Power and belonging

What connects us as human beings and what it means to belong?

The shadow of the EU referendum still loomed, whilst the General Election of the week before, as well as the Grenfell tower disaster provided an environment for discussion about change and power within the capital. There was a palpable sense of frustration and powerlessness within the city and we wanted to create space to talk about things that matters to ordinary people.

Through this edition, we wanted to show that there is more that connects us as human being, than there is that divides us. With 800 participants taking part in 19 events events over the course of 3 days, we promoted stories of resilience and hope amongst each other in the turbulent and dark times London has faced post-tragic events.

The festival provided an opportunity to share our lived experiences with each other, debate, question and challenge ourselves to think and act differently. We invited old and new friends to talk about what makes us feel at home, wherever and whatever home is, exploring identity, language and culture. Two of the key areas of discussion that came out in every session over the course of the three days were: power and belonging. 




Why is it important that everyone in society needs to be empowered? If we are truly going to craft solutions to our most pressing challenges, it is vital that every actor in a community feels like they have the power to change their surroundings for the better.

Where does power lie in society? With government? Large, unaccountable companies? Wealthy individuals? Or is it something that exists more widely?


We saw through the 2017 festival that people within their communities can discover their own power, and that people coming together can bring about change. It remains a large task for civil society to create a shift in where power and control lies, but we saw some examples of how this might take place through the festival.

From hearing about the #shevotes campaign, to artist Richard Dedominici’s Shed your fears installation, to the Alternative UK talking through the politics of everyday, and small acts of political activism- we experienced first hand an appetite to create discussions and dialogues about power and power structures.

‘Power relations are multiple, local and diffuse through social relations.’

Michel Foucault



Belonging is the idea of being part of something where you are accepted. In a diverse city like London, what does this mean? What do we want to belong to?

London is somewhere that is often criticised for a lack of community, and with levels of social isolation and loneliness on the rise, it is understandable why. But what was demonstrated over the course of the three days of the Unusual Suspects Festival is that there are a number of people and communities working together to provide a sense of belonging in the city.

‘Belonging in London means feeling a sense of ownership of the city. That the city is yours and that you are part of a community. And that you can be respected for who you are and that you can be who you are.’

Matthew Ryder - Deputy Mayor, Greater London Authority


See the full list of sessions and activities.

Download programme