people had been doing through Amal. It made me wonder what we could do next and who else we could work with. Funders rarely do this. It didn't dawn on me how valuable it was until I attended.”
BE FESTIVAL Representative

Celebrating Diversity

With Amal's funding, BE FESTIVAL went on to work with more Muslim artists, including Amerah Saleh, a well-known spoken word artist and producer in Birmingham. This was the first time they had worked with a Muslim artist in their BE NEXT youth theatre and Sadie says:

“She’s turned out to be incredible and I don’t think that would have happened, had we not gone down this road with Amal.”
Staff Member, BE FESTIVAL