Refugee Week - a celebration of refugees from exile to integration - June 23-29 - Refugee Council
June 5, 2001

Refugee Week – a celebration of refugees from exile to integration – June 23-29

Refugee Council release

Music, dance, theatre, poetry, photography, film, sport and art are bringing colour and vibrancy to Britain’s towns and streets during Refugee Week, which takes place across the country from June 23 to 29. Refugee and host communities are joining together to celebrate the immense contribution refugees make to our society. Refugee Week will be launched on the first-ever World Refugee Day on 20 June, designated by the United Nations, which signifies the plight of exile and celebrates refugees in their new homes.

Jo Harvey, Refugee Week National Coordinator said: “Refugee Week demonstrates the rich and creative talent of refugees and shows how refugees survive and excel despite the odds stacked against them.”

Events during Refugee Week are plentiful and diverse. In London, they include: Celebrating Sanctuary – part of the Coin Street Festival on the South Bank of the Thames on 24 June – celebrates the UK’s hard won tradition of providing sanctuary to those fleeing persecution from many parts of the globe. It offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the evolving contribution of refugees to the cultural life of London and the UK – it is a free, fun filled afternoon of music, dance, visual art and children’s activities. The afternoon is filled with delights for all the senses with entertainment from four continents and across five generations.

No Place – contemporary art exhibition tackling issues of displacement and sanctuary organised by the Refugee Council, will be showing at the Pump House Gallery in Battersea Park from 29 June to 8 July. The exhibition celebrates the rich mix that the movement of people brings to the UK and throws light on the experiences of refugees as they travel to unknown lands; on their reasons for leaving, the difficulties that they encounter and successes that they achieve.

Seeking Sanctuary – a season of films at the National Film Theatre on the theme of exile. These films show the social and political circumstances which lead to widespread exodus and the difficulties of escape, exile and return. They include Theo Angelopoulos’ Voyage to Cythera (1984) an examination of a man returning from exile in Russia after many years, Samira Makhkmalbaf’s Blackboards (2000) a tale of itinerant teachers trying to find pupils among different groups in Kurdistan, Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (1996) one of the finest films to come out of the Bosnian conflict, an anti-war film with a ferocious comic edge and Last Resort (2000), the story of a young Russian woman who finds herself seeking asylum in today’s Britain.

Artists in Exile, a unique multi-cultural movement of professional artists and refugees from around the world, is being launched on 25 June at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. Their work will be presented from 25 – 29 June. The artists share a dream – to collaborate across frontiers, to establish a new creative homeland. Many are well-known artists in their countries of origin. Artists in Exile highlights the creative contribution of refugee artists to London’s evolving identity, and demonstrates how they can enrich our lives. The artists come together from many countries including Bosnia, Lithuania, Syria, Sri Lanka, Iran, Tibet, Ethiopia and Colombia. Each has their own journey of exile, often forced to flee for their creative expression. Each has trodden a solo path to practise their art and to make a recognisable contribution to Britain’s culture.

The Nations’ Football Festival is the first tournament of its kind aimed at teams comprising of asylum seekers and refugees. Sixteen teams are competing in the eight week tournament, with players from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Ethiopia taking part. The Nations’ Football Festival provides free pitches, match officials, kit and training courses, and welcomes refugees into the football family, so that they can access the benefits that the football establishment has to offer. The tournament runs from May 21 – 13 July 2001 and is a unique collaboration between the London Playing Fields Society, London Football Association, Refugee Council, the Peabody Trust, London Borough Grants and Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme and is supported by John Barnes and BBC London.

Refugee Voices, a collection of 11 refugee artists from nine African countries, will be launching their CD and performing at several events during Refugee Week. Refugee Voices will perform at the Africa Centre on Friday 22 June and at Celebrating Sanctuary on Sunday 24 June. Additional events to be announced.

Produced by celebrated Sengalese artist Youssou N’Dour, from hip-hop to ritual music, the CD mixes together African roots music with western urban culture, soul music and poetry. The diversity in styles reflects the multicultural diversity of the artists themselves. All of the artists’ lives have been marked by exile and uprootedness. The lyrics tackle issues as diverse as ethnic conflict, the status of women, integration and uprootedness.

Refugee Voices is an initiative aimed at bringing the voices of refugees to a wider audience, enabling them to show their potential, as well as involving them personally in raising awareness on the plight of refugees and the needs for protection and assistance.


Notes to editors:

1. Over 250 events are taking place across the country during Refugee Week.

Details of events:

Celebrating Sanctuary takes place on 24 June 2001, 2-7pm at Oxo Tower Wharf, Gabriel’s Wharf and Bernie Spain Gardens, Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 – located on the riverside walkway between the Royal National Theatre and Tate Modern. Admission FREE Nearest train/tube: Blackfriars, Southwark, Waterloo. Information: 020 7401 2255

No Place – Refugee Council art exhibition is showing from Friday 29 June to Sunday 8 July at the Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London SW11 4NJ; Weds, Thurs, Fri & Sun 11am – 5pm; Sat 11am – 4pm; Press and private view, Thursday 28 June, 6.30pm. Contact: Jean Candler/Nasreen Memon, Refugee Council, 020 7820 3057/3044.

Seeking Sanctuary – this season of films on the theme of exile at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank are showing throughout June. Tel: 020 7928 3232

Artists in Exile at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, Crisp road, London W6 from 25 – 29 June including theatre, art, photography, film, prose and poetry. Contact: Candida Blaker on Tel: 020 8749 5415; 07712 042104, e-mail:

Nations’ Football Festival runs from May 21 – 13 July 2001, at the Douglas Eyre Sports Centre, Coppermill Lane, London E17. There is a photocall promoting the event with leading footballer John Barnes on 26 June on Tuesday 26 June at 9.30am. Contact: Jean Candler/Nasreen Memon, Refugee Council, 020 7820 3057/3044.

Refugee Voices musicians are performing at the Africa Centre, 38 King Street, London WC2 on Friday 22 June and at Celebrating Sanctuary (see above) on 24 June. Contact: Sean Loughna, UNHCR on 01865 728659.