On the 15th of this month, Sheffield – STAR are putting on one of their highly celebrated Refugee Rhythms nights, this time at Yellow Arches, Sheffield. STAR, or Student Action for Refugees, is an organisation which operates in various universities in the UK. It aims to support and promote refugee and asylum seeker welfare, and campaigns against anti-refugee movements, as well as the general government stance/laws on asylum seekers. If you thought that sounded a mouthful, you’re not wrong, but I think it says just as much about their high levels of activity in aid of refugees, as it does of my inability not to babble. (I’ve been reading a lot of beat writing recently and think that I’m the new Jack Kerouac).
My friend Greg is the treasurer of Sheffield – STAR. He assures me, however, that ‘treasurer’ is just a title, and that when it comes to operating in STAR, ‘everyone chips in where they can’. I met Greg and his mates through my friend Sophia at Shambala Festival, and spent a great deal of time hearing ‘where’s Greg?’. He’s a pretty elusive character, and one that’s often in high demand, so when I heard that there was a new Refugee Rhythms night called Movements, it seemed like the perfect time to swoop in for a chat.
I started off asking why Sheffield – STAR was important. I received a highly convincing response: ‘We support some of the vital networks for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Sheffield and South Yorkshire, with voluntary work, fundraising, and campaigning. Sheffield is where a lot of migrants are placed when they come to the UK, so being in a position to offer any support is really important to the many who have left their lives to come here‘.
Refugee Rhythms is the blanket moniker that Sheffield Star uses for its music-based fundraising nights. Described as ‘welcoming and unifying‘, it also moves with the times. ‘Movements is the new concept that Refugee Rhythms has been working on to move away from previous live gigs to a DJ-focused night, but we’ve kept the same name behind it – it’s catchy, people recognise it and get behind it even if they don’t know who we are!’
I asked Greg how he was finding the run of his first event at which he highlighted the element of a group effort. ‘It’s been really fun; stressful and busy of course but generally really good. There are loads of mates here who are willing to give advice and help us out when it comes to running events which are a massive help’. One thing that I hadn’t thought about was what a wonderful community the events business can create. ‘The promoter community in Sheffield is pretty open and friendly, so a lot of groups have collaborated before and worked together frequently, so it wasn’t really an issue asking DJs from different groups to play. Each promoter tends to stick to a very general style of music so being able to bring a few of these together should make for an interesting night’. An element of friendship and respect goes hand in hand with care and good-will. Greg explained STAR’s easy relationship with the promoters and DJs that they’ve been introduced to: ‘When we’ve explained what we do, we’ve found the DJs to be really receptive and supportive of the cause. Plus they’re really, really sound guys to hang out with.’
On the RR lineup are Marcelo of La Rumba and Stevie Risotto (Steven McKay) of Nice Like Rice. Through Shambala, and the odd consequential trip to Sheffield, I know that both of those DJs are, firstly banging, secondly lovely guys, and also good friends of Greg’s. I asked him how it was to work with friends on events like these. ‘Having friends in these positions is a massive help, from getting advice on how to run things to being able to play for us, it’s made the process a lot easier.’
Having found Shambala quite revelatory myself, I was tempted to ask Greg how he found it. ‘It was so cool, it was my second time there this year and it was really nice to come back and explore places/activities that I missed out on previously. There’s something special about the way it’s organised, and it keeps the best kinds of people coming back.’ I refuse to comment on whether I think that Greg was talking about himself here. Shambala greeted a diverse range of musical genres. Refugee Rhythms seems to follow suit. On top of NLR’s house and techno, and La Rumba’s globally-inspired renditions of the same, Movements is offering DUB SHACK too. I think you can guess at what they bring to the table. Greg gave me a low down on how the night acts as a sonic melting pot.
‘We wanted to create a night that is open to everyone and doesn’t really brand itself as one thing in particular. A fun place for people to come and dance and have a good time for a good cause. Bringing in different music styles, groups and their followings is the key for us to making this one work.‘
Inclusivity is therefore at Movements‘ heart. This seems to resonate aptly with the refugee cause. When asked about how much the night is hoping to raise in its aid, Greg revealed a quiet optimism. ‘We haven’t set ourselves a target, but previous RR events have raised into the 4-figure mark, so we have pretty high expectations’. All proceeds from the night will be split between Sheffield – STAR’s chosen charities Conservation Club, ASSIST Sheffield and South Yorkshire Refugee Law and Justice, who provide a range of vital support for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Sheffield.
All of these charities work in different ways:
- Conversation Club works as a social club, they provide spaces on a regular basis for Refugee, Asylum Seekers, volunteers and anyone else to chat, meet, practice English or play games over a cup of tea, as well as organising some weekend trips.
- ASSIST focuses more on the Asylum process, helping and supporting Asylum Seekers with preparation for interviews with the Home Office and guidance as to the process to gain Asylum here in the UK.
- SYRLJ provides legal advice and support to Asylum seekers through a network of volunteers and works closely in line with Assist’s work.
I heard about what STAR had witnessed of them. ‘ASSIST and Conversation Club are charities we’ve supported for a while, they’ve built really key foundations in our area for fighting the cause for asylum and then in making new migrants feel welcome and comfortable’. Whilst Greg expresses an appreciation for the work done, his use of the word ‘foundations’ impressed on me the idea that there is still a long way to go.
STAR can be seen as a flexible and alert campaign. ‘South Yorkshire Refugee Law & Justice is a new charity that we’re supporting this year, following a recommendation by a close friend of STAR’s who’s also actively involved in the Refugee process’. Although STAR is a casual campaign, it’s one that seems to be in the know.
If the campaign nights are anything as special as the campaign itself, it’s worth jotting down that the next event after Movements is to be held on the 13th of December. ‘Get it in your diary! Think 7-piece live bands and more….! We’re really excited about this one!’
It may surprise you that for the most part of my acquaintance with Greg, he was wearing a silk kimono (this one off Amazon to be exact) and disco-ball deely-boppers (how’s that for some accidental alliteration?). Although this was a fantastic side of him, I’m glad that I’ve seen this side of him too, because he’s a great guy who’s doing great stuff for the world. Greg works to support refugees, and let me tell you, he’s got great rhythm.
Tickets for Movements, produced by Yellow Arch Studios and Refugee Rhythms is on Party for the People now, starting at just £3!
It runs from Wednesday, 15 Nov 2017 at 10:00pm – Thursday, 16 Nov 2017 at 4:00am.
Featured photo credit to James Reilly Photography.