15,195km, 21 hours 15 minutes by plane, 32 days by ship. That is the distance between my old life and my new life. 9 hours behind in time and 4 oceans away from my family, friends, job security, sunshine and home. This got me thinking, but what is home? Is home where my heart is with my boyfriend in Kent, or is it in London where my eldest sister has been living for the last 4 years or is back where I just came from with my baby sister and parents, is that where my home is?
I believe, perceptions of ‘home’ do vary depending on culture and backgrounds but really it comes down to the individual opinions. I was raised in a predominately aboriginal community on an island off the coast of Brisbane, Australia. To my godmother Nunna from the Quandamooka tribe, home is the land we grew up on, the land that was stolen. To her and her tribe, they will never get their home back. I asked my roommate what is it like to live from home, be away from home? And what was home to him. As my roommate proclaimed ‘it is wherever everyone sounds the same as me.’
Today in the streets of Oxford I paused at this thought, what is home? I turned the question on the homeless man sitting rugged up in his sleeping bag on the pavement, “sir, you are called homeless, therefore it is perceived that you have ‘less than a home’, but what does home mean to you” his answer was short and sweet, “wherever my hat lands, that is my home for the night”.
Home is therefore not four walls and a roof, it is not always the country to which you come from, and it is not always where your loved ones are. Each of us have different meanings and each of us call different places in the world home. I believe that is what makes ‘home’ so special.
Music plays a huge role in making people feel ‘home’. Funk, soul, R&B, blues, pop, rock, hip hop… Everyone has their favourites guaranteed to make them happy!
The Witney Refugee Action Group decided to harness this creative element a few months after the Government resettled 6 Syrian families to Witney. We decided to organise a one day international music festival (Witney’s first!) to raise money for Oxford based charity Asylum Welcome and to formally welcome the arrivals to their new home. After months of organising bands, food, bar, raffle and activities, ‘Asylum Sounds’ was born! Music ranged from roots blues to turkabilly gyp-hop to DJs playing funk and soul into the night. We had poetry and live art by local artists Owen Collins and David Ranson, speakers such as local Labour councillor Laura Price, Amel Alariqi a refugee from Yemen who now works for Asylum Welcome and the executive director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima. We also had an art auction with paintings donated by local artist Karima Brooke, a massive raffle thanks to generous local donations, a cake sale and amazing children’s arts and crafts by In Our Element including a ‘build your own drum’ table.
We wanted to make the Syrian families feel comfortable, at home and able to share their own culture with us so we asked them if they wanted to bring some home-cooked meals to share with everyone. We named it a ‘Taste of Syria’ and for a small donation you could try anything on the table. It was such a success that I didn’t even get a chance to try any myself! A definite highlight was when the children of the families surprised everyone by getting up on stage to sing a song. Safe to say there was not a dry eye in the room.
All in all, it was a magical day full of art, music, food and love! We managed to raise £2000 for Asylum Welcome and £495 for the 7Cs Foundation, the local charity that gave us the venue.
We all learned a lot that day. That music really does bring people together and that no matter who you are or where you’re from, it’s always possible to create a home if it’s in your heart.
For more about the day (photos, videos and possibly even plans for next year’s event!), you can follow us on Facebook.
Throughout the semester members of the student committee will take turns to write a blog. It might be about organising the Festival, it might be about something else they are doing in or away from Brookes, it might be thoughts on our theme of home. Check in regularly to find out!