Musicians without Borders’ Stone Flowers project is based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Stone Flowers was created as a response to the shocking practice of music being used as a tool of torture.
In partnership with Freedom from Torture, they support refugee/asylum seeker torture survivors living in the UK who have been subjected to unbearable extremes of physical and psychological pain, sustaining serious injuries.
The group work with war and torture survivors to improve mental health, reduce isolation, advance education, training and employability as well as offering a positive form of personal expression and communication through music. Their cultural performances, workshops and resources offer opportunities for greater awareness and understanding between different groups and challenge prejudice by bringing communities together to share positive social experiences.
Set up to support victims of torture, the project brings people together who have previously had terrible experiences and helps them to express these experiences through the art of song writing and performing.
The survivors feel a strong duty to share their stories and the messages in their music, which include issues related to experiences of prejudice, the battle of claiming asylum, pain of separation from family, the plunder of natural resources in the developing world and the need to campaign for human rights worldwide.
The group has given each individual the opportunity to write a song about their culture and past in a variety of languages and perform these on a variety of occasions, including Manchester Food and Drink Festival in 2014.
Stone Flowers focuses on refugee/asylum seeker torture survivors living in Greater Manchester.
These people are experiencing the complex and distressing psychological effects of torture experienced in their home countries.
In addition to the mental health issues arising from their trauma, the survivors are often placed under more stress by racism, discrimination, arbitrary detention, and the intentionally drawn out and overly bureaucratic process of claiming asylum.
They have to combat the highest degree of challenge in a hostile environment, to heal and then make a life for themselves. Many are destitute, homeless, and barred from working, which compounds their poverty and exclusion.
This all has further negative implications for the mental health of the survivors, and due to social isolation, language barriers, and a lack of understanding about their needs among healthcare professionals, they also experience difficulty in accessing mental health support they need.
Through their performances they aim to challenge negative preconceptions regarding refugees and asylum seekers, and raise awareness about human rights abuses and the difficult lives of the participants in a way that amounts to a positive uplifting social experience for all present.
Feedback from the audience members at past Stone Flowers events shows that by sharing music and culture with a diverse range of people, they improve intercultural understanding, promote greater empathy and understanding of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers, and challenge the discrimination and prejudice they often face.
One Survivor said: “Stone Flowers raises awareness about refugees and asylum seekers and the violation of human rights. It enables the world to hear us and learn about us. It’s the only way to take out the pain inside us.”