CAMBRIDGE City Council is marking Refugee Week and Holocaust Memorial Day with a free community fundraising event ‘Voices of Hope and Healing’ at Cambridge Corn Exchange this Sunday (26 June) from 4pm.
The poetry and song concert will feature performances from poet and author Michael Rosen, with many of the poems from Michael's volume of poetry On the Move. Poems about Migration. Plus poems have been especially commissioned by HistoryWorks which Michael Rosen will debut at the concert.
These new pieces are called Voices of Hope, Healing Put Your Arms Around Me, and Nothing is Forever to fit with the themes of Holocaust Commemoration and Refugee Week.
New songs have been composed using Michael Rosen’s words by Andrea Cockerton; dances choreographed by Helen Garner with music by Alex Cook, plus physical theatre choreographed by Russell Burgess; and more than 3,000 children from primary, secondary and sixth form schools in Cambridge have been involved behind the scenes in workshops composing poems and songs, dances and dramas to empathise with refugee experiences.
On the day, some of these young people will perform the pieces they have been working on with Michael Rosen and historian Helen Weinstein of HistoryWorks in recent weeks, as part of educational outreach work for the council.
Performances of the new pieces with words by Michael Rosen will be given by the Dosoco Foundation Choir, Cambridge Academic Partnership Singers, Youth Elevation Dance Company and Coleridge & Parkside Community College Drama Club.
Cllr Mairéad Healy, Executive Councillor for Equalities, Anti-Poverty and Wellbeing, said: “We are honoured to once again be hosting Cambridge’s commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s as important as ever that the atrocities of the Holocaust – when over six million Jewish people were murdered, with an estimated 11 million people dying as a result of the Nazi regime’s policies – and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, are never forgotten.
“In addition to what is set to be a deeply moving afternoon of poetry, song and dance, it’s really important to us that Michael Rosen and the team at HistoryWorks spent time in the months leading up to the event working with school pupils. The children learnt about and creatively reflected on the poetry, stories and first hand accounts of the experiences of those who suffered – both during the Holocaust but also those who have been persecuted in other conflicts and those who have needed to flee their homes.
“I would encourage people to come along to help us demonstrate that Cambridge is a place that rejects all forms of persecution, discrimination and hatred.”
Helen Weinstein of HistoryWorks said: “Please come along on Sunday to the Corn Exchange when we hold a concert of poetry and song, drama and dance performances for marking Refugee Week and Holocaust Commemoration. It will be an inspiring event, uplifting and full of hope as we use words and music and movement to express support for people in need.
“The themes of Hope and Healing have been chosen because Healing means recovering from a tragic and painful experience or situation. No one understands this better than survivors of genocide, and those who have lost their homes in war and become refugees having to build new lives from scratch. Michael Rosen has also talked with me and the school children about hope, and how we have much to learn from refugees about holding onto hope when everything seems impossible. He has written a moving poem called Today One Day which is an anthem song for our concert on Sunday. It will show how we can use words and music to show our care and to ask for change so that refugees can feel truly safe. For the national marking of Refugee Week we are all coming together to imagine a world where healing replaces harm, because healing matters to all of us.”
Michael Rosen, Poet in Residence at Historyworks, said: “I’ve worked with some 3,000 school students on poems and songs for themes chosen to mark Refugee Week and to commemorate the Holocaust. I’ve been introduced to all these school pupils at the HistoryWorks sessions for teachers and their KS2 and KS3 students where I’ve been reading poems out loud to schools alongside Andrea Cockerton playing the songs I wrote lyrics for. I’ve told some family histories about refugees and victims of persecution in my family. And with the children we wrote collective poems which we turned into songs on the spot! Really uplifting! Full of hope and support for refugees!
“I support Refugee Week and Holocaust Commemoration partly because of my own family’s experience of being refugees and finding out some of my uncles fled their homes and then were murdered by the Nazi regime. But also because of basic human rights, which if we don’t adhere to, we destroy what holds us together.”
Holocaust Memorial Day is marked each year on 27 January, the date that Auschwitz was liberated, but the annual civic event for Cambridge had to be postponed in January 2022 due to Covid-19 and will instead be commemorated this Sunday, to tie in with Refugee Week. The event is free, and not ticketed, so there is no need to book in advance.
Although the event is completely free to attend, attendees who wish to make a donation at the event will be welcome to do so. This year collections will be taken for the Refugee Hardship Fund which is administered by Cambridge Ethnic Community Forum (CECF) Refugee services, which supports refugees, especially newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine, and destitute asylum seekers. Donations can also be made to the fund by texting the word REFUGEE to 70560.
The concert is suitable for children from Key Stage 2 onwards. However, organisers suggest that children under the age of nine only attend at the discretion of adults in their family who can guide their children through discussing issues they will hear and learn about during the event. Children aged 16 or under should be accompanied by an adult.