A guest post by Louise Wratten, Community Engagement Officer for the New Room, Bristol.
We’ve waved goodbye to the builders who’ve been busy working on a new visitor centre for the New Room since the start of last year, and are delighted to mark the opening of our lovely new exhibition space by hosting a major refugee-themed art exhibition, launching on 19 June to coincide with the start of Refugee Week.
The exhibition is entitled ‘I Am A Refugee’ and this will be its first showing outside London, where it has been displayed in such high-brow venues as the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral.
With free entry and a great central location in the heart of Bristol’s central shopping district, we’re hoping lots of people – locals and visitors alike – will drop in and take a look.
‘I Am A Refugee’ will be on display the New Room in Broadmead, also known as John Wesley’s Chapel, for three weeks from 19 June to 9 July, from 10.30am to 4pm on Monday- Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sundays.
This inspiring collection was developed by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and design agency Coley Porter Bell and celebrates the contributions of refugees past and present to life in the UK.
Three giant screens tell the stories and celebrate the achievements of people who have entered the UK as refugees, including such well-known names as singers Rita Ora and Freddie Mercury, writer Judith Kerr, comedian Shappi Khorsandi, computer pioneer Dame Stephanie Shirley and 51 other famous and not-so-famous individuals.
The exhibition illustrates how refugees who have made the UK their home have made significant contributions to the arts, science, sports, commerce, industry and social care, as well as the communities they live in, and that each has a unique story to tell. It eloquently demonstrates how when refugees are welcomed they are able to thrive and contribute.
I think Sarah Marcus, communications director for JCWI who has been working us with to arrange the exhibition, was so right when she observed that the ongoing global refugee crisis means that now, more than ever, it is worth us all reflecting on how men, women and children who have sought safety in the UK have shaped our society, culture and history.
The impetus for this fascinating project is very much in keeping with John Wesley’s message about social justice, and it is a highly appropriate first display for our newly refurbished exhibition space.
The exhibition space has been provided as part of an 18-month multi-million pound project, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which has just been completed in the New Room as part of The Horse Fair Project. It is part of a brand new visitor centre which also features a new café, gift shop and revamped themed heritage museum.
For more information on the Bristol Refugee Festival see www.bristolrefugeefestival.org , on the JCWI see www.jcwi.org.uk , the ‘I Am A Refugee’ exhibition see www.iamarefugee.net and the New Room see www.newroombristol.org.uk