World Hijab day, celebrated on the 1st February aims to foster acceptance and understanding between different faiths and communities. The internationally recognised day celebrates women and sisterhood.
The ‘Syrian Song Café’ is a project run by ‘In Her Shoes’, a Birmingham charity who “work with women and girls to share and celebrate commonalities and differences through participation in music and wellbeing activities”.
The participants of the ‘Syrian Song Café’ are women who wear hijab. These women are building new lives in Birmingham after fleeing war in Syria and are part of Birmingham’s Syrian Vulnerable Resettlement Scheme. Birmingham City Council awarded ‘In Her Shoes’ a grant from the resettlement scheme to run the project.
‘In Her Shoes’ facilitated a series of workshops where women, and their children, created art, poetry and song. The workshops ran virtually throughout the lockdown, and when restrictions lifted, participants met face to face. ‘In Her Shoes’ were partnered by Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries, BMAG, who provided art materials which were delivered to twenty Syrian families during lockdowns. The final 3 song cafes were at venues in Northfield, Erdington and Moseley and the women shared food, danced, and sang the songs they had created together.
A booklet of the beautiful songs that the group created has been made, songs about motherhood, lockdown, and family life that connect with everybody, and illustrate the commonality of people’s lives, irrespective of where they come from. ‘Staying Strong’ is a moving song revealing the women’s recognition of their strength derived through their experiences in Syria and learning to live in a new city:
‘Maybe before we were not so strong
But now we are getting stronger
Moving from one place to another
Leaving the war behind’
Major inspiration for the group’s creativity came from the universal love that most people feel for their mothers. The group created a heartfelt song entitled ‘Mum When I See You’ containing the moving lyrics:
‘You taught me everything,
except how to live without you’
‘In Her Shoes’ created a video of the song which was shared on both Syrian and UK Mother’s Day. Click here to here this poignant song.
One of the highlights of the cafe was a young woman, Sheema, who wrote and shared a poem about her mother. She presented her poem, with her mum reading an Arabic translation, at an event held by the Erdington Arts Forum & Celebrating Sanctuary streamed live via You Tube in June. Have a listen to this moving poem that cuts through differences of ethnicity, nationality and religion and articulates the love for a mother that most of us feel. Click here.
On the 11th November 2021, the ‘In Her Shoes’ team performed the song ‘Stay Strong’ at Birmingham Council House to forty representatives of diverse faith groups in the city, Cllr John Cotton and the Deputy Mayor also attended this event and copies of the ‘Syrian Song Café’ booklet were given to all participants which shared the words of Syrian Women.
Pictures, and music, can say more than a thousand words, so watch the video that celebrates the experience of the Café. ‘In Her Shoes’ wish to thank everyone involved in this noteworthy project, all partners, wonderful women and children, and brilliant interpreters who were essential to its success.