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KarmaBank’s creative network of leading institutions and artists provides a voice to unheard individuals through inspiring & Innovative Arts + Performance projects.

We believe in the beneficial power of art and culture to heal trauma and build hope. Working with partners, our projects offer our members access to creative opportunities which develop artistic skills and provide a therapeutic outlet through Art.

With Opera Holland Park, we are currently developing a music project called THE WAITING ROOM:

THE WAITING ROOM is in two parts: the first is a series of weekly workshops starting mid-April, providing vulnerable local women (refugees/new arrivals, local residents) a platform to sing and share stories about songs with particular meaning for them. Not necessarily songs directly related to their difficult journeys, but ones that any audience can relate to: a childhood memory sung by a grandmother, a family song connected tot a tradition, a musical heritage or even a popular song. 

The evocative stories provide a connection between the song and the audience, who experience their own seminal memories connected to music. Through this shared humanity we build essential empathetic bridges – even more so with 3 waves of new arrivals in barely 6 months: Asylum seekers from over 20 countries, Afghan evacuees and now Ukrainian refugees.

The second part of THE WAITING ROOM is a stage performance with cast members at Opera Holland Park and workshop members who wish to participate, with an original choral composition drawing on the stories, songs and themes that come from the workshops. Staging will be minimal, not more than a suggestion of a Waiting Room, and projected images reflecting the elements and moods of the various stories. 

The women we work with are in a limbo that can often feel more like a purgatory, without the absurd humour of Rosencrantz or Waiting for Godot. The workshops provide a very welcome respite: a welcoming and supportive safe environment to both heal and give voice to the endless waiting to be considered legal, waiting for benefits, waiting for a home, waiting for a safe place and an end to traumatic journeys. For any of the workshop participants who wish to be on stage, THE WAITING ROOM provides a platform to hear and see them. 

We expect cast members, staff, facilitators and volunteers to benefit from this as well. In any KarmaBank project, we learn and gain as much from those we support as they do from us. 

Post-Sarah Everard, and as a reflection of our work with women fleeing abuse and male dominated situations and cultures, KarmaBank’s work this year is focused on empowering women. THE WAITING ROOM is one project that delivers our mission’s goals. It is not expensive to produce, has the support of leading creatives and a major London opera company, and meets the current challenges we face in RBKC head on.

The project is made possible by Alice Bezant at Opera Holland Park’s Inspire programme, and crafted by leading creatives: TD Moyo, Resident Director, Royal Court Theatre, filmmaker & artist Maya Sanbar, the composer Helen Glavin, and opera Director Tol Christie.

Performance: scheduled for Mid-June 2022, to coincide with the annual London Refugee Week, Kensington + Chelsea Art Week and K & C Festival. We expect to make this a yearly project.

KarmaBank is supporting an Afghan refugee teenager to sing with the LYC Cambiata Girls’ choir of the prestigious London Youth Choirs. With additional coaching we arranged from professional singers and students from the University of West London, our hopeful teen is keeping up with 100 fellow teenage girls from across London. Staged performance at the Royal Festival Hall for the annual WOW Festival coming up in March.  We hope to support other refugees with LYC.

Our cooperation with L’Institut Français continues with regular cinema screenings for refugees and our volunteers, and innovative Film + Art events. The first was held in June 2021: a screening of installation films by the award-winning artist Caroline Burraway, with a mini-exhibition of her works, and a panel discussion with chief legal counsel for UNHCR UK. In January this year, Burraway returned to teach a drawing class to a mix of refugees and residents, following the premiere screening of FLEE.

In 2020/21, we curated an installation by the artist Caroline Burraway in Holland Park – the first allowed in the area of the Park by the Design Museum. The work was part of London Refugee Week. The powerful work, created from Burraway’s research at the Moria Refugee Camp, gave a face to the 13 million children currently displaced around the world.