For twenty years Brighton and Hove has celebrated refugee week with events highlighting refugees’ contributions, resilience and creativity. It starts next Saturday 16 June.
However, Sanctuary on Sea’s own Crossing Borders Festival of music by refugees and asylum seekers has been running for several centuries. Sanctuary on Sea is a member of City of Sanctuary, a grassroots movement of local people and about 100 organisations across the UK who are committed to creating a culture of welcome and safety, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.
People are invited to celebrate Refugee Week’s 20th anniversary by doing one of 20 Simple Acts, which are simple actions everyone can do to stand with refugees and bring people together in their communities. One of these is to define the word ‘refuge.’
After New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina back in in 2005, there was lots of talk about whether people who lost their homes should be called ‘refugees’.
Some thought that the word should only be used for people escaping war in ‘foreign’ countries. Others argued that by describing hurricane victims as refugees we would become more understanding of people facing hardship.
When Refugee Week launched Simple Acts in 2009, they invited people to create their own definitions of refuge. Organisers hoped that by thinking about what refuge means to each of us, they might help form a fresh perspective on the word ‘refugee.’
“Music of the Dispossessed,” is a concert that kicks off Refugee Week, at 7:30 pm in St Mary’s Church, Kemptown on Saturday 16 June. It will feature works by Arnold Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky. Schoenberg was labelled as a degenerate by the Nazis and fled to America. Tchaikovsky spent much of his life travelling abroad, terrified of being exposed as a homosexual in his native Russia.
On 24 June hundreds of people from Brighton & Hove’s communities are expected to join a “Refugees Welcome” parade and come together for a free day of music, art and fun at the Dome and Museum called ‘Together.’ (This is not to be mistaken with the event in East Brighton and Hangleton and Knoll last month that celebrated random acts of neighbourliness.)
‘Together,’ is a free day of art, music and theatre workshops, activities, film-showings, board games, table tennis and spoken word, which will be held at the Brighton Dome and Museum between 11am and 4pm. The day will start with a glittering parade through central Brighton led by the Hummingbird Project, with the support of Same Sky. To join the parade, meet outside the Jubilee Library at 9.30am.
Brighton MP Caroline Lucas will join the parade and speak at the “Together” event. She said: “The message of Refugee Week is more important today than ever. This is the reverse of the hostile environment and shows the Britain we aspire to be. The events taking place in Brighton and Hove this week once again demonstrate that here we have a long tradition of welcoming people to our city and celebrating the contribution they make.”
Between Saturday 16 June and Sunday 24 June, Sanctuary on Sea, the Sussex Syrian Community, the Hummingbird Refugee Project, EuroMernet, Refugee Radio, the Social Engaged Arts Salon and others will be presenting exhibitions, discussions and performances across the city.
Siriol Hugh-Jones, the Festival’s curator, said: “In setting up the festival I wanted to remind audiences that many of the composers they love to listen to were themselves displaced at one time or another, but we don’t think of them as refugees, we think of them as great composers.”
Other concerts at St Mary’s Church include “Travels of Song” at 7.30pm on 17 June and “Calcutta” at 7.30pm on 21 June. The first of these will feature recent songs written by detainees at Yarl’s Wood, the infamous immigration detention centre and early music by Catholic composers exiled under Elizabeth I. “Calcutta”, the second concert, explores the cultural melting pot in 18th century Calcutta through story, song and puppetry.
Monika-Akila Richards, co-organiser of Refugee Week, said: “We are celebrating Refugee Week with a fantastic range of events and we’d love families and communities to join us. Everyone is particularly welcome to come to ‘Together,’ our free, flagship event in the Dome and Brighton Museum on 24th June. It’s an opportunity to come and enjoy being together and make Brighton and Hove proud.”