refugee-weekOver 500 arts and cul­tur­al events will be held across the UK from 18–24 June to mark Refugee Week, a nation­al fest­iv­al cel­eb­rat­ing the con­tri­bu­tions and resi­li­ence of refugees in the UK. The fest­iv­al also cel­eb­rates its 20th anniversary this year.

 Key high­lights include a week long pro­gramme at the V & A, live acts and per­form­ances at Shakespeare’s Globe, hip-hop artist Lowkey join­ing with refugee rap­pers for a gig at KOKO in Cam­den and ‘Mov­ing Stor­ies’ – a com­munity theatre pro­ject writ­ten by Britain’s top play­wrights and pre­vi­ously per­formed by Keira Knightly – being hos­ted at ven­ues across the coun­try, includ­ing par­lia­ment on World Refugee Day (20 June).

Foun­ded to counter anti-refugee sen­ti­ment in 1998, Refugee Week engages hun­dreds of organ­isa­tions and indi­vidu­als to host arts, cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion events each year across the UK. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of people have pre­vi­ously atten­ded these events that bring com­munit­ies togeth­er by pro­mot­ing refugee voices, and help­ing audi­ences to con­nect with refugee exper­i­ences.

 Its pro­gramme this year ranges from world renowned estab­lished artists to com­munity arts pro­jects, at ven­ues ran­ging from nation­al arts insti­tu­tions to shop­ping­centres, and artists include ‘fath­er of dub’ Lin­ton Kwesi John­son, author Mar­ina Lewycka, the Lon­don Syr­i­an Ensemble and rap­per Lowkey.

Almir Kold­z­ic, Co-Dir­ect­or of Coun­ter­points Arts which man­ages the Refugee Week part­ner­ship said: “It’s inspir­ing to see how Refugee Week has evolved over the years from a mar­gin­al and com­munity-led ini­ti­at­ive into a truly nation­al occa­sion, sup­por­ted by such a great, var­ied and grow­ing num­ber of part­ners, organ­isa­tions and groups.

 “It is espe­cially excit­ing that this year’s pro­gramme prom­ises to be the most vibrant and far-reach­ing yet. To mark the 20th anniversary, we have developed 20 Simple Acts, which we hope will inspire thou­sands of new people to join in — to show solid­ar­ity and help us change the way we see refugees, and ourselves.”

The breadth and scope of Refugee Week is reflec­ted in its 20th anniversary pro­gramme, which spans theatre, film, visu­al arts, dance, lit­er­at­ure, spoken word and live art. Below are some selec­ted high­lights.


 Shakespeare’s Globe, Lon­don 17–24 June

A fest­iv­al of per­form­ances, dis­cus­sions and storytelling ses­sions explor­ing Shakespeare’s response to refuge and refugees, includ­ing:

- Read Not Dead staged read­ing of ‘Sir Thomas More’, first per­formed in 1600, which depicts the plight of the refugees and the May Day riots of 1517

-  Premi­er of ‘Nanjing’, a mono­logue telling the story of the Nanjing Mas­sacre of 1937, per­formed by Jude Chris­ti­an

- Wood­cut print work­shop, ‘Fin­ger­prints’, by Syr­i­an-Cana­dian artist Dima Karout

- ‘Frag­ments, a devised piece per­formed by male refugees and cre­ated in col­lab­or­a­tion with Single Home­less Pro­ject and Palestini­an theatre-maker Mo’min Swait­at

V&A, Lon­don, 17–24 June

A week-long pro­gramme of music, work­shops, and per­form­ances mark­ing 20 years of Refugee Week, includ­ing:

- Gen­der­ing memor­ies of Iraq, a trans­form­at­ive per­form­ance orches­trated by Iraqi-born artist Hayv Kahra­man

Fri­day late fea­tur­ing Dance for Refuge DJ night and Syr­i­an sing­er Hamsa Mounif per­form­ing her ‘Breath of Dam­as­cus’ col­lec­tion of songs

- Pop-up per­form­ance for fam­il­ies cre­ated with fam­il­ies from Somali Integ­ra­tion and Devel­op­ment Asso­ci­ation
— ‘Perched’, an install­a­tion of mould-blown glass swal­lows made by Turk­ish artist Felekşan Onar as her artist­ic response to the plight of Syr­i­an refugees in Istan­bul (short­l­is­ted for Jameel prize).

Mov­ing Stor­ies: A Refugee Week Spe­cial Event, Brit­ish Museum, 24 June

Fea­tur­ing Lon­don Sea Shanty Col­lect­ive and Isling­ton Centre for Refugee and Migrants’ choir in the Great Court, inter­act­ive art install­a­tions by Solange Leon Iri­arte and Kate Plum and a screen­ing of Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow.

To mark 20 years of Refugee Week, Brit­ish Museum will also offer a tour of 20 objects from their col­lec­tion that tell a refugee story.

Migra­tion Mat­ters, Shef­field, 19–23 June

A five day arts and theatre fest­iv­al cel­eb­rat­ing diversity and the pos­it­ive impact of migra­tion on Shef­field with a pro­gramme of pay-what-you-feel per­form­ances, films, work­shops, install­a­tions, food events and more. The 2018 line-up includes fath­er of dub poetry Lin­ton Kwesi John­son, Arab Pup­pet Theatre Found­a­tion, Taiwan’s Kuo-hin Chuang Pangcah Dance Group and much more.

Fest­iv­al by the Lake, Ash­burnham Place, East Sus­sex. 24 June

A day of music, spoken word, food, work­shops, wild swim­ming and more in the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings of Ash­burnham Place. Fea­tur­ing Award win­ning jazz musi­cians Liane Car­roll, Ian Shaw and Sarah Jane Mor­ris, poet John Hegley, King Size Slim, Los Twan­ger­os, Samaki Afrobeat, Han­nah Atkins and Chan Reid.



Lowkey with Mohammed Yahya and Nat­ive Sun, and Ebsil­Jaz, KOKO, Lon­don, 24 June

Lowkey, lead­ing light of the UK hip hop scene and refugee rights act­iv­ist, is sup­por­ted by Mozam­bi­que born, Lon­don-based rap­per Mohammed Yahya and Nat­ive Sun and presents a new col­lab­or­a­tion with Palestini­an rap duo Ebsil­Jaz.

Sounds for Syr­ia, Con­way Hall, Lon­don, 23 June
Twen­ti­eth-cen­tury Syr­i­an clas­sics per­formed by The Lon­don Syr­i­an Ensemble, some of the Dam­as­cus Conservatoire’s finest musi­cians

These Walls Must Fall – Cel­eb­ra­tion of Res­ist­ance, Friends House, Lon­don 23 June  

An even­ing of spoken word and music fea­tur­ing Poet­ic Pil­grim­age, JJ Bola, the Nawi Col­lect­ive and Selina Nwulu

The Travels of Song, St Mary’s Church, Brighton, 17 June

The Travels of Song explores both the itin­er­ancy and uni­ver­sal­ity of music, where a tune com­posed in one coun­try could end up adop­ted by anoth­er, some­times far away, and the com­pos­i­tions of musi­cians in exile. Peter Phil­lips and Richard Der­ing had to leave Eliza­beth­an Eng­land because of their reli­gion; Paul Hindemith left Ger­many in 1938 to avoid more trouble with the Nazis. The pro­gramme also includes two songs writ­ten by detain­ees of Yarl’s Wood immig­ra­tion deten­tion centre.


The Dis­placed: Mar­ina Lewycka and Dina Nay­eri in con­ver­sa­tion, Foyles, Char­ring Cross Rd, 19 June

Women’s Prize short­l­is­ted author of A Short His­tory of Tract­ors in Ukrain­i­an, Mar­ina Lewycka and award-win­ning writer of Refuge, Dina Nay­eri explore their first-hand exper­i­ences of grow­ing up as refugees in Europe and the USA. Lewycka and Nay­eri are con­trib­ut­ors to the new antho­logy The Dis­placed, a col­lec­tion of essays by refugee writers on refugee lives, edited by Pulitzer Prize win­ner Viet Thanh Nguy­en.

Boy 87: talk with author Ele Foun­tain, Water­stones, Not­ting­ham, 16 June

Author and edit­or, Ele Foun­tain saw first-hand the heart-break­ing effects of the ‘refugee crisis’ whilst liv­ing in Ethiopia with her young fam­ily, and was com­pelled to write her new book for chil­dren, Boy 87.


Brit­ish Film Insti­tute, 14–21 June  

A diverse pro­gramme of films and dis­cus­sions, includ­ing ‘The Foreigner’s Home’, a pro­voc­at­ive med­it­a­tion on humanity’s old­est divi­sions based around Toni Morrison’s artist­ic and intel­lec­tu­al vis­ion, and ‘Through Our Eyes’ fol­lowed by Q&A with BAF­TA-win­ning dir­ect­or Samir Mehan­ovic.


Pieces of the PEACE – install­a­tion by Esna Su at Sara­bande Found­a­tion, Lon­don, 21–23 June

An install­a­tion of hand-woven sculp­tures brought into the space fol­low­ing artist Esna Su’s per­form­ance ‘When the Nest Falls’ on 20 June. The pieces include the ‘Pieces of the PEACE’ car­pet, inlaid with 3,700 Swarovski crys­tals, rep­res­ent­ing the dis­tance (km) between Lon­don and Aleppo and form­ing one of the 6 Arab­ic let­ters of ‘al-salam’ (peace). Each crys­tal will be inset manu­ally by 65 women and women dur­ing a work­shop on 16 June, indic­at­ive of the num­ber of Syr­i­an cit­ies. This ini­ti­at­ive aims to facil­it­ate and cel­eb­rate the col­lab­or­at­ive pro­cess of cre­ation, mend­ing and reflec­tion.

Esna Su grew up close to the Syr­i­an bor­der in Tur­key. Her prac­tice has been greatly informed by these ori­gins and also by tech­niques handed down through gen­er­a­tions of her fam­ily.

Tak­ing Root, East­side Pro­jects, Birm­ing­ham, 23 June

A hands-on fam­ily work­shop to make and launch ves­sels car­ry­ing plants which will ger­min­ate and grow along Birmingham’s canals, becom­ing a remind­er of com­munit­ies who travel in search of safety

Warth Mills Intern­ment Camp Pro­ject ‘pop up’, Mill Gate Shop­ping Centre, Bury, 18 — 24 June

Art and Design stu­dents from Bury Col­lege explore the story of Warth Mills Intern­ment Camp in this exhib­i­tion, inspired by interned Ger­man artists and the ter­rible con­di­tions the men had to endure

Dorking’s First ‘See­ing Eye-to-Eye’ Exper­i­ment, Dork­ing Museum and Her­it­age Centre, 23 June

Vis­it­ors to the museum will be invited to help build com­munity and foster con­nec­tion by shar­ing one minute of eye con­tact with a stranger

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.