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Counterpoints Arts

By Heba Ghanem

Refugee Tales, a unique experience combining walking, art and literature with the unifying principles of compassion and solidarity, will bring together writers, displaced people and supporters to celebrate refugees, reject prejudice, and protest against indefinite detention. Following the path of Chaucer’s pilgrims who travelled along the North Downs Way from Dover to Crawley, walkers will undertake an 80-mile journey, hiking through scenic routes while sharing tales of displacement and the long journey to sanctuary.

Organised by Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group,the walk will serve as a symbolic reminder of the journeys made by millions of people around the world, forced to flee their homes to seek refuge in other lands, while the tales will assert that these people are not forgotten, and their unique stories of suffering, hope and defiance are remembered and reflected upon by fellow humans elsewhere.

The walk, which runs 13-21 June, will start at Shepherdswell, Dover, making its way along the woodland and farms up to Canterbury, then Chilham, continuing alongside a large ancient forest to reach Charing, settling for a rest day at Rochester, before resuming the journey to Crawley, passing by Oxted. Walking along the historic paths while taking in the enchanting scenes of nature and the wondrous British countryside will be a memorable feature of Refugee Tales, rendering the experience inspirational on many different levels.

Each stopping point will be marked with an event, which include film screenings, music and plays as well as storytelling. Leading writers, novelists, and poets, among them Chris Cleave and Abdulrazak Gurnah, will perform stories written in collaboration with refugees and asylum seekers and those who work with them. The stories will include The Migrant’s Tale, The Unaccompanied Minor’s Tale, The Arriver’s Tale, The Lorry Driver’s Tale, The Detainee’s Tale, and The Interpreter’s Tale. Added to the mix will be lectures on related themes, like the philosophy of walking, and musical acts specially commissioned for the event.

The events, creatively designed to combine music, cinema, and literature under the theme of solidarity with refugees and detainees, will introduce a unique form of a social and political spectacle. By walking, socialising, sharing and exchanging experiences, Refugee Tales is not just an act of protest or support, but a journey of deep reflection on the conditions migrants and refugees experience, at a time when it is needed most.

In addition to 35 core walkers undertaking the full 80-mile journey, people are welcome to sign up for a day or more and join at any point along the way. All events apart from the final one are free of charge and places will be allocated on a first come first served basis. Further information about this unique experience, how to participate, help, or donate can be found on the website: www.refugeetales.org