My Refugee Week Scotland 2014

Jack Tannock
Pictured: Jack Tannock

Did you meet our volunteer Jack Tannock at the Welcome Tent or at the World Refugee Day Concert? He takes a look back at his Refugee Week Scotland

Blog by Jack Tannock, Media Volunteer

As a media volunteer for Scottish Refugee Council I spent most of my week manning the Welcome Tent and had a great time doing it. The highlight of my week though, was the World Refugee Day Concert run in conjunction with British Red Cross.

Both the concert and the welcome tent were huge successes.

Let me take you on a trip through my eventful and fun-filled Refugee Week Scotland:

At the Welcome Tent

From Saturday 14 June through to Friday 20 June we took our Welcome Tent literally all over Glasgow city centre. We started out at the top of Buchannan Street next to the concert hall then moved down to Argyle Street before finishing up at St. Enoch Square. Right across the five days we spent in town (we weren’t out on Sunday or Monday)

I encountered so many interesting and diverse people willing to engage with us and our various activities. I took part in things that I never thought I would have. For starters I got involved in jewellery making. I literally manufactured a pair of earrings from scratch (emerald green and opal with golden trim) which is genuinely a new experience for me. I gave them to my Mum as a gift and she was grateful for them (just her colour, apparently).

Another activity that I never thought I would get round to was knitting – but this too has now been checked off of my bucket list (I didn’t even know it was on my bucket list). ‘Wool against weapons’ was the name of the group who joined us in St Enoch Square on the Thursday. Their goal is to fight against the inhumanity of nuclear weapons in the most unlikely way possible – yes, through knitting (they are quite literally, woolly liberals). I won’t lie; this was something I really had to be cajoled into doing but once Martha and the others had talked me into doing it I never really looked back. I’m not saying that I’ll be knitting on a regular basis but I’ll definitely be buying some wool and trying some basic patterns (mayhap a scarf for Mum to go with the earrings).

One of the most bizarre activities I took part in was to make a self-portrait out of wool and felt! I had to stab bits of different coloured wool onto a quilt until they looked like my face – glasses, beard, eyebrows and all. So many other people were stopping to take part as well so my face will be immortalised in felt alongside some of Argyle Street’s finest random shoppers. I look forward to seeing the results.

Another somewhat unusual happening occurred on the Saturday when I effectively played some play doh like a piano(!) We had an app set up liking a music programme on our laptop to some play doh figurines which when pressed, created beautiful, ethereal musical sounds. It was a weird but memorable experience.

With all this going on it’s no surprise that so many people got involved and reacted to us so positively (plus the fact that the sun was beaming down on us the entire week helped).

Mainly though, it was also a chance for myself and my colleagues to get a positive message out there about refugees and asylum seekers and their wonderful contribution to our society. It would be lying to say that we didn’t encounter a few people with the usual prejudices but those who were willing to listen will have found their prejudices challenged and many genuinely walked away with changed opinions or at least with something to think about. But most people I spoke to were interested, engaging and supportive of our cause.

My main task, however, was to get people on the street taking selfies with our sign saying, #IWelcomeRefugees and the uptake was incredible. So many people were willing to get involved, take part in our activities, engage with and listen to our message and I hope I took some great ‘selfies’ for the people of Glasgow to share on their social media.

It was a great experience in the sun, having fun, in Glasgow with some great people and some new friends. Would do it all again in a heartbeat!

My World Refugee Day Concert

Of course though, on Friday night I attended the main event. The World Refugee Day Concert was held at what is, in my own humble opinion, one of the best gig venues in Glasgow, The Old Fruitmarket at Candleriggs. It was a brilliant night that raised a lot of money for an amazing cause – both for ourselves and for The British Red Cross. I was officially there in a volunteer capacity but was able to see pretty much the entire gig itself, which was fantastic.

The Balkanarama performance was everything I hoped it would be with amazing tunes, old and new, and an unrivalled ability to get the audience, including myself involved. They had belly dancers up on stage to great effect and we all got into a massive circle dance. It was more like a party with great music than a traditional gig and I will certainly be seeking out other such performances in the future.

Next up Skipinnish gave us the Ceilidh to top all ceilidhs. They too had the entire audience dancing along to their wonderfully rousing live set. This time though the dances were of the Gay Gordon’s, Strip The Willow and Dashing White Sargent variety (I was trying to remember the steps from learning them in school – I was also trying to overcome the issue of having two left feet). Skipinnish also gave us some beautiful and at times moving Scottish folk music in English and Gaelic but just as passionate in either. I found it to be a moving and rousing performance.

Then the headliners came on. Young Fathers were in triumphant mood just 24 hours after winning the highly prestigious Scottish Album of the Year Award. They came on to what was already an amazing atmosphere and could only raise the bar higher. Their brand of psychedelic Hip-Hop was rapturously received and their performance was absolutely mesmeric – I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, even when jumping up and down and ‘dancing’ along to their performance. In fact I have to admit that I absolutely loved these guys. It was genuinely one of the best gigs I have ever been to. Without exaggerating too much it was almost like being at a religious sermon and being completely and utterly enthralled by the three coolest preachers in town. They came to blow our minds with music and by the end of the night their mission had been accomplished. My mind was most assuredly blown.

All in all it was a spectacular night that I won’t forget in a hurry. So that was my refugee week 2014. And as far as I’m concerned, 2015 can’t come soon enough. I’ll be seeing you all again next year I’m sure!


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