22 June, 2016

ART GIVES SHELTER WHILST US DON'T

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Category: Asylum seekers, Refugees
Community Manager
10 am

Written by Debora and Matteo from Euro-Mernet

We are the generation living through the so called refugee “crisis” – a term that has been chosen to define the massive influx of migratory movement that has been taking place during the last years.

“Crisis” is a term that brings a heavy burden, made of fear, anxiety, despair, and so on. Definitely not a nice word for many. Nevertheless, the “crisis” also comes with a great potential, the one that is hidden in every massive break: the creation of something new and stronger; something that is born out of necessity and in order to adapt to the emergency of the moment, perhaps the result of an evolving “Darwinian” process, we could say.

This potential is often ignored, lately in particular, with the sharp and rapid rise of xenophobic and racist parties, which tend to ignite the fear and bank on the ignorance of the people who do not know what is actually happening and who find themselves in full of hatred towards something and someone they do not know at all, totally forgetting their humane side and do not register the fact that they can harm people like themselves.

Luckily there are also some others who do not forget the rights of the people coming to us looking for help and who are also able to see the potential of this situation, in terms of progress and enrichment for the society. Of course, these people try to spread the idea and offer a different approach to an issue that involves all of us.It is then our privilege to tell you some success stories created by fellow activists and campaigners here in the city of Brighton and Hove, with the hope that they will provide some aspiration, strength and support to everyone who is willing to do something to change the dominant narrative about migration in Europe and in the world through the power of arts.

Here in the UK there are different generations of migrants and refugees, some of whom represented stories of successful integration and their stories have shifted the perception of the majority of the country into being tolerant and welcoming towards those who came from “outside”. Nevertheless, the situation is changing, with the increasing general climate of fear and intolerance also across these shores, and in fact this month there will be a referendum to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union. Politics apart though, what really affects us as local activists and as people who care about human rights and who try to create a fairer society, it is to address and interact with people directly in order to understand how it could be possible to actually create a different society, to understand the needs and expectations of the “ordinary masses” and to find out the ways of persuading them that a fairer world is possible and that it would be better world for everybody.

As I mentioned before we collected some successful stories of activism, which used the power of art in different and beautiful ways, everything in connection to one of the most beautiful initiatives that UK has initiated in the last 15 years: the  Refugee Week. Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities. “Refugee Week started in 1998 as a direct reaction to hostility in the media and society in general towards refugees and asylum seekers. An established part of the UK’s cultural calendar, Refugee Week is now one of the leading national initiatives working to counter this negative climate, defending the importance of sanctuary and the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities.”

Art in fact has proved to be one of the best way to show how people from different places and cultures can widen and improve the heritage of a country. I think that this happens because art has its own life, which comes from human beings indeed, but that is not really controlled by them, so that it can take and choose what it needs to survive and to be present in the world. For this reason it can thrive and flourish where different worlds connect and it will always favour the creation of this kind of environments. It’s certainly not by chance that the successful paths towards integration start from food and art, which appeal to the inner feelings of people without passing through the common ways of rationality.

But since we want to be scientifically accurate with our statements, we are going to list a series of successful events that were greeted with huge support and enthusiasm and affiliation by the audiences during the past, together with the list of events that will colour this year’s Refugee Week – so that everyone can feel inspired or can simply decide to join us if they happen to be in the UK during that period. So here they are, the proofs of beauty and positivity that can open the hearts and the minds of the sceptical and that can encourage all of us to keep taking action and fighting for the causes we deemed to be right.

“To Seek and To Enjoy” cabaret, hosted by BandBazi

DATE: 14 June  2009

WHERE: Pavilion Theatre, New Rd, Brighton

SOURCE: www.bandbazi.co.uk/youth/youth-circus-theatre/shows

The event BandBazi curated to mark the beginning of Refugee Week 2009, “To Seek and to Enjoy” at the Pavilion Theatre, Brighton on June 14th was a great success and a complete sell-out. There was a welcome from the mayor of Brighton, Ann Norman, performances by BandBazi Youth Circus Theatre, Funkstarz, Mensur, and Heval Akram, poetry from Phati Mnguni and Osama Ibrahim Ahmadani, a short talk by Nick Scott-Flynn, Head of Refugee Services at the British Red Cross, and moving monologue from homeless asylum seeker Alex Jackson. Brighton Voices in Exile provided a slap up feast of tasty food in the bar area, which had been beautified by an exhibition of Phati Mnguni’s paintings. Big thanks also to Lucy Bryson and Tessa Brechin at the council, Refugee Radio and Sussex Interpreting Services for helping to make it possible.

POETRY, FILM SCREENING, MUSIC AND FOOD FROM ACROSS THE WORLD

DATE:18 June 2015

WHERE: Community Base, 113 Queens Rd, Brighton BN1 3XG

SOURCE: http://www.euromernet.org/refugee-week-2015-voices-tastes-and-tunes-united

On Thursday 18th of June 2015, Euro-Mernet organised an evening event in Brighton (U.K.) to mark the Refugee Week. The event took place at the popular venue Community Base and it was supported by the Refugee Radio and the Community Base. The event was attended by the members of the diverse communities from across Brighton and Hove. The three organisations have been regularly organising this event together for almost a decade now. Guests enjoyed a wide range of Mediterranean and other continental food and drinks, which showed the power of food as a uniting force and a firm bridge between cultures. Euro-Mernet volunteers tirelessly cooked all the food. Euro-Mernet team also compiled examples of refugee poetry. Numerous poems written by refugee adults and children from across the world, including Syrians in refugee camps, were read out by the current and former refugees who live in Brighton. A poem by the Middle East’s first persecuted and internally exiled female refugee over a millennium ago was also read out.

 Refugee and migrant musicians performed a diverse selection of tunes from various countries and periods, some of which “catapulted” some enthused guests onto the stage so as to let them enjoy their folk dancing. The documentary “Terminal Sur”, by London-based artist Juan Delgado, focused on the ordeal of the refugees in Bogota, Colombia. Juan joined us via a video link as he was away for an art therapy project for refugee children across Lebanon-Syria borders. This was followed by short video clips on state of refugees in various countries. An exhibition of posters, cartoons, quotes and artwork by and about refugees was also one of the popular parts of the evening. Councillor Leo Littman, who tabled the motion at a Brighton and Hove City Council meeting last year for the application of the city to become a “City of Sanctuary” for refugees, and Sanctuary-on-Sea chairwoman Jenny Lansdell informed the guests about the current and future work of the sanctuary.

 

“SANCTUARY OF SEA LAUNCH + SCREENING of  “TASTING MY FUTURE”

DATE: 14 June 2015

WHERE: Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1YD.

SOURCE: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/tasting-my-future and http://bit.ly/1r9JZZE

Opening event for Refugee Week 2015 at the Brighthelm Centre. At the event Brighton & Hove was named “Sanctuary on Sea” in recognition of the city-wide efforts made to create a culture of welcome for people fleeing conflict and persecution. Tiffy Allen, coordinator of the National City of Sanctuary movement presented the award to Council Leader, Warren Morgan. The Council Leader underlined the city’s commitment to welcoming refugees following  a rousing introductory speech by Green MP Caroline Lucas. This packed event brought together refugee women, volunteers, politicians, artists and members of the public. The event also celebrated the launch of the Sanctuary on Sea group and featured the premiere of “Tasting My Future”, a documentary about refugee women in Brighton & Hove, made by local film-makers Sylvie Collier and Cathy Maxwell. It’s an hour-long documentary film featuring women who fled war, persecution and conflict in their home countries and wound up in the city of Brighton & Hove.

These inspirational women tell of fear, escape, survival and the hope of forging a safe new life. The one thing they share is the pleasure of cooking. They have different backgrounds, beliefs, traditions and national languages, but preparing food and cooking together is a joyful new experience. Tradition and innovation combine in the kitchen as together they make a feast – a feast like no other. Finally there was Chilean folk music by Jorge Morales and delicious food from Ethiopia, Venezuela and Turkey.

In conclusion, you can find the events calendar for this year here: www.refugeeweek.org.uk/events/

We hope to see many initiatives like these in every country, so that people can come together and appreciate the immense value of migration to human history.  In the meantime; love, peace and solidarity.


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