Refugee Festival Scotland: 2000 to Now

Young Fathers
Young Fathers welcomes refugees. (c) Iman Tajik

Scottish Refugee Council’s commitment to the arts as a method of enabling refugee integration is long and illustrious.  From our earliest days we’ve supported refugee and local artists to develop their voice and creative practice and raise awareness of refugee issues through the arts.

The beginnings of Refugee Festival Scotland

Refugee Festival Scotland began in 2000 as a one-day food and music event in George Square to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June. Food from West Africa, Turkey, India and Eastern Europe prepared by refugees was presented in a marquee accompanied by multicultural music and dance.

Chef Nick Nairn said of the event: "Sharing culinary influences is a fantastic way to introduce new flavours and dishes into our diets.

Many of our new communities, Afghan, Congolese and Tamil, may seem new to us at the moment, but in coming years their influences are bound to be gracing our dinner plates." (The Herald, 2001)

He was right! Many of the culinary delights we now take for granted are a testament to our long heritage of welcoming refugees into our communities.

The celebrations grew

Since then the festival has grown and developed. We joined partners across the UK and began producing the first week-long ‘Refugee Week Scotland’ programme - with performances, exhibitions, carnivals and ceilidhs across the country celebrating the contribution of refugees to Scotland’s cultural life.Front covers RFS programmes

There have been many highlights, and no shortage of celebrities! Comedians such as Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges have taken to the stage in support of refugees:

“I’m doing the show at the Stand because I like what Scottish Refugee Council stands for.” (Kevin Bridges, Daily Record)

Most recently our ‘World Refugee Day Concert’ hit stellar heights with Mercury Music Prize and Scottish Album of the Year Award winners Young Fathers taking the headline slot in 2014.

“We’re proud to support Refugee Week Scotland. This country has a long history of welcoming people fleeing war and persecution. That is something to be proud of and Young Fathers wish that tradition to continue.” (Young Fathers)

Now: A unique festival experience in Scotland

Today the festival comprises over 100 events and has become one of the most exciting and lively events in Scotland’s cultural calendar, packed with music, art, film, live performance, community-led events and more.

This year, in commemoration of the festival’s journey and to mark Scottish Refugee Council’s 30th anniversary, we are thrilled to give it a new name – ‘Refugee Festival Scotland’.

We’ve extended the dates from Wednesday 3 – Sunday 21 June and curated strands of the programme to bring you a more exhilarating festival experience than ever before.

Celebrate Refugee Festival Scotland 2015

While I can’t give away the programme details just yet, what I can say is that if you’ve ever looked at the ‘Refugee Week Scotland’ programme and thought “that’s not for me”, then look again – from multicultural markets and top-notch Scottish talent – bands, comedians, actors to food-fayres, Ceilidhs and ‘Gaylidhs’, there’s something for everyone in our programme.

This year Scottish Refugee Council turns thirty. One thing we know hasn’t changed in the last thirty years is how difficult it can be to start a new life in a new place after experiencing war or persecution. But refugees manage to adapt and have much to offer their new communities.

As attitudes towards migrants in the UK grow ever more volatile and discerning there is something you can do - join us for ‘Refugee Festival Scotland’ this June and celebrate a diverse and welcoming Scotland.

Together let’s celebrate Scotland as a vibrant and thriving place that we can all be proud to call home, that we have all contributed to - wherever we have come from and whatever our journey to get here. 

‘Refugee Festival Scotland’ will run from Wednesday 3 – Sunday 21 June. Full programme details will be available on our website from Wednesday 29 April.

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