Refugee Festival Scotland launches programme to celebrate refugees

As the UK General Election generates heated debate around migration, sometimes hostile and ill-informed, Scottish Refugee Council’s three-week Refugee Festival Scotland in June is set to Celebrate a diverse and welcoming Scotland that upholds the rights, protection and dignity of refugees and recognises their positive impact on Scottish cultural life.

The festival runs from Wednesday 3 to Sunday 21 June 2015 and takes place in locations from Aberdeen to Glasgow, Edinburgh to Skye. This year’s extensive and exciting line-up, which goes live today, includes some 90 music, theatre, dance and visual arts events as well as discussions, films, community celebrations, schools events, workshops and even a football tournament.

This year sees 30 years of Scottish Refugee Council - refugees seeking sanctuary in Scotland is not a recent phenomenon and those who have settled here over the years have made a huge contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of Scotland. Especially in the light of the recent tragic deaths in the Mediterranean, it’s essential that we remember this and uphold our responsibility to offer protection to those in great need – when we do, we can be rightly proud.

In celebration of the festival’s journey and to mark our anniversary, this year Refugee Week Scotland has become Refugee Festival Scotland.

To mark this occasion we have curated a special strand of birthday events. Highlights include Being Human – a programme of visual art by Iranian refugee artists at The Arches; the launch of Refugee Lives in Scotland, an oral histories project being launched in conjunction with Glasgow University; the Queer Gaylidh Dance Party hosted by the LGBT Unity Solidarity Group; and a celebration of the Glasgow Girls’ story, including a screening, discussion featuring the Glasgow Girls (celebrating their 10th anniversary) and live musical performances taken from the National Theatre for Scotland’s sell-out musical production Glasgow Girls.

Meanwhile, our Media Awards on 17 June will recognise the best, most insightful reporting on refugee and asylum issues.

World Refugee Day takes place on 20 June and we are marking this with a special day of events – from the magical Southside Souk multicultural market to a community screening of the Buena Vista Social club in Glasgow and a raft of community events featuring delicious food and drink.

Indeed, our overall Community Celebrations programme features almost 30 community-led events celebrating the diversity of Scotland and tying in with Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink. These offer a real chance to engage directly with refugees and community groups and include a pop-up café, a ceilidh, an interfaith fair and a picnic – all with an international flavour.

We’ll also be taking to the streets of central Glasgow with our artist-led Welcome Tent, which offer a variety of workshops, live performances and a welcome cup of tea for anyone who would like to pop in.

Suzi Maciver, Arts and Cultural Co-ordinator for Scottish Refugee Council, says: “We wanted this year’s theme to shine a different light on the story of refugees in Scotland and to show what positive qualities they bring to Scottish culture, as well as the genuinely warm and open-hearted relationships that have developed between local communities and people rebuilding their lives here.”

“We also want Celebrate to be more than just a good feeling – we want to celebrate the rights that refugees have and encourage them to be fairly recognised; the protection to which they are entitled when cruel situations take their daily lives away from them; and the dignity that they have even through the toughest and most unbearable situations that we as a host nation should respect and support.”

“While the many individual refugee stories are often tales of great sadness, loss and endurance, so many refugees here take this adversity and turn it into something positive, and this is a great cause for celebration.”

For more information, contact Media Officers Rachel Hamada or Pauline Diamond on 0141 223 7927 or media@scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk

Follow us on Twitter @ScotRefCouncil and use our festival hashtag #RefugeeFestScot or become a fan on Facebook: www.facebook.com/refugeefestivalscotland

Notes for editors:

  1. Refugee Festival Scotland is coordinated by Scottish Refugee Council and runs from 3 to 21 June at venues across Scotland. For more details and to download the programme in full: www.refugeefestivalscotland.co.uk
  1. The purpose of Refugee Festival Scotland is to deliver positive educational messages that counter fear, ignorance and negative stereotypes of refugees, through arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and promote understanding about the reasons why people seek sanctuary.
  2. Scottish Refugee Council is a Scottish charity that has supported men, women and children who have fled persecution to rebuild their lives in Scotland since 1985.
  3. The UN World Refugee Day is held each year on June 20. This event honours the courage and strength of the women, men and children forced to flee their homelands under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
  4. Refugee Week was first held in 1998, and was created in response to the increasingly negative perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers held by the general public in Britain. It remains the only UK-wide event that promotes the importance of sanctuary and the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities.
  5. For more about our work see www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk