The Jewish Chronicle
A new festival focuses on the contribution of outsiders to Britain who became valued insiders
BOTH MY parents came to England from central Europe as teenagers just in time. Unsurprisingly, therefore, I grew up acutely aware of the strong feeling of gratitude felt by both of them towards the country that gave them sanctuary. Only later did I begin to realize that Britain’s record of accepting refugees in the 1930s was not quite as noble as I’d been led to believe, and that this country in turn owes an enormous debt of gratitude to those whom it did take in.
Indeed, I’ve been struck over the years by how often a passing reference is made in the press to the immense contribution to British life made by those whom Daniel Snowman has dubbed “the Hitler émigrés”.
Rarely, however, has this topic been subjected to closer and more nuanced scrutiny.
The Insiders/Outsiders Festival I initiated some two years ago, which is in on the brink of becoming a reality, provides an opportunity to do just this. At a time when the issue of immigration is so hotly debated, and both antisemitism and racism more generally are once again rearing their ugly heads, it seems a timely venture.
Not only is the cultural terrain covered by the Insiders/Outsiders Festival hugely interesting in its own right but the festival is a salutary reminder of the importance of openness and internationalism, of cultural cross-fertilisation and of the deep, long-lasting and wide-ranging contribution that refugees can – and do — make to British life.
Insiders/Outsiders is a year-long nationwide arts festival which will run from March 2019 until March 2020 celebrating refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe and their impact on British culture. Coinciding with the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, the festival brings together around 100 exhibitions, concerts, dance and theatre performances, film