Looking back and looking forward


Originally posted March 2020

Who could have dreamt even a month ago that the world would so quickly be transformed by an international health crisis, which would lead to the cancelling of virtually all cultural events?

The implications of this for the last month of the Insiders/Outsiders Festival have of course been significant, and the cancelling of one-off events and the closing of exhibitions, a source of great regret. Thinking positively, however, many of these events will be rescheduled: the one dedicated to sculptor Siegfried Charoux, for example, will now, we hope, take place on 16 May 2021; and other new dates will be posted on the festival website as soon as they are confirmed.

In fact, there is already much to look forward to, even if precise dates remain uncertain. For example, plans are in the pipeline to bring back the brilliant Ballad of the Cosmo Café, performed to great acclaim last November. And the conferences on second generation visual artists at the University of Leicester and on women refugee photographers at Birkbeck, both scheduled for May, will definitely take place at a later date, as will the Jew/Jud Süss screenings, also at Birkbeck. In the meantime, view the online version of the Another Eye: Women Refugee Photographers in Britain after 1933 exhibition at Four Corners Gallery, London.

Moreover, there are a number of exciting new projects under discussion which will keep the rich cultural terrain opened up by the Insiders/Outsiders Festival firmly in the public eye. One of these is a series of events designed to coincide with the unveiling on the Isle of Man of an AJR (Association of Jewish Refugees) blue plaque to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the British Government’s deeply contentious internment of so-called ‘enemy aliens’ – the vast majority of them of them Jewish refugees, so hardly a threat to wartime security!

It was always our intention, given the huge amount of interest generated by the festival, to keep the website up and running well beyond the end of March – and it’s now even more important that we do so. Not only does it provide a record of all past events; it will also continue to publicise relevant ones taking place in the future. In addition, we plan to expand our recently-created ‘Resources’ section, so that it becomes an essential repository of related material – films, podcasts, new publications, website links, research projects etc. So do please keep a close eye on the website and subscribe to our newsletter (below) for further updates – and encourage others to subscribe too.

And after a heartfelt thank you to all those who have contributed to the success of the festival – my small but stalwart team of colleagues, sponsors, patrons, journalists, participating venues and those who have attended the 150 and more wonderfully diverse events across the country during this past year – I’d like to end with a reminder of its continuing relevance, now more than ever. To quote festival patron Edmund de Waal: “The extraordinary generation of artists, writers and designers who found sanctuary in Britain from the Nazi regime brought ideas and skills and talents. But they also brought a breadth of possibilities: their practices crossed borders. There could not be a better time to celebrate them and to recognise what wealth we gain from those we welcome here.”

Monica Bohm-Duchen
Initiator and Creative Director
Insiders/Outsiders Festival

Refugee Legacy Finds New Voices’, an article by Monica Bohm-Duchen, can be found in the April issue of Jewish Renaissance magazine.

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Future Insiders/Outsiders highlights to look out for…


An Insistence on Freedom: A Celebration of Siegfried Charoux’s Life & Work
Hampstead Garden Suburb, London
Now rescheduled for 16 May 2021 2.30pm – 5.00pm  

The Ballad of the Cosmo Café
Originally performed at St Peter’s Church Hall, London on 16 and 17 November 2019, plans are afoot to bring the production back later this year.

Jew Süss and Jud Süss
This double bill was originally planned for 22 March at Birkbeck, University of London; the event will be rescheduled, date tbc.

“Collar the lot!” Artists, Aliens and Aspects of Internment in Britain
2020-21 marks the 80th anniversary of the British government’s internment of so-called ‘enemy aliens’. News about related events will be posted on our website and included in future newsletters.