People! This week is refugee week, which takes place every year all around the world. In the UK, it’s a week of programmes celebrating arts, culture, education, exhibitions, film screenings, theatre and dance performances, concerts, football tournaments and public talks as well as creative activities in school that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK. By doing this, the aim is to integrate both communities to provide a successful foundation for a diverse community.
Some venues in Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield are putting shows made with refugees and asylum seekers at the heart of their programmes.West Yorkshire Playhouse staged Refugee Boy, inspired by Benjamin Zephaniah’s novel about an Ethiopian-Eritrean teenager arriving in Britain.
Alongside ths play, the theatre engaged with refugees and asylum seekers in the local area of Leeds, and the following year the Playhouse was named the UK’s first theatre of sanctuary.Today, theatre of sanctuary events includes, a drop-in session for young refugees, a women’s choir and asylum seekers, and regular, informal opportunities for new arrivals to practise their English. In particular, the theatre has worked with Syrians, helping them to find their feet in Leeds such as drama workshops and public performances, involve participants directly in the creative work of the theatre.
Fereshteh Mozaffari performing ‘One More Push’
One person to watch is Fereshteh Mozaffari who performed ‘One More Push’ in Manchester. It is a new storytelling show by the Iranian writer living in exile in the UK. “It’s about the idea of pain and rebirth and her experience as a refugee, as a professional woman and as a writer.”
The aim of Refugee Week is to encourage people to take simple yet meaningful actions to support and celebrate refugees. Theatres, acts as a platform for sharing stories and generating empathy, which could play a vital part in this change of perspective especially as it appeals to a huge demographic.
Alongside the theatrical performances, organisations offer educational resources for future employment. To list a few, these organisations are Refugee Week, V&A and WeWork. WeWork are a charity hring over 1,500 refugees to give education and employment support to the UK’s refugee population, getting them ready for the skills they need for future employment.
WeWork offers English language classes and workshops to increase access to opportunities for refugees. They will also focus on different skills such as customer service, so the charity’s clients can improve their chances of employment.
Some events throughout this week are:
The founder Yasmin Autwal, has been volunteering with refugees since Summer 2015 and her time in the camps have been her biggest source of inspiration, drive and determination to rid the world of apathy. Whilst the movement is about helping people to recognise the power of within themselves to make change as individuals, it has a heavy connection to refugees and proceeds from the Stand for Humanity event have always gone to supporting the ongoing crisis in Calais.
The refugee crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. Join Nick Coke, Refugee Response Co-ordinator for The Salvation Army, as he talks about a new movement of refugee sponsorship that is emerging in villages, towns and cities across the UK. He will be joined by members of the Raynes Park Community Sponsorship team who will share their experiences of sponsoring a Syrian family, as well as representatives from Caritas Westminster and Sponsor Refugees.