Shared Spaces Festival was developed and directed by Rebecca Bellamy 2015-2017, initially in partnership with the charity Salaam Shalom. It began as an exhibition and small programme of performances and talks in 2015 in Bristol and led to Arts Council England funding for a two-and-a-half-month-long Arts Festival in spring and early summer of 2016. It also received additional financial support from Bristol’s Mayor’s Office.
The project brought Muslim, Jewish and many other Bristol communities together through art. It provided opportunities for artists from different communities, particularly Muslim and Jewish, to work and network together, forming a collective of Shared Spaces artists who supported dialogue and collaboration between people of different faiths. Visitors to the Shared Spaces Festival talked, learned and created art themselves as part of a programme of activities.
Both the 2015 and the 2016 Shared Spaces art exhibitions included an accompanying programme of workshops, talks, film screenings, displays, dialogue events and performances.
In addition to a month long exhibition of art works by sixteen contemporary Muslim and Jewish artists selected from across the UK , Shared Spaces Festival in 2016 comprised:
- a two month exhibition at Bristol Central Library of material drawn from the Bristol Archives showing the Muslim and Jewish contribution to the city in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
- a poetry and music event at the Central Library
- a cross-cultural community meal, sharing food and culture
- a record-your-community event in Barton Hill, part of a Bristol University community recording project
- films at the Watershed, depicting relationships forged between Muslims and Jews, each followed by a panel discussion
- a talk at Bristol Old Vic by a Southampton University lecturer on Chagall’s life in Vitebsk pre- and post-World War 1, to accompany the – by chance – performances by Kneehigh theatre company of “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk”
- events of relevance to the theme of cross-cultural dialogue in the programme of Bristol Festival of Ideas.
Phil Gibby SW Area Director for Arts Council England tweeted: 'So impressed with the ethos and the quality of the exhibition - so many possibilities to build on'
In 2017 Rebecca brought the Festival out of Bristol 'Shared Places, New Places' and expanded the participating faiths represented.
The 30 artists, poets, musicians and performers who took part in Shared Spaces between 2015 and 2017 include:
Ruh Al Alam
Nasreen Shaikh Jamal Al-Lail
Hafsah Aneela Bashir
Rebecca remains committed to interfaith collaboration and cooperation and is happy to support others looking to develop similar projects.