Welcome to Welcome!

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Suzi Simpson, Arts and Cultural Development Officer

Refugee Week Scotland 2014 has kicked off! Suzi Simpson invites you all to join the more than 130 events

Blog by Suzi Simpson, Arts and Cultural Development Officer at Scottish Refugee Council, Co-ordinator of Refugee Week Scotland

This year we’re celebrating ‘welcome’, with 130 events taking place across the country from the Highlands to the Isle of Arran – with Paisley, Kirkcaldy, Midlothian, Edinburgh, and of course, Glasgow in between!

The theme of welcome is particularly relevant - with the Commonwealth Games coming to Scotland this summer and with it visitors from all over the world, we are keen to share in offering them a warm Scottish welcome.

But our message of welcome runs deeper - at a time when attitudes towards immigrants in the UK are increasingly hostile, we want to send a strong message that refugees and those seeking asylum are welcome here, and to celebrate the important contributions they make to our communities. But also the things that we have in common and the experiences that bring us together.

The idea for our Welcome Tent on the streets of Glasgow this week came about as a response to the Home Office’s ‘Go Home’ campaign – we want to increase people’s understanding of why refugees come here to seek sanctuary instead of vilifying those most in need.

So what does a proper multi-cultural Scottish welcome look like and how can we show it?

Coming originally from Northern Ireland, my first experiences of Scotland’s warm welcome were at the age of 18, coming here as a student - taking classes with others from all over the world – trying our first (and last) ‘deep fried pizza’ from the Kings café together, our first taste of haggis, noticing the different spellings of Irish whiskey and Scottish whisky and the cultural importance of getting that spelling right!

Since coming to work for Scottish Refugee Council, I’ve had the joy of attending a number of Community Celebrations and my understanding of Scotland’s welcome and of its importance has deepened even further. At these unique events I’ve experienced a welcome like nothing else –a community’s desire to share their culture with me, find out about me and best of all feed me! With food from all over the world you can’t find in any Scottish restaurant.

That to me is what makes this festival so unique – the welcome is warm, everyone can share in it and it spans the country every June.

This festival is important because it shines a light on those individuals, community groups and networks who welcome new people in our communities and help others to see the people behind the labels.

Over the course of the festival you’re invited to experience an incredible array of cultures in Scotland come to life – we’re taking to the streets with our artist led Welcome Tent. We re-imagine the future of our buildings and communities in the A View from Here exhibition; and offer a good old knees up at our World Refugee Day Concert with performances from hip hop trio Young Fathers, Ceilidh Band Skipinnish and Balkan band Tantz and DJ Zarije as part of a special set from Balkanarama.

You can check out the rest of the programme here. 

Thank you to everyone involved in making the festival happen.

I’m proud to say #IWelcomeRefugees and to help people re-build their lives in Scotland, in a place of safety. I hope you will join me saying the same and in showing an unforgettable welcome this week and help make this the best refugee week yet.

Enjoy your Refugee Week Scotland!

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