“Peace begins with words. Peace begins with people and communities talking to each other and finding common ground, or at least starting to listen to each other. That’s really the first step.” So says International Alert’s Ilaria Bianchi as she explains the concept behind the month long ‘Talking Peace‘ festival due to hit the streets of London during September.
Centred around International Peace Day on 21 September 2014, the organisation aims to bring people together through art, comedy, food, photography and good old talking. The idea is to start a conversation and to get people thinking and talking about peace via a number of different activities and different mediums. It’s a bold plan and the activities planned look like they’ll generate a lot of interest. Art in particularly is well represented with a number of street art activities planned around London.
International Alert works across the World and in the UK with the aim of bringing communities together in order to try and stimulate dialogue and get people talking. Often working in war torn countries, it can take time but the concept remains true, find common ground and even if you don’t talk straight away then even the act of listening becomes a victory.
Activities in places such as Rwanda include working with both the survivors and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in order to try to build and restore trust in communities often torn apart by war. Whilst in Uganda they work with oil companies and communities to ensure that exploration work doesn’t happen in such a way that it instigates conflict, something that has already affected the North of that country.
In the Caucasus, the Phillipines, Lebanon and elsewhere, International Alert in an organisation with a truly global reach. “A lot of the conflicts in the World are linked” says Ilaria. “The work that we do in the south caucasus and central Asia is very much linked to the situation in Ukraine at the moment whilst the work that we do in the Lebanon is similarly affected by what’s going on in the rest of that region… people there are becoming more and more tense because of what’s going on around them and so it becomes more challenging.”
And it’s not just the World stage. In the UK International Alert finds that events elsewhere have a direct knock on effect to groups living in the UK. “We see a lot of the conflict happening here is actually linked to conflict happening somewhere else” Ilaria explains. “We hold a lot of training and sessions with young people from different groups to look at how gang related violence and conflict within the UK can be resolved by talking to each other and by ensuring that dialogue happens… it’s at the very foundation for building peace”.
The Talking Peace festival aims to challenge some of the assumptions people have about war and peace and does so using a variety of mediums. “We want people to expect the unexpected… we want to inspire conversations” says Ilaria with ideas ranging from art events to a conflict kitchen serving foods from conflict areas around the globe. Street Art in particular has a major focus “it’s a very direct medium of communication. There’s nothing in between the art and the public, it’s something that you can see on your way to work and so it can help start a conversation about peace in London.”
The festival promises to be an exciting one with a number of events planned for people to pop along to, so for a list of the full series of activities surrounding the festival have a look below.
|Peace Booth – Strike a pose for peace in the peace photo booth and watch live art demonstrations. FREE||Old Street Underground Station.||8-14 September 2014|
|#Art4peace Campaign. Various artists taking over locations throughout September. Watch out for them and tag #art4peace when you see them. FREE||Various locations throughout September||September 2014|
|Shoreditch Art Wall Takeover. Come and see one of the prime street art spots in the city getting a makeover for peace. FREE||17-19 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch||13-19 September|
|Rwanda Photo Exhibition – Photography from award winning journalist Carol Allen-Storey featuring the stories of young Rwandans. FREE||South Bank||17-28 September 2014|
|Conflict Kitchen – A pop-up grill serving dishes from the Middle East over the weekend of International Peace Day. With recipes from renowned chefs Anissa Helou, Yotam Ottolenghi and Claudia Roden.||Queen of Hoxton, Shoreditch||20-21 September 2014|
|Are you Taking the Peace? – Benefit comedy night featuring Rich Hall, Stewart Francis, Holly Walsh, Matt Rees, Daniel Simonsen, Nick Revell and Alistair Barrie (MC).||The Comedy Store. (Book tickets here)||22 September 2014|
|Various Activities. Exhibitions, talks, workshops and more||Hoxton Gallery||23 September – 3 October 2014|
|No Pressure to be Funny – The highly acclaimed satirical panel show presents an International Alert special, chaired by LBC Radio’s James O’Brien.||The Phoenix, Cavendish Square||28 September 2014|
Ilaria Bianchi was interviewed at the offices of International Alert in Clapham, London on 13 August 2014. The Talking Peace festival will take place from 8 September 2014 until 3 October 2014 and has been designed as part of a series of activities happening around International Peace Day on 21 September 2014. Artists wishing to get involved with the Talking Peace festival should contact International Alert here, tweet @talkpeacefest or use the hashtag #talkingpeace.