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The Migrant Festival

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Art exhibition and music celebrates contribution of refugees
A four-day festival is to be held in Birmingham celebrating the contribution made by refugees and migrants to the city and the UK in general. The Migrant Festival, which takes place at the contemporary Ikon Gallery in Oozells Square from August 19 to 22, will comprise a mix of visual art, music, film and performance. As well as paying tribute to the contribution made by migrants and refugees, the exhibition also seeks to bear witness to the hardships and sacrifices involved in their journeys. The Migrant Festival 2021 combines digital and live events including performances by musicians curated by Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham - the Ikon's annual soapbox event featuring quick-fire presentations from individuals and groups supporting migrants in the Midlands. In addition, the third annual festival, which started in 2018, will feature talks with artists including Keith Piper with Robert Beckford, and Osman Yousefzada with Sathnam Sanghera; plus a series of family events and guided tours.

The Migrant Festival
The Migrant Festival celebrates the contribution of migrants and refugees

The Migrant Festival 2021 has been organised to coincide with the Ikon's exhibition called A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s, which looks at events staged at the gallery over the course of that decade. It will be supported by Brindleyplace, the Freelands Foundation, the Paul Mellon Centre and Selfridges store. This year's festival is also closely linked with artist and designer Osman Yousefzada's major new installation called Infinity Pattern 1 at Selfridges in Birmingham. The work has been co-commissioned by Selfridges and the Ikon along with an in-store exhibition and art trail. Along with new film, poetry and screenprints by Yousefzada, this features three Birmingham artists, Hira Butt, Farwa Moledina and Maryam Wahid, whose work has all been informed by the experience of migration.

The Migrant Festival, Osman Yousefzada
Artist Osman Yousefzada at the new-look Selfridges. Credit Jason Alden

Ikon's first Migrant Festival took place in 2018 and was co-curated by Yousefzada, to coincide with his first solo exhibition. In 2019 the festival took place during Hew Locke's exhibition and included a keynote talk between the artist and David Lammy MP. Last year's festival was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Ikon and Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham presented 'soapbox' videos as part of World Refugee Day and Midsummer Festival. Entry to the 2021 festival is free but donations are welcome.

The Migrant Festival, The Ava Band
Musicians such as Ava from The Ava Band will perform as part of Celebrating Sanctuary

For more details about The Migrant Festival, please visit
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Why? Help celebrate the role of migrants to the UK
When: August 19 to 22
Where: Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham B1 2HS
Cost: Free
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