Held on the 15th February at the Amnesty International UK centre in London, with over 200 attendee bookings, the conference introduced this year’s Refugee Week theme of ‘Welcome’ with inspiring speeches, workshops and performances.

The conference started with an introduction by Maurice Wren, Chair of Refugee Week and CEO of Refugee Council. Soon after, Counterpoints Arts Refugee Week Coordinator Emily Churchill Zaraa then introduced the Refugee Week 2016 theme of ‘Welcome’. Laura Padoan of UNHCR UK and Bindu Issac of IOM UK discussed the current refugee crisis and shared optimism for vital change.

The first performance for the day was by Congolese-born Didier Kisala, featured on the up-coming The Long Road EP by the British Red Cross.

The first instalment of  Five Minutes of Inspiration then began with:

  • Tim Finch, Coordinator of Nation Refugees Welcome Board, who discussed the increase in public engagement with refugee issues.
  • Ros Erreira and Abdulaziz Almashi, Solidarity with Refugees, who talked about the September 2015 Refugee Welcome demonstration they co-organised.
  • Juan Delgado, Media Artist, who shared the stories being told through the platform Qisetna: Talking Syria and his work in the Isle of Bute.
  • Sabir Zazai, Director of Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, who highlighted the contributions that refugees have to offer.

The conference audience then split off into the 6 interactive morning workshops. Shortly after, a delicious lunch was provided by The Chickpea Sisters, a London-based cooking initiative of refugee and migrant women.

Lunch from The Chickpea Sisters

The afternoon began with a performance from Bards Without Borders members Fatima Diriye, Freddy Macha and co-founder Arne Pohlmeier, performing tri-lingual poetry and music inspired by Shakespeare.

This was followed with the second instalment of the Five Minutes of Inspiration with:

  • Jacqi Hodgson, Mayor of Totnes, who discussed her hometown’s efforts in welcoming refugees.
  • Dina Mousawi, who talked about her touching theatre project Terrestrial Journeys for refugee women in Beirut.
  • Sue McApline, Curator at the Migration Museum, who introduced concepts for an exhibitions dedicated to improving education about migration.
  • Ambrose Musiyiwa, Facilitator at CivicLeicester, who explained CivicLeicester’s response to refugees.

After the second round of the 6 workshops,  the final performance of the day was by the incredibly talented Yasim Kadi who lit up the stage with powerful music and lyrics.


The day was rounded off by Almir Koldzic, Co-director of Counterpoints Arts, looking ahead to Refugee Week 2016 in June.



The 6 interactive workshops

Click on the workshop title to view the summary notes and in-detail advice.


The Arts of Welcoming and Communities of Place

Áine O’Brien, Counterpoints Arts

With Don Flynn, Migrants Rights Network, Cllr Jacqi Hodgson, Mayor of Totnes, Juan delGado, Media Artist, Sarah Domville, Community Arts North-West

Drawing inspiration from UK-wide ‘people and place’ projects and other international interventions, the discussion showcased and explored the politics of community co-commissions/productions and the networking potential underpinning a range of visual arts, film and other arts-led public platforms.


Make a Difference: Reach the Fence-Sitters

Jean Barclay, Planning & Development Consultant and Almir Koldzic, Counterpoints Arts

With Ann Sanders, Consultant

This workshop explored the challenge of how to reach people who are not already engaged with refugee issues, and how we can tell whether our activities in Refugee Week have created an impact on the general public.


Local Acts of Welcome: Refugee Week in Your Community

Tim Finch, National Refugees Welcome Board

With Stefan Haselwimmer, Refugee Campaigner

The focus of the workshop was on how local refugee support can make the most of Refugee Week to boost the culture of welcome in their communities and how the arts and cultural organisations can tap into the new civic spirit of welcome across the country.


Welcome to School: Refugee Week in Educational Settings

Emily Miller, Migration Museum

With Melanie Hadida, Schools of Sanctuary Leeds and Hassan Al-Mousaoy, Activist, Photographer and Student Ambassador

The workshop explored resources for running school activities on migration, asylum and welcome for teachers, arts practitioners and everyone interested in running creative learning activities.


Hold the Front Page! Getting Heard in the Media this Refugee Week

Steve Ballinger, British Future

Discussing how to get your Refugee Week event or story in the local media, this workshop explored what journalists want, how to write a press release, how to work with case studies, and top tips for radio and TV interviews.


Refugees Welcome Online: Campaigning, Promoting and Storytelling on Social Media

Jenny Lowthrop, Digital Consultant

This workshop discussed how you can get involved in the Refugee Week 2016 social media campaign and tips for promoting your Refugee Week activities online.