Highlights from 2015's Refugee Festival Scotland programme
- Rowena McIntosh
- 1 May 2015
Refugee Week Scotland extends to a full festival with films, theatre, debate and celebrations.
From newspaper headlines to the general election, migration and its effect on the UK is a topic often referred to in hostile and ill-informed ways. Refugee Festival Scotland, taking place in June, celebrates a diverse Scotland that upholds the rights, protection and dignity of refugees and recognises their positive impact on Scottish cultural life.
Running over 19 days at venues across the country, the programme includes discussions, theatre, comedy, music, film, visual art, workshops and plenty of community celebrations. The Welcome Tent is once again in residency in Glasgow city centre, this year outside Buchanan Galleries, hosting artist happenings, information on events and cuppas for all visitors.
Those wanting to learn more about the reality of refugees can attend Destitution and Dignity, a talk exploring what ‘asylum’ really means and answering questions on the UK’s complex asylum system. Debates include ‘Challenging Immigration Detention’, a critical examination of the future of immigration detention, which is a system labelled ‘expensive, ineffective and unjust’ by a Parliamentary inquiry.
Film screenings at the festival include documentaries about Fulan Gong practitioners in China (Free China: The Courage to Believe) and the heritage of refugees and local people living in Glasgow’s soon to be demolished high rises (A View From Here). Africa in Motion Festival presents a screening of Wilaya, a drama exploring the culture of the Sahrawi people, a stateless ethnic group, many of whom live in refugee camps in northwest Africa. For younger festival goers the GFT is showing Paddington, the story of a young Peruvian bear arriving in London for the first time.
2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Glasgow Girls, a group of teenagers in Drumchapel who started a campaign following the detention of their friend. To honour the anniversary, Glasgow Girls Ten Years On looks back at what the campaign achieved and looks forward to what they’re planning for the future. It’s followed by a live performance of songs from the National Theatre of Scotland’s 2012 sell-out musical Glasgow Girls. If you fancy joining in the singing at the event, attend We Are The Glasgow Girls to learn songs from cast members.
Elsewhere on the theatre programme, Freedom Theatre presents The Siege, uniting British and Palestinian artists to tell the story of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem; Ignite Theatre perform The Message, based on the story of a girl who finds a message sewn into clothing from a child worker in the developing world and presented by a cast of 8–13 year olds; and Marie Yan & Discover 21 showcase a new play exploring the absurdity of the refugee system, called A Quick Decision Can Be Made.
Featured exhibitions include Portraits of Home, a collection of photographs of families based in Scotland who also have cultural roots in other Commonwealth countries. Sarah Leonard, artist in residence at GRAMNet, showcases a series of portraits with refugees and asylum seekers living at Red Road and Petershill Drive in her exhibition Sarah Leonard: Portraits 2010–2015. At the Arches, Being Human is a programme of visual art by Iranian refugee artists living in Scotland that explores how the refugee experience has influenced their work.
One branch of events at the festival looks specifically at the female experience. Songs of Freedom sees Glasgow Integrated Voices, the women's choir of Garnethill Multicultural Centre, present a joyful celebration of female empowerment while at Home and Away: Rights, Glasgow Women’s Library celebrates the right to cycle. A pedal about the park is interspersed with stories of inspirational women who have improved women’s rights across the world.
Refugee Festival Scotland features an array of celebratory events. Run by local groups, these family friendly parties celebrate diversity and multiculturalism with food, entertainment and live music: the Southside Souk hosted in the Old Barn, Bridging the Gap in the Gorbals Rose Garden, and Who Cares? Scotland in Garnethill Multicultural centre to name but a few.
Refugee Festival Scotland, various venues, Scotland, Wed 3–Sat 21 June.