Refugee Week Scotland 2009 - Fugee la la
Kirstin Innes talks to some of the people behind the excellent programme at this year’s Scotland-wide Refugee Week
Given the recent increase in profile of the BNP across Scotland, the timing and focus of this year’s country-wide Refugee Week are particularly prescient. This year, the multi-artform festival which aims to raise awareness of the issues facing and surrounding asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland has adopted the theme ‘Home’, reflecting the Scottish Government-run Year of Homecoming project.
‘For us, the Year of Homecoming is not just about welcoming back the Scottish diaspora,’ says John Wilkes, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council. ‘It’s about ensuring Scotland is welcoming for everyone who comes here. We want to remind Scots of the journeys refugees have taken to get here; fleeing their previous homes in fear of persecution and danger, and trying to build a new life and safe home here in Scotland.’
To tie in with Homecoming, the team behind Refugee Week have asked several asylum seekers and refugees living in Scotland to share their stories and ideas about what ‘home’ means with interested parties from Scottish culture and media. Matta Matabaro, the 33-year-old head of Africa Umoja Scotland, an organisation aimed at reducing poverty and increasing community integration amongst refugees and asylum seekers from Africa, invited writer and artist John Byrne into his house for a televised chat.
‘John didn’t even know that the Scottish Refugee Council existed until they contacted him to take part in this discussion,’ he says. ‘I think Scottish people need to understand more widely that many people are forced to flee their countries and seek refuge in places where they can get protection, and not to be surprised that these people are coming to their country.’
The Refugee Week website offers the opportunity to see videos of these conversations, and invites Scots to put faces and stories to the bogey-man phrase ‘asylum seeker’. The videos are companions to a Scotland-wide programme of theatre, art, live music, food and sporting events and dicussions designed to make people consider the positive impact refugees can have on a society. For instance, a screening of the AFI’s ‘Funniest Film of the 20th Century’, Some Like It Hot may not seem to have much relevance, until you consider that it was made by a refugee, German émigré Billy Wilder. Other highlights of the programme include the big names of the Red Cross Refugee Week Comedy Night, the first ever RefugeeWeek Scotland Film Festival, and Exodus, a club night co-organised by Umoja Scotland featuring the best in live hip hop, ragga and Afro-beats.
‘We want people to enjoy Refugee Week,’ says Wilkes, ‘but we urge Scots to continue to think about how crucial a safe home is – and to welcome those who have sought sanctuary in our nation.’
Scotland-wide, Mon 15–Sun 21 Jun. See www.refugeeweek.org.uk/scotland for video content and full listings.
Under the Same Sky
This contemporary dance theatre project with Y Dance exploring the experiences of young refugees and asylum seekers living in Glasgow. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Red Cross Refugee Week Comedy Night
Susan Calman hosts a gig to help raise funds for the British Red Cross, headlined by the inimitable Reg D. Hunter. Could there be a worthier night of comedy? 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Second Home Comes First
Dance, music and poetry celebrating cultural diversity and resettlement with a cast of professional musicians and dancers and asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, BME and Scottish communities. Choreographed by Natasha Gilmore. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Who Are You?
Challenging theatre from young company Knightswood Youth Theatre. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Me, You and Home
A series of autobiographical performances about the meaning of 'home'. Tickets available on the door; all proceeds to Positive Action in Housing. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Artists in Exile Cabaret
An eclectic mix of performers from countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Congo, Venezuela, Russia, Palestine and Tibet perform poetry, music and drama. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Reading by refugees, who now live in Scotland, of their own works. Tickets available instore. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Seeds of Home
Interactive workshop and performance from Seeds of Though based on their poetry café. Booking required. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
A digital storytelling exhibition offering insight into the lives of women from the Royston Lifelong Learning Centre. Further info from firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Pathways of Integration
Photography by Karen Gordon documenting the work of Maryhill Integration Network in bringing communities together. The launch event on Sat 20 Jun features a fashion show and performances (2pm). Further info from maryhillintegration.org.uk. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Peacemakers of Israel and Palestine
Images of cooperation and reconciliation from Israel's West Bank by photojournalist team Angela Catlin and Billy Briggs. Further info from www.eicsp.org. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Celebrate the diverse contributions of refugee women to the community, with a learning exchange, Tai chi, orchestra workshop and tour of the gallery. Lunch is provided and children are welcome. Part of Refugee Week. Booking is essential.
Eat to the Beat IV
An evening of dining and dancing with food and BEASTIE Beats. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Colourful family event with music, dance, workshops, games and a parade. Part of Refugee Week.
Show off your artistic talents with the Sri Mangala Vinayahar Community Centre and, if you're under 20, enter the competition. More info from email@example.com. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Bajuni Gathering in Glasgow
Meet the committee of the Bajuni Community in Scotland and try some traditional Bajuni food. More info from firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Refugee Week Integration BBQ
A barbecue and entertainment open to all refugee and asylum-seeking families, held by the Turkish Ethnic Minority Centre. More info from email@example.com. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Learn about the healing powers of horticulture. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Refugee Week Celebration
Meet members of the Sudanese community in Glasgow for traditional music, dance and food. More info from firstname.lastname@example.org. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
Sleep-out in George Square
Sleep out under the stars with Glasgow University Amnesty International Society to raise awareness for refugee issues. To register email email@example.com. 'Part of Refugee Week'.
One Scotland, Many Voices
A festival of film including workshops, discussion, music and live performance, celebrating the positive impact that refugees and asylum seekers have on communities. Featuring a preview of work from Document 7 International Human Rights Documentary Film festival, alongside shorts from Camcorder Guerillas, Diversity Films…