Counterpoints Arts and the Southbank Centre celebrate the 25th year of Refugee Week UK

Counterpoints Arts and the Southbank Centre celebrate the 25th year of Refugee Week UK

This year’s theme, Compassion, prompts a day of music, talks, workshops, film screenings and a new public art commission by artist Murugiah, a collaboration with Choose Love.

8 JUN – 7 JUL 2023

Location: Riverside Entrance Foyer, Level 1

A bold and joyful new art piece celebrate this year’s Refugee Week theme, Compassion.

‘Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.’ – Albert Einstein

‘Compassion’ is a new and exciting artwork created by award-winning artist Murugiah. He has developed it in collaboration with a group of young asylum seekers from Compass Collective. The piece is inspired by the artwork of young pupils across the UK featuring messages of welcome for refugees and those seeking asylum around the world.

In the context of ongoing global crises and increasingly dangerous anti-migration rhetoric and policies, this work invites us to see how interconnected our world really is and how something seemingly ‘far away’ can impact all of us.

Through his distinctly bold and joyful approach, Murugiah and his young co-creators suggest that even the smallest acts of kindness and compassion can significantly improve the lives of people we encounter along the way; impacting not only our immediate family and friends but those with different life experiences and situations to ourselves.

By celebrating what connects us, ‘Compassion’ shows us that our actions really can change the world.

This artwork has been commissioned by Choose Love, Counterpoints Arts and Students Rebuild for the 25th anniversary of ‘Refugee Week’.

Free, more info here.

23 JUN 2023, 12 noon
Mix & Move: Women for Refugee Women

Location: The Clore Ballroom, Level 2, Royal Festival Hall

Come and learn traditional dance moves from different countries as part of Refugee Week.

Learn the traditional dances of a variety of countries, led by the community group Women for Refugee Women, at a special Mix & Move edition for Refugee Week.

You don’t need any previous dance experience and there’s no need to bring a partner. We hope to see you there for some more fabulous moments of moving together.

Women for Refugee Women empower refugee and asylum-seeking women to speak out, become leaders and advocate for change.

Through English lessons, drama and other activities they support women to build their confidence and skills. Their network helps to combat the isolation faced by women seeking asylum and creates pathways for women to rebuild their lives with dignity.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 11:45 – 13:00
Singing Our Lives

Location: Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

Singers, instrumentalists and poets share their responses to the theme of Compassion – and give you a chance to join in the singing.

‘Singing Our Lives’, now in its seventh year, is produced by Together Productions and brings displaced people, sanctuary seekers and local communities from around the UK to compose new music and perform together.

The project unites amateur singers and performers, professional musicians and writers from around the world in a unique coming together of cultures, disciplines and traditions.

This performance marks the finale of ‘Refugee Week’, and culminates in a thrilling mass performance of a ‘Singing Our Lives’ original composition.

Together Productions is a social change organisation based in the UK, producing innovative collaborative projects that connect people across social and cultural divides. Through their programmes, music and the arts become a catalyst to break down barriers, reduce isolation and enhance well-being. Together Productions’ work includes those who are marginalised or excluded – such as displaced people and those seeking sanctuary – people facing mental health challenges, the elderly, the financially disadvantaged and socially excluded.

Performing groups:

The Sing for Freedom Choir is a community of torture survivors and friends who sing together in a spirit of joy and hope, in solidarity with all those who are oppressed. The choir sings for freedom and to give back a voice to those who have been silenced.

The Mixed Up Chorus is passionate about the power of music to bring people together in the spirit of empathy and understanding. Performing global and original new repertoire, the Chorus believes that singing next to each other helps us to live well next to each other.

Write to Life are the world’s only long-running creative writing group for survivors of torture and have been working with survivors from around the world for over 20 years.

The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians are a collective of professional singers and instrumentalists who have settled in the UK after being forced to flee the war in their homeland. Their haunting and uplifting music celebrates the rich cultural traditions of Syria.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 13:00 – 14:30
Migrant Futurism: Kenmure Street

Location: Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

This panel brings together community activists and organisers to reflect on the power of the Kenmure Street protest, two years on.

The panel features Mohammad Asif and Pinar Aksu, who were active throughout the day, alongside Sami, an organiser in the anti-raids network. It’s moderated by film-maker, activist and founder/director of Radical Ecology, Ashish Ghadiali.

On the morning of 13 May 2021, UK immigration officials conducted a dawn raid in Glasgow Southside’s Kenmure Street, detaining two Indian nationals in a Home Office van, only to be met by an organised response from members of the local community who surrounded the vehicle.

What unfolded was an eight-hour grassroots protest, animated by the spontaneous chant, ‘These are our neighbours, let them go.’

The action, which took place during Eid in one of Scotland’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, resulted in the release of the two men, and was celebrated as a symbol of hope and solidarity in the face of the UK government’s ‘hostile environment’.

How did it come about? Why was it so effective? What happened after the cameras had gone away? And what can activists and communities learn from the anti-raids movement about organising in response to the Illegal Migration Bill?

Mohammad Asif is director of the Scotland-based Afghan Human Rights Foundation.

Pinar Aksu is a campaigner and development officer at the Maryhill Integration Network which works across Glasgow to facilitate connection between refugees, migrants and settled inhabitants of the city.

This event is part of the launch of ‘Migrant Futurism’, a long-term curatorial strand of research and public programming led by Radical Ecology, in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts and the Southbank Centre.

‘Migrant Futurism’ interrogates cultural strategies, in the context of displacement, for the imagination of just and sustainable futures.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 14:00 – 15:00
Amani Collective Showcase

Location: Riverside Terrace, Level 2

Modern African music’s breathtaking variety gets a proper outing.

Palm wine from Sierra Leone and seben from the DRC – just two of the genres in this afternoon showcasing the complexity and variety of contemporary African music.

This is a chance to experience a slice of the vast diversity of African music, with acclaimed lead singers and instrumentalists Papa Sam Alafia, Emmanuela Yogolelo, Tshepe Thsepela, Herve Vika and Fade.

Other genres that feature include Afro-fusion and agwaya, rumba and mutwashi.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 14:30
About Us! Artists’ Scratch Showcase

Location: Level 5 Function Room, Green Side, Royal Festival Hall

Looking for a safe space to share your creative ideas? Need inspiration for your next project?

Calling all artists! Are you a creative looking for a safe space to share your ideas? Are you looking for inspiration for your next creative project?

Whether or not you’re ready to embrace the name ‘artist’, if you’re making work or thinking about it, this event is for you.

Sign up via the form below for a chance to be selected to present your work (or work in progress) and engage in discussions with a room full of like-minded artistic experimenters.

Music, film, comedy, drama, improv, visual art, fashion and everything in between is welcome!

Full running orders to be updated when the presenters have been selected.

This is an ongoing artists networking project, led by AWATE, supported by Counterpoints and Southbank Centre. Quotes from last year’s participants:

‘It’s a wholly unique way to connect with your audience; I learned more about how audiences engage with my work at this event than I have for any other performance!’ – Laith Elzubaidi (writer/film-maker)

‘[Artists’ Scratch Showcase] was such a warm, collaborative and encouraging environment. It was so helpful to collaborate on my comedy in a space with lots of different perspectives and allowed me to look at what I was presenting from a different angle and incorporate new ideas.’ – Emily Bampton (writer/comedian)

‘It allowed me to debut my first humanitarian documentary. Having had a shift of career direction from corporate industries, I was so grateful to be able to present this important work, which was well received by a beautiful crowd.’ – Saoud Khalaf (film-maker)


If applying, please make sure you’re available on the day, and do join us even if you’re not selected.

Book a FREE ticket to be part of the audience. More info here.

25 JUN 2023, 15:00
Migrant Futurism: Françoise Vergès

Location: Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Presented by Radical Ecology, Francoise Verges will deliver a key-note presentation in the Purcell Room, reflecting on the context of the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill and drawing connections between forced migration, climate breakdown, gender violence and systemic violence to insist on the need to develop and enhance international solidarity in the face of these interconnected planetary crises.

Francoise Verges is a renowned decolonial activist and theorist, who through works including A Decolonialism Feminism and A Feminist Theory of Violence explores the intersections of race, migration and gender in the context of 21st century global capitalism.

The panel will be moderated by filmmaker, activist and founder/director of Radical Ecology, Ashish Ghadiali and will be followed by a Q&A.

This event is part of Refugee Week, and launching Migrant Futurism, a long-term strand of research and public programming by Radical Ecology and in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts and the Southbank Centre.

Migrant Futurism is a long-term curatorial project, led by Radical Ecology, that interrogates cultural strategies, in the context of displacement, for the imagination of just and sustainable futures.

Ticketed (£7.50). Book here.

Age recommendation – For ages 14+
Content Warning – Contains themes of gender-based violence

25 JUN 2023, 15:00
West African Dance Workshop

Location: Riverside Terrace, Level 2

Dance soca, reggae, calypso and Afro-jive in this family-friendly event.

This family-friendly workshop and performance features West African percussion and dance with Imani Jendai and Tagne Tebu.

Participants have the opportunity to explore dance styles such as soca, reggae, calypso and Afro-jive.

The workshop is designed and delivered by Imani Jendai, an exceptional and dynamic performer and choreographer with extensive knowledge of many different dance styles.

Born and raised in Cameroon, Tagné Tebu is a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist, band leader, music director and composer who has worked with musicians from many different cultures and musical backgrounds.

His music blends African melodies and grooves with jazz harmony and is based on African storytelling on the themes of love, war and peace – it conveys a bittersweet sense of melancholy balanced by irrepressible optimism.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 16:00 – 16:20
Migrant Futurism: Angela Camacho

Location: Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

Presented by Radical Ecology, Angela Camacho will perform a Future Ancestors Ritual to conclude an afternoon’s programme on Migrant Futurism, including a panel on the Kenmure Street Protest of May 2021 and a keynote talk by decolonial activist and theorist Francoise Verges.

Angela Camacho aka @thebonitachola is a London-based community organiser and domestic worker who fights for the rights of indigenous and Latinx communities and works to amplify the struggles of indigenous, trans and womxn activists in the global south.

Her practice is guided by the principle of becoming a good ancestor.

This event is part of Refugee Week, and launching Migrant Futurism, a long-term curatorial strand of research and public programming led by Radical Ecology and in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts and the Southbank Centre, that interrogates cultural strategies, in the context of displacement, for the imagination of just and sustainable futures.

This event is part of the launch of ‘Migrant Futurism’, a long-term curatorial strand of research and public programming led by Radical Ecology, in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts and the Southbank Centre.

‘Migrant Futurism’ interrogates cultural strategies, in the context of displacement, for the imagination of just and sustainable futures.

Free event more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 17:00 – 18:45
Refugee Week Short Films Screening

Location: Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Watch exceptional short films from around the world, made by refugee and asylum-seeking film-makers, and curated by Sarah Agha, founder of the Arab Film Club.

Each title is either written and directed by a refugee film-maker or draws on real life experience to tackle the theme in some way.

This showcase proves the power of cinema, as each film-maker succeeds in humanising both struggle and injustice with their art.

The programme includes projects from BAFTA-winning film director Hassan Akkad and Counterpoints Arts’ Pop Culture & Social Change Producer, Laith Elzubaidi.

The screening is followed by a Q&A hosted by actress, curator and presenter of the BBC’s ‘The Holy Land and Us’, Sarah Agha. Agha founded the Arab Film Club during lockdown, a community celebrating and exploring cinema from the Arab world.

The Programme:

Yellow by Elham Ehsas (12’)
In Taliban controlled Afghanistan, Laili walks into a Chadari store in Kabul to buy her first full body veil from a Talib shopkeeper, and face a new future.

Aziza by Soudade Kaadan (13’)
A newly displaced Syrian couple take a drive around Beirut, which soon morphs into a hallucinatory and nostalgic trip.

Address Unknown by Anton Fisher (24′)
South Africa, 1976. A postman goes looking for his childhood best friend who went missing due to forced removals, before he himself is forced to relocate or face the bulldozers.

Panic! by Laith Elzubaidi – (8’)
Every night Layla and her sister Noor are forced to huddle under candlelight to protect themselves from an ominous threat. Until one night, a more psychological threat endangers them both.

Matar by Hassan Akkad – (23’)
The story of Matar, a Syrian asylum seeker in England. When confronted with the hostile immigration system he is forced to live on the fringes of society and rely on his bike to survive.

Ticketed, book here.

25 JUN 2023, 18:45 – 19:30
Songs to Heal and Empower

Location: Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

Samia Malik celebrates the launch of her new album, ‘Songs to Heal and Empower’ – music that extends and subverts the traditional Urdu Ghazal form.

Malik’s powerful original songs are written in Urdu and English, and explore contemporary issues around identity, race and gender.

The music combines soaring Eastern melodies, electronics, tabla and deep bass grooves, and are supported by live visuals of Malik’s original art and translations.

Malik has collaborated with world-class artists including celebrated Indian dancer and activist Mallika Sarabhai and ‘sitarist to the stars’ Baluji Shrivastav OBE.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 19:30
Rainbows Across Borders

Location: Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

Listen to a performance by the Rainbows Across Borders community choir, a voluntary self-help group for LGBT asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

Working with Music Action International, this community choir writes and performs their own songs with messages of compassion, identity and belonging.

The choir provides a secure and safe space for members to share experiences as LGBT asylum seekers and to mutually build confidence whilst making music together.

Free, more info here.

25 JUN 2023, 20:00 – 21:30
Notes on Compassion: Words, Music and Us

Location: Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer

Celebrating 25 years of Refugee Week – join us for an evening of great music and newly commissioned spoken word, in response to this year’s Refugee Week theme, Compassion.

We are bringing together poets and musicians to share their responses on Compassion, helping us create a safe and shared space of community in which to unpick what compassion means in today’s political, social, economic and cultural context, and how important it is to extend it beyond our own networks.

Do we live in times where acting with compassion may feel like a radical act? How can we grow compassion by doing small, everyday acts that have potential to affect and support people outside our immediate circles of friends and family.

See poetry performances from Vanessa Kissule, AWATE, Momtaza Mehri and Sukina Noor commissioned by Counterpoints Arts and Southbank Centre, an original choral performance from Woven Gold, and musicians still to be announced.

Vanessa Kisuule is a writer and performer based in Bristol. She has won over ten slam titles including The Roundhouse Slam 2014, Hammer and Tongue National Slam 2014 and the Nuoryican Poetry Slam. She has been featured on BBC iPlayer, Radio 1, and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Blue Peter, Don’t Flop and TEDx in Vienna. She has appeared at an array of literary and music festivals and was Glastonbury Festival’s Resident Poet in 2019. She has been invited to perform all over the world from Belgium to Brazil to Bangladesh.

Rachel Long is a poet and the founder of Octavia – Poetry Collective for Womxn of Colour, which is housed at Southbank Centre, London. She was shortlisted for Young Poet for Laureate for London in 2014 and awarded a Jerwood/Arvon Foundation mentorship in 2015. Rachel has run poetry workshops for The Poetry School, The Serpentine Galleries and at University of Oxford. She is Assistant Tutor to Jacob Sam La-Rose on the Barbican Young Poets programme 2015-present.

AWATE is a critically acclaimed rapper, writer, producer and performer focused on stories at the intersection of race, class and surrealism – with a dose of humour. Awate’s 2018 debut album, Happiness was supported by BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra, Spotify, Noisey, MOBO x Help Musicians UK and called a, “British rap masterpiece” by Trench Magazine.

Momtaza Mehri is a poet and independent researcher working across criticism, translation, anti-disciplinary research practices, education, and radio. She is a former Young People’s Poet Laureate for London and Frontier-Antioch Fellow at Antioch University (Los Angeles). Her writing has appeared in the likes of POETRY, Granta, Vogue, The Guardian, Bidoun, and The White Review. A former Columnist-in-Residence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Open Space, she has also completed residencies at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the British Library.

Sukina Noor is a poet, spoken-word artist, playwright, workshop facilitator and educator, artistic curator, writer and public speaker. She has toured extensively across UK, Europe, America and Africa performing, delivering poetry workshops, partaking in panel discussions and delivering lectures.

Woven Gold is a choir of refugees and asylum seekers from around the world, performing original songs and music written together, or traditional music from their own countries. They are led by professional musicians who give their time.

The richness, energy and power of Woven Gold comes from the combination of a close sense of family and shared experience, and the range of musical cultures – from Burma, Congo, India, Iran, Kurdistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uganda, making Woven Gold a community choir like no other.

Ticketed (£10). Book here.

June 19, 2023 - June 25, 2023

Ticket Price: Free, with some ticketed


Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX, United Kingdom