Meet Your Neighbour Festival
The Meet Your Neighbour Festival was a cultural event organized by ICOS (International Community Organisation of Sunderland). It was a project that enabled local communities to celebrate what contributions migrants from different countries of Eastern Europe have made to the local area, while presenting the cultures of the countries they were born in.
The festival took place over the week of the 22nd to 27th May 2017.
Post Festival feedback, learning and evaluation activities took place at ICOS, 14th June 2017. There were 21 people present at this meeting, including Daniel Krzyszczak and Michal Chantkowski representing ICOS.
Chairing the meeting and evaluation document completion: Anna Glover.
Did this event supported our mission?
ICOS is a registered charity currently based in Sunderland and exists to benefit the local community, minority ethnic people in particular. ICOS has also organised and helped co- organised numerous art and cultural projects, such as Meet your Neighbour, the Made in Poland Festival and other social events, where people from different communities can come together and get to know each other. ICOS is also part of Sustainable Sunderland, a partnership of 9 organisations working together to enhance environmental sustainability in Sunderland.
ICOS aims to:
serve the minority and ethnic community in the North East, enabling them to lead full, meaningful lives and feel secure and welcome in the North East of England.
achieve a greater level of social cohesion and cooperation between different communities in this region.
provide services which benefit international communities in Sunderland and the North East.
provide facilities for education, culture, religion, leisure & recreation, sport, occupation, health promotion and social welfare.
work in partnership with local statutory authorities and voluntary organisations in providing a range of services for the local community.
be responsive to the desires and needs of local ethnic or minority communities and seek to provide such services as may be required.
promote and encourage integration in Sunderland.
The Meet Your Neighbour Festival 2017 supported our mission in full.
In preparation towards the festival ICOS vowed to work with the community and organise sessions related to diversity in Sunderland. These were centered around Eastern European culture and migration
The sessions used creative writing, visual arts, and photography to create work which were utilised to create an exhibition, forming a part of the festival.
The aim was to present the lives of current and past BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) residents of Sunderland, Eastern European community in particular, their experiences, dreams, and contributions they make to the local community.
Festival also included live creative activities:
Language taster sessions
Art workshops (e.g. pottery making)
International food tasting
A live music event
The festival utilised the local library, the Sunderland Museum & winter Gardens, and Sunderland’s Holmeside Café & Independent as festival venues, as well as ICOS’s premises and other community venues to organise and deliver the development sessions.
Project management was undertaken by current staff members (additional hours), while the Board of Trustees provided strategic oversight. The Project Steering Group (PSG) was formed to ensure that the project understood and met the community needs.
Some specialist support was provided by sessional workers (e.g. photography, pottery workshops).
Engagement/ inclusion/ publicity
ICOS ensured that the project was accessible to many through use of available venues and times during projects developments, enabling parents to come with children and using community languages. All festival venues were mobility accessible.
ICOS used their social media, website, and mailing list to advertise the project. A dedicated Facebook page/group was created for this event. Additionally, posters were displayed at key locations including festival venues, community centres, faith premises, children’s centres, schools, University of Sunderland, and international food shops.
PSG included representatives from different communities to ensure understanding and reach.
Finally, ICOS and PSG utilised the local media to promote and advertise this project.
This strategy enabled inclusion of as many people from all local communities as possible.
Project benefits/ Outcomes
This project’s aim was to bring people from diverse cultures / backgrounds to celebrate their differences, to improve social cohesion and reduce tension, including social isolation.
At the planning stage, ICOS estimated that 12 volunteers and 500 recipients would benefit.
We have exceeded the above targets with over 1500 individuals visiting the museum exhibition alone and 26 volunteers taking part in the project.
The project timeline
October -November 2016 – forming of the steering group; engagement with local groups, voluntary sector, public agencies, and partners organisations
December 2016 – March 2017 – recruiting volunteers; engagement with community artists and project beneficiaries; development of sessions, including creative writing, painting, photography
March – May 2017 – Final developments; sessions completion; festival publicity ready and distributed
May 2017 – Festival taking place
June 2017 – Post Festival feedback, learning and evaluation activities
A post event survey about the festival was sent out to PSG prior to the evaluation meeting, where 3 hours were dedicated to final group discussion. Copy of the evaluation document will be available to view at ICOS on request.
What went well?
Overall, the festival was very successful. Visitors were impressed with the exhibits, workshops, and live events, with approximately 1500 beneficiaries and participants, which was triple the number to what was originally anticipated.
The fine art exhibition took place at the Independent (27-28 Holmeside, Sunderland), with official opening night on the 22nd May 2017, unveiled by Sunderland City of Culture Bid director Rebecca Ball. Approximate number of 60 guests attended on the night. The exhibition was available to public view until Friday, 26th May 2017, with steady number of about 20 visitors per each day.
The Mayor of Sunderland opened the Family Festival Day which took place in Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on the 27th May 2017. Number of visitors attended this event on the day and confirmed by cultural officer of the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens was 1,169.
Following the Family Day, the live music event was held at the Independent at the evening of the 27th May 2017. Approximately 80 visitors and guests attended this event.
Engagement numbers in communities in preparation toward the festival were as follows:
Jubilate Community Choir
St. Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy (senior Choir)
Hudson Road Primary School (Nursery and Year 5)
Pottery workshops at National Glass Centre (15 participants)
Other community engagements, including local artists and musicians; Flower Club; Polish Food Shop; University of Sunderland; Student Union; Polish Saturday School; Slovak Embassy London; general public (exact numbers unknown)
Festival Sponsors: Big Lottery Fund; Sunderland City Council; The Embassy of Slovak Republic; Sunderland City of Culture Bid 2021; Bishopwearmouth Co-Operative; Independent; Polish Saturday School; University of Sunderland; Blue Wings Records; local artists: Zagdan Art, A.G. Art, Klaudia Malolepsza, Aneta Halubiec
Things to improve
Efficiency in general could be improved, especially time management and allocation of resources.
Advertising was publicised at the late point, about 2 to 3 weeks before the festival took place, which affected the numbers of visitors to individual events negatively.
Public survey suggested we need to consider a better, more efficient way of advertising for further events, especially in communities, as leafleting in particular proven to be ineffective, time consuming and expensive, as general public view letterbox leaflets undesirable.
There was a lack of suitable venues, especially for the exhibition and live events, due to local Council changes in their services. They failed to inform ICOS about these changes in sufficient time even though they approved the application prior to these changes and were aware of the festival requirements in advance.
Initially there were too many directions for this project which made some of them difficult to handle and some had taken inordinate amount of effort to achieve.
Not all the volunteers and participants kept to timescale. Some acted irresponsibly and failed to commit or to complete their given tasks without any explanation.
Looking back at the event, it is time to take those reflections and start looking forward to planning and organising future events with now an evolved event strategy, as we will be able to plan and prioritise better. This event, as first of its kind, provided us with data that will help to make decisions on how future events can be improved, to deliver better results and most importantly how to outsource and advertise more efficiently.
Some crucial questions to keep in mind for future on how can we deliver even a better and more successful community event:
What are the main audience concerns and what kind of opportunities it brings?
What will the event provide that audience cannot get elsewhere?
How can new partners/ venues be outsourced? What kind of connections were made at the previous event and how can the new event benefit from them? How can these new connections equally benefit from our events?
Is there a community competitor who can launch a similar event that can be a threat to our future events?
It is essential to build upon the previous success in approaching old and new sponsors, to be able to increase a budget for any next events.
To make future events more exceptional we must:
Motivate and attract ambitious, enthusiastic people to form an aspirational team.
Be focused on agreed goals and strategies.
Complete all the arrangements within the specified deadlines.
Use time effectively.
Encourage and ensure better interaction and effective communication between PSG, sponsors, and event agencies.
Improve on delegation of work.
Improve on feedback strategies.
Prioritise tasks in appropriate manner; tasks with high priority should be given more focus and time.
Planning should be done in order to finish the work before deadlines.
Use available technologies, local media, mass media and social media to further. benefit future events (to liaise with community; work out logistical details; in problem solving; in effective time-based advertising).