Migration Stories - Sam Holland

Born in South Philadelphia, I’m a dual national Anglo-American, the product of an Italian-Irish American mum and a British Dad. We made the move to Sheffield when I was 4, a sort of reverse of the journey my Great-Grandfather made across the Atlantic from Sicily to America in 1919.

Unlike him I can’t say I faced any hardship or had to overcome any barriers in that transition, unless you count being almost diagnosed as deaf because I couldn’t understand the Yorkshire accent. To me, Sheffield has always been a place of compassion, welcome, and friendship, and I feel incredibly privileged and fortunate to have grown up in such a place.

One memorable period in my youth was around the time of the Kosovo war and the refugee crisis that emerged from that conflict. Being young I didn’t quite understand fully what was happening, however I distinctly remember being taken to play football with some of the Kosovan kids my age who had just arrived in the city. I remember getting to know them on trips and different activities that had been planned with the aim of making the new arrivals feel that they were part of our community.

Years later, it was remembering these experiences coupled with a concern at the media backlash towards the Syrian refugee crisis in 2014 that made me want to create work and put on events that would celebrate Sheffield and its status as the first City of Sanctuary, supporting the displaced and recognising the positive impact migration has had on this city.

After conversations with City of Sanctuary, refugees, people seeking sanctuary, and huge support from Theatre Deli, we were able to put on what would be the first of four Migration Matters Festivals, marking Refugee Week and the positive impact of migration. I feel proud that the festival continues to champion the people and cultures that make Sheffield what it is and hope that it will continue to do so for years to come!

Sam Holland, Migration Matters Festival Director

Sam Holland