Performances by children at Belgrade Theatre helped mark the occasion

Universal Children’s Day celebrated by CRMC

Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) came together with its friends across Coventry on Tuesday (21 November) to mark Universal Children’s Day.

Partnering with Positive Youth Foundation and The Children’s Society, CRMC put on a showcase of music, artwork and other live performances by children – many of them refugees – at The Belgrade Theatre.

Almost 100 families and children turned out for the event, to raise awareness of children’s rights and to campaign for better welfare for children, including newly arrived communities in the city.

Some of the children enjoying dancing to traditional Syrian music being played live. Copyright: Belgrade Theatre.

Organised internationally by the United Nations and UNICEF, the annual event took place on Monday 20 November, the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Reem Doukmak, Community Participation Officer at CRMC and the organiser of this event said:

“It is heart-warming to see the newly-arrived young people and children feeling safe and happy to share their talents and experiences.

“It is a rare time when the host becomes a guest; it is a telling sign that the Belgrade Theatre felt a space of sanctuary for people fleeing war.”

It was also a memorable occasion for The Belgrade Theatre, as it became one of the first theatres across the UK to be awarded ‘Theatre of Sanctuary’ status.

Reem (left) and Belgrade Theatre staff after being awarded ‘Theatre of Sanctuary’ status. Copyright: Belgrade Theatre

The award was given by the ‘City of Sanctuary’ movement, which is committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution. Belgrade Theatre was awarded its status as recognition of its commitment to becoming a welcoming and safe place. It followed the hosting of numerous events earlier this year to mark Refugee Week, including a free exhibition of community artwork based on the themes of home, belonging and identity.

The Belgrade’s Associate Director, Justine Themen said: ““We are delighted to have been awarded the status of Theatre of Sanctuary. The Belgrade prides itself on welcoming and building strong relationships with the diverse communities in the city – whether as audiences, participants or artists.

“We recognise that a city is a continuously evolving place, and that we need to be responsive to change within it. Whilst continuing to build our longer term relationships with existing communities, we want to open our doors to newly-arriving communities to share their stories and build understanding.

“We look forward to the challenges and inspiration that come with this. A theatre is a space for dialogue within the city and celebrating both our differences and our shared humanity.”

The wider event also signalled the start of a new relationship between CRMC and Belgrade Theatre, who are beginning to plan a short pilot programme of four workshops for newly arrived women. The workshops will use drama to build confidence and language skills. If the work is found to have significant impact, the partners will work to explore the possibilities of rolling out a longer programme.

Reem said:

“This is a promising start for long term collaboration with the Belgrade Theatre to welcome newly arrived families to Coventry and to unlock their artistic potentials. Theatre is a great space where cultures meet, ideas shared and talents showcased to build up bright futures.”

Reem added: “We would also like to thank Sainsburys, Coventry Food Bank and The Trussels Trust, all of whom donated generously to make this event possible.”

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