One word for each year of Refugee Week.

That was the challenge taken up by poet Fatima Diriye at Refugee Week Conference 2018.

Together with fellow poet and facilitator Laila Sumpton, Fatima ‘crowdsourced’ words and phrases from a room of around 250 Refugee Week supporters, inspired by the festival’s upcoming 20th birthday.

A few hours and some frantic typing later, Fatima was back before the hall, to share the poems we had all written.

Here they are – a birthday present to Refugee Week, from all of us (and with special thanks to Fatima and Laila):


In 20 words:

New world vision

We are a rainbow of people
together redefining home
on our terms,
sharing stories, breaking bread
revitalising voices now heard.


…and 20 lines:

20th birthday

Here’s your invitation to my birthday party
Bring your mother tongue, grandmother’s tales
And your best dancing shoes.
Line up your colourful bedded dresses
Wrap your stories up for Pass the parcel
Tonight, we’re travelling journeys we’ve only dreamt about
Singing songs woven into one harmonious melody
Feeling the journeys taken to reach comfort
How many instruments does it take to feel at home?
When our stories cross paths and eat around the same table
They realise they’re not alone
We have pot luck from all around the world
The warm aroma of couscous, BBQ fish, green tea with sugar and yorkshire pudding
We’re feasting on everyone else’s favourite meal
Children playing without borders in their own language
Parties planned in homes, nurseries and libraries
Over the fence, women in detention centres,
hear their unknown friends playing their favourite song
Every birthday is a reminder, A reminder of what has been and what’s to come
20 candles, 20 new possibilities for the next 20 years.


Fatima and Laila met through Bards Without Borders Shakespeare-inspired migrant poets collective, which Laila co-founded.


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Images (c) Ambrose Musiyiwa, CivicLeicester