Horizons Festival Friday 16 – Saturday 17 June 2023

2023's Horizons Festival celebrated #WeAreAllManchester

The Horizons Festival was back at HOME during the weekend of Friday 16 and Saturday 17 June 2023.

The annual Horizons festival, delivered in partnership with HOME, celebrates the enduring power of creativity and the incredible international artists who have made Manchester their home.

Horizons celebrated how We Are All Manchester, check out photographs by Shirlaine Forrest from events on 16th June 2023and 17th June 2023. The photos capture all the energy of the Horizons festival.

The spirit of the festival is brilliantly summed up by Rethink Rebuild Society’s Mustafa Alachkar who came to the UK from Syria in 2005.

“We can choose to see refugees and asylum seekers as people who make our country and society richer and more beautiful through culture, creativity and innovation.”

Audiences at HOME enjoyed an action-packed programme of spoken word and storytelling, music from the global diaspora, artist-led film, visual art, dance, and discussion. The weekend was a space to enjoy family-friendly workshops and performances.

The festival invited people to come together, connect, learn, stand in solidarity with, and share the traditions and talents of people forced to leave their countries and make Manchester their home.

Horizons featured artists from countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

The festival worked with 59 artists, volunteers, speakers and contributors, most of whom had experienced forced migration.

Horizons gave artists participating in CAN’s artist development programmes the chance to raise their profile and make new connections. Eight artists who had been part of Pushing Boundaries, a partnership project between CAN and Curious Minds, which developed the skills and knowledge necessary for artists to build their careers delivering creative workshops in schools.

CAN and HOME worked with two Assistant Creative Producers – Masresha Wondmu, based at CAN, and mandla, based at HOME  to develop the festival.

“Horizons really elevated and profiled my work. I got creative work as a result of the festival.”

“…so great to have lots of the Pushing Boundaries artists on board… I really value the community connections that happened throughout this project…even for me, who’s been here for six years now, I feel much more connected and at home now.”

The festival opened with an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony accompanied by music, juggling and dance from Masresha Wondmu and energetic dance performances from South Africa and beyond.

Gender and displacement was explored in the ground-breaking film A Monster Outside Freedom Laws by filmmaker Nnull. The impact of climate change and environmental degradation on people around the world and the consequences experienced by those fighting to stop it through a series of short films, including the powerful Berta Vive and excerpt of Emmanuela’s Yogolelo forthcoming film.

Across the weekend, the bar was buzzing with music from Bosnia and Herzegovina from Sanja Cin and HOME’s Inspire Gallery featured a  community exhibition, created by Syrian artist Manya Alkhmri and local families, including those who are new to the county.

Friday ended with the performance We Are All Manchester, an evening of spoken word and storytelling touching on wide-ranging themes from the women’s rights movement in Iran, the hopes, fears, and guilt of a Ukrainian refugee to freedom fighters in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, Horizons had a community and family-friendly focus with many art workshops giving a warm creative workshop to children and adult asylum seekers living in emergency accommodation.

“…we all come from different countries and even with different ages. Thank you for bringing us – such a good time.”

“I was very happy today that I was here. My soul was happy.”

Creative workshops included music making with Persian musicians Parisa Pirzadeh and Fariba Taghypoor; storytelling with Iraqi theatre artist Abas El Janabi; high energy Palestinian folk dance with Fares Farraj, and drama with Ukrainian actor and performer Val Lukianets.

The festival wrapped up on Saturday night with the We Are All Manchester gig night, compered by MC/rapper Meduulla, whose family roots are in Zimbabwe. Audiences loved the debut perfomance by Waran, a new folk ensemble sharing music rooted in Farsi, Lori and Kurdish styles. Finally, people were out of their seats dancing to the sounds of Sakuba Music sharing the mesmerising, high-energy sounds of Congolese Soukous.

Manchester is stronger because of our shared humanity with the many people from across the world who call this city home.

High quality volunteering is a feature of Horizons with the majority of this year’s festival volunteers having migrant heritage. It’s an opportunity to deepen their relationship with the festival, gain work experience and develop networks with Greater Manchester’s arts community.

“The experience of volunteering with CAN was wonderful. I would love to volunteer again.”

We were delighted by the audience response to Horizons Festival 2023.

“So much talent and joy.”

“I love the authenticity of the event.”

“Diversity, colourful, well presented, and very political.”

“Every performance was amazing.”

“Inspiring.  Made me reflect on how to inspire activism.”

As part of CAN’s and HOME’s commitment to making the arts accessible for everyone, all events were free or Pay What You Can.

Horizons is an important aspect of CAN’s Exodus programme, which was established in 2006. Exodus has pioneered new-migrant-led artistic practices and supported the inclusion and profile of hundreds of artists who have experienced forced migration who have settled here and have enriched and diversified the region’s cultural life.

The Horizons Festival was produced by Community Arts North West and HOME as part of 2023’s Refugee Week.


The Lankelly Chase Foundation has contributed to the Horizons Festival. 

CAN is supported by