The Stories of Sanctuary choir

Out of the tragedy of the civil war in Syria, a Syrian-led songwriting project has taken off in the North East of England.

The Stories of Sanctuary choir emerged out of friendships between Durham City residents and Syrian refugees who were resettled in 2016.

The choir performs stories, songs and poetry about their experiences and their hope for the future.

The choir includes Syrian poet Hasna Al Hassoun, who together with her sisters Sabah & Rabiaa, fled their homes in Homs in 2012 for Lebanon and now live in County Durham. Sabah who is one of the Stories of Sanctuary Tour Coordinators, said: ‘Sometimes you have the choice to seek the opportunity to work abroad, study, or even for pleasure. In our case, we did not have this choice. My sisters and I were forced to leave Syria and go to Lebanon, then come to the UK because of the war. We wanted to share the stories of our journey and of our hopes for the future and we have had the chance to do so with the Stories of Sanctuary music project.’

The project's music curator Sam Slatcher whose song City of Sanctuary initially caught the attention of the group explains: ‘The aim of the performance is not only to humanise refugees and celebrate their creativity, but also to show the power of music in creating new communities built on respect and friendship.’

Stories of Sanctuary launched their songs to a sold-out audience at Durham Cathedral in October 2018, joined by the highly acclaimed viola player Raghad Haddad from the National Syrian Orchestra along with North East's piper and multi-instrumentalist Paul Martin.

The Stories of Sanctuary tour begins at Durham Cathedral on March 21st, followed by Stockton Arts Centre on March 22nd. For more information go to

Premier’s Northern Correspondent Ian Britton met The Stories of Sanctuary choir ahead of a special performance in Durham Cathedral.

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