Refugee Week was celebrated on the 24th June with a wonderful evening at the British Museum in collaboration with Counterpoints Arts.
The evening saw an exciting range of workshops, film screenings, participatory installations and performances in including music, poetry, theatre and storytelling.
The writer, editor, creative producer and Counterpoints Arts’ Poet-in-Residence, Kayo Chingonyi introduced the special event followed by the beautiful music of Syrian kanun player and composter Maya Youssef accompanied by percussionist Antonio Romero.
There was a first time music collaboration led by Syrian ney player Louai Alhenawi and Stephen Ellis from the band Revere and Gabby Yound & Other Animals. Alongside them were the Syrian musicians Sanaa Wahbah on qanun, Moheddin Aljabi on vocals and members of Revere. Through acoustic instruments, percussion and classical Arabic music, the artists explored the Refugee Week theme of ‘Welcome’ with their unique blend of new and reinterpreted songs.
The audience joined storyteller Alia Alzougbi as she shared a dynamic tapestry of tales from Syria to Sicily, portraying the cultures rich with stories and wisdom that are far from the 24-hour rolling news.
Haymanot Tesfa, an Ethiopian Amharic singer and traditional krar player, shared a beautiful performance that was followed by Freedom from Torture’s Write to Life creative writing group who presented their imaginative, moving and funny responses to Julian Barnes’ account of the Noah’s Ark story.
Arcola Theatre presented extracts from their sell-out production Children of War / SavaşIn Çocuklari which reimagines Euripides’ The Children of Hercules, a 2400 year old study of tolerance, understanding and displacement.
The Young Vic / DOST shared We are you, a piece of live performance made by a group of young people from all over the world who now call London home.
ice&fire shared an intimate performance of some of the work that has been created through sessions with members of Room to Heal, a healing community for refugees and asylum seekers who have survived torture and other forms of organised violence.
The film Anonymous in Lampedusa by Dan Hitchins-Samson was screened and was followed by a Q&A session.
Filming Syria: Stories from the Jasmine Tree, a selection of short films, curated by artist Juan delGado and produced by young filmmakers, was screened and followed by a Q&A session.
Throughout the evening there were workshops and stalls run by artists and Refugee Week partners.
A UNHCR tent was painted by Syrian refugee children and placed in the lawn outside the British Museum where you could learn more about the people and the facts behind the ‘refugee crisis’.
There was a guest book by the Refugee Council, allowing the audience to share their thoughts and reflections on what ‘Welcome’ means to you.
An interactive photo booth was run by IOM with the artist Marcia Chandra for the audience to offer their stories of migration, home, love and loss.
A large installation, The Open Gateway, was placed in the Great Court and was decorated with airmail envelopes with messages of welcome or memories of a place or person.
Amnesty International UK invited the audience to add to their beautifully hand-painted map of the world.
The International Rescue Committee set up a multimedia exhibition and recreated a Healing Classroom and asked the audience to help create classroom materials for students in Nigeria.
Artists Hong Dam and Bern O’Donoghue presented the participatory installation Floating Life.
The artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa presented her ongoing Refugees Welcome installation, a safe and welcoming space for conversations including memories of the artist’s own welcome to the UK and questions about the support and welcome that exists today.
Olivier Kugler, an illustrator commissioned by Médecins Sans Frontières to create drawings documenting the circumstances of Syrian refugees, ran a workshop to explore his practice.
The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants ran an object handling stall where the audience could meet ESOL learners and find out about the connections they have made to the artefacts in the British Museum.
The audience could experience border control and the the transition from one place to another at the Something to Declare – ‘Arrivals Bureau’ by Cultivators.
Throughout the evening the audience could follow a Refugee Week trail around the museum based on the objects that refugees receive when welcomed in refugee camps across the world.
It was an incredible event that saw thousands of visitors participating and enjoying the positive and inclusive performances and celebrations throughout the museum.