Best Foot Music – Taking positive steps to aid social inclusion in Brighton

John Denver famously said 'music does bring people together,’ and now one record producer is putting that into practice in Brighton.

Phillip Minns is the founder of Best Foot Music, an organisation set up to support musicians and communities from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

A gathering of Best Foot Music

A gathering of Best Foot Music

“We can all listen to and enjoy music, regardless of what we’re wearing, what we’re drinking, what we’re eating,” said Phillip, who set up the intercultural music and art organisation to promote social inclusion and cultural diversity.

“Everything that has happened with Brexit, the stuff you see in some of the newspapers, anti-migration related stories, I think it’s quite important that we try and raise the platform of people that are actually living here and highlight that they are contributing to the cultural scene in the UK.

“To me that sounds like a really obvious thing.”

Best Foot Music has recently released a vinyl of traditional Lebanese and Syrian love songs with two Syrian artists, Jamal Alsakka and Alaa Wehbi.

War-torn Syria has made it difficult for musicians to pursue their passion. Alaa moved to the UK 10 years ago as a student.

Although he still has musical relatives in Syria, Alaa now plays for the Syrian community in Brighton and teaches a children’s choir.

“We are here to help people in our community,” he said.

“We have felt what refugee means and how much they are suffering. With the war going on it’s stressful. We need to make our community happy.

“Phill’s work is very good for cultural representation. For everything. It’s not just the music.”

Jamal has toured with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, Damon Albarn, Gorillaz, and performed at both Glastonbury and Womad festivals since arriving in the UK recently.

The two met in Brighton, and their collaboration with Best Foot Music involved them in the music scene here and helped them connect to others who have fled the war.

The £5 E.P. Night and Day is available at Mr Bongo in Brighton with a code to download the tracks online.

The vinyl was crowdfunded and all proceeds will go towards the Sussex Syrian Community Hardship Fund – an organisation set up to support young Syrian refugees with their education.

It has already raised £300 in less than a month.

'Migrants, how many more can we take?' 'The swarm on our streets', 'We must stop the migrant invasion!'

While these tabloid headlines circulate around us, we should not ignore the global evolution of music that Britain has accepted and celebrated over the years.

Not to mention some of our most acclaimed ‘British’ rock stars such as Farrokh Bulsara (known to us as Freddie Mercury) who originates from Zanzibar and was raised by Indian parents.

“Refugees aren’t separate from us,” said Phill. “We’re all part of the same group. We are all part of the same community”

Brighton and Hove City Council recently completed a migrants’ needs assessment – a survey asking people from ethnic minorities to carry out research in their communities and discover their needs.

A popular response was the need for more cultural representation of migrant communities within the city.

This is where Best Foot Music steps in.

It is involved in several events coming up including World Record Store day at the Brighton Dome on April 21 where the latest vinyl will be on sale.

The group has also been invited to get involved in The Great Escape festival which will run from May 17-19.

“A music gig is not going to stop any wars or solve any major problems,” said Phill.

“But with the negative things we do see about refugees in the press, it's important for different cultures to come together, just to be friendly and welcoming, to show that people are interested in each other. We are all part of the same Brighton community.”

Phill adds, on behalf of Jamal who does not speak much English: “He really likes it when he sees British people come to their gigs. He loves seeing in their eyes that they are enjoying it.”

Music is a universal language that can speak to all of us, and Best Foot Music encourages us to take that step into the shoes of others.

For more information about Best Foot Music events and music, visit: www.bestfootmusic.net and {https://www.facebook.com/BestFootMusicPage/www.facebook.com/BestFootMusicPage