Refugees’ Derby invitation to meet your neighbour

Published: 3 September 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

A house designed and made by Sam Wilde which is part of the Meet Your Neighbour installation

Artists and designers from around the world will bring to life in Derby the “tales and passions” of people seeking sanctuary in the UK.

Theatre company Maison Foo is behind Meet Your Neighbour which was inspired by its touring show A Thing Mislaid. Company members met many people who had recently arrived in the UK and who had stories to share of their home lands and their experiences of arriving in a new country.

Storytellers have been working with artists and model makers to devise a street made up of different houses. Each house contains a story which visitors can experience through headphones.

Bethany Sheldon, Maison Foo’s artistic director, said, “this project is all about neighbours and neighbourhoods and the role we play in a local and a global community. It’s about stepping into the role of ‘neighbour’, taking the time to listen and get to know people as just that, people, and removing the ‘refugee’ badge that so often people seeking sanctuary are forced to live with.”

Basema Hashas, a Meet Your Neighbour storyteller from Syria, said, “this project helped me to take the first step after I lost everything. It’s given me hope, confidence and I believe now that nothing is impossible.”

Maha Alomari, a Meet Your Neighbour artist from Yemen, commented, “it has been a great struggle for me as an artist in the UK. It's a very competitive industry. Being part of this project opened up opportunities and introduced me to an amazing network. It also gave me the confidence of being the artist who I am anywhere. It is a privilege to be part of this cause.”

Meet Your Neighbour is free to attend and takes place on Cathedral Green, outside the Museum of Making, Derby on Sunday 19 September between 12 noon and 4PM.

Sheldon added, “with the current situation in Afghanistan, I don’t think there’s been a more important time than now to be a good neighbour, to open the doors to our communities, to welcome and to take the time to listen and get to know people as people.”