Manchester Jewish Museum presents its first ever Festival of Belonging from 7th until 14th March. Featuring one-off events and nights of comedy, theatre, storytelling, films and visual arts, it will examine how we assimilate in new places, explore what makes us feel that we belong and question what happens when we don’t.
Taking place at different venues across the city including Manchester Central Library, where the Jewish Museum is currently in residency during its ‘wandering’ phase, the festival is inspired by and features the stories found in the museum’s collection. The events will tell the history of the Jewish people who came to Manchester and how they attempted to assimilate and foster a sense of belonging. Some events will also connect and link with contemporary stories of migration to Manchester within both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities across the city.
Running throughout the festival is visual art installation, Dark Room by artist Helena Tomlin, a free exhibition at Central Library exploring the anonymous photographs in the Manchester Jewish Museum’s collection. The darkroom is a place to come face-to-face with the people in its archive about whom nothing is known. It also offers visitors the opportunity to create a caring response to those whose stories have been lost.
Other one-off highlights include Good Appetite with theatre chef Leo Burtin whose ticketed event at Manchester Art Gallery fuses storytelling, food and film to present a unique and tasty evening inspired by the Jewish kitchen. Stories are sifted into dishes, history is stirred with spices and cultures from around the world are sprinkled on top. Critically acclaimed comedians Shazia Mirza, Rachel Creeger and Juliet Meyers come together for an all-female multifaith night of comedy in Immigrant Diaries, hosted by multi-awardwinning comedian, writer, actor and activist Sajeela Kershi on 10th March.
Jerusalem born singer-songwriter Avital Raz brings her solo show, My Jerusalem to the festival on 11th March. Renowned for her politically engaged and fearless songs which span a 20-year career, this show tells the tale of a drunken one-night stand, infused with stories of growing up in the turmoil of 1980s Israel. It is followed by a panel discussion with artists Dani Abulhawa and Sarah Spies.
Musical exploration of migration and turmoil can also be found in Songs of Arrival on 12th March – a performance of songs based on the stories of Jewish refugees arriving in Cheetham Hill taken from the museum’s own oral history collection. A moving and musical evening bringing to life the voices and stories of Manchester migrants past and present, the show performance by renowned baritone Peter Brathwaite, and a premiere of specially commissioned music by Israeli composer Na’ama Zisser.
Manchester Jewish Museum chief executive, Max Dunbar comments: “We are really thrilled to curate and launch our very first Festival of Belonging. In such changing and often challenging times of political and social unrest, it seems a festival to celebrate unity, diversity and belonging is both timely and needed. We are delighted to bring together so many talented and creative people, many with their own stories to tell and many who will so beautifully bring our own to life.”
For full festival listings, visit Manchesterjewishmuseum.com.