By Aimé Claude Ndongozi, Team Manager, Refugee Council Leeds One Stop Service
Whitby beat to the sounds of world music on the 5th, 6th and 7th October. The Musicport 2012 generously offered a mix of everything beautiful about music: the rhythms and the dances; the warm voices singing life, peace and love; and the fun and togetherness. There was a high positive energy-charged ambiance among the audience, the artists and the organisers.
And what a décor the little sea side town was! Whitby Pavilion – the festival venue – is a stone throw away from the majestic and awe inspiring North Sea. Just step outside and your senses are treated to a natural feast. In the cool breeze, you lose yourself into a spectacle of wonders. And as you catch your breath, the waves from the indigo sea waters crush nonchalantly onto a clean sandy beach, at the bottom of the cliff. The icing on the cake was the glorious sunshine under the purest blue skies for the entire weekend.
Do not be carried away though. Musicport is not a just another purely hedonistic event on the calendar. It is a unique, friendly, socially conscious music festival. This year, amid its own financial uncertainty, it teamed up with Refugee Council to put the spotlight on refugees.
So, we were given a free publicity place in their programme booklet. “Refugees shouldn’t be forced to scavenge to survive”, our advert said, supported by a hard hitting picture. That was not all. The main stage shamelessly displayed our “proud to protect refugees” message. “Go on Musicport!” I gushed when I set my eyes on the stage display for the first time. I tell you, it was a pretty sight! Just imagine hundreds of people, as diverse as the peoples of the earth, having fun and… “proud to protect refugees”. One youngster on a print journalism course came to our stall with a twinkle in his eye. “I am interested in your work. I think it’s fantastic. Can I take a leaflet please?” He said. “Of course”, I replied, pointing to our stall star, the little “Tell it like it is: The truth about asylum” leaflet. We chatted a little bit. He promised to check out our website and Facebook page.
On Saturday afternoon, the festival compere introduced Yvonne Cass, our vice-chair as “a very important person from Refugee Council”. In front of a packed audience, Yvonne spoke for three minutes about our work and called people to support us. She was applauded warmly. In the evening, a technical glitch spoiled the viewing of our 60th anniversary film. Oh no, it did not dampen our spirits. We kept on engaging, explaining, giving out information and fundraising material. Our Refutea cards raised interest and some people promised to try Refutea parties for us.
Musicport really put Refugee Council on the map in that part of England. Virtually every ticket holder saw our stall and poster- prominently set up in the foyer. And people took us home in every festival programme sold – perhaps 2000 of them. Not a bad first step, venturing into the unconverted world, engaging and sowing seeds. Overall, we were very satisfied with the weekend.
We owe a massive thank you to Jim, the festival organiser and his team as well as to the many volunteers and stewards. They made us feel home and were supportive throughout. Thanks also to Yvonne who stayed throughout the weekend. Thanks to Patricia who came as volunteer to lend a hand on Saturday and Sunday. Thanks to Amilee who travelled from Hull with her family to support Team RC on Sunday. Our fundraising team, especially Cristiana and Rebecca provided us with excellent support throughout. Thank you guys!
No doubt, that was the taste of more things to come. Next time, we will be more prepared to maximise fundraising activities.