Room for All was our project celebrating cultural diversity and awareness and bringing quality arts provision to young people in Shropshire.

A ‘Room for All’ (taken from the Maggie Holland song A Place Called England) encapsulates the festival’s welcoming philosophy of celebrating diversity and fostering talent and our desire to allow everyone room to grow and thrive.

Room for All followed on from our successful All Together Now education and outreach project celebrating world music and dance (2015-16). It included:

  • A new commission of collaborative music – ‘The Passerine’ – featuring the award winning duo O’Hooley and Tidow and refugee musicians at the 2017 and 2018 festival
  • Performances by culturally diverse musicians at the 2018 festival
  • Outreach talent development programmes for young people led by inspiring artists to pass on the folk tradition and nurture new talent
  • Music workshops in Telford schools giving young people an introduction to folk music
  • Indian Kathak dance workshops in schools with Sonia Sabri
  • Continued support for the Shropshire Youth Folk Ensemble
  • Continued support for Shropshire’s only school rapper side at Ford Trinity School (a legacy from All Together Now)

Room for All – an introduction

The idea for Room for All stemmed from the political upheaval that our country – and indeed, our world – is going through at the moment.  One social issue that keeps coming to the fore is the plight of refugees who are trying to escape war, persecution and other horrors that many of us can’t even imagine.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Brexit referendum and, whatever the eventual outcome, there is no denying it revealed that many people don’t want to welcome refugees here. There are obvious and understandable fears of being overwhelmed by huge numbers of immigrants and, of course, there does need to be some control. During the Brexit campaign we were disturbed by the overriding attitude of many to close our borders to those who are facing genuine atrocities. Feelings of negativity, division and prejudice emerged in some sections of society and, to our disappointment, the flames of racial hatred were ignited.

There are many of us who feel compassion for refugees but feel powerless to do anything. After the referendum, we felt despondent, downhearted and discouraged by the division in our country. So we decided that, however little, we would do what we could to bring some decency and optimism to the plight of refugees, if only in a small way at our festival.

We want to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of different cultures here in our corner of rural England. We will be highlighting the plight of refugees through our programming and new commissions and breaking down barriers between different cultures via our education and outreach programme. We are very grateful to Arts Council England for its support in helping us to achieve this small step towards a more united – and hopefully better – world.

We were very grateful for an investment of £95,000 from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and to Shropshire Council for a £1,000 Arts Revenue grant.

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England:

“We’re delighted to be investing in Shrewsbury Folk Festival’s plans to celebrate and promote cultural diversity through this new project.

“It’s essential that England’s diversity is reflected in our arts and cultural landscape, Room for All is a perfect example of how that can be done. By collaborating with traditional and refugee musicians as well as hosting workshops and promoting outreach work this project will inspire new artists and nurture talent in rural Shropshire.”