Bristol Refugee Festival is underway!

Today’s blog is by Ursula Billington, Comms Coordinator at Bristol Refugee Festival

From Southmead to St. Pauls, Hotwells to Knowle, communities are coming together to meet new people and celebrate different cultures. With events running throughout June, Bristol Refugee Festival has something for everyone – whether a family theatre show, cookery class, boat tour, dance workshop, football tournament, or neighbourhood get-together, the programme offers a huge range of exciting flavours to suit all palates.

As a City of Sanctuary, Bristol has been actively welcoming refugees and asylum seekers for over a decade. Many of these people make Bristol their home, helping to create our vibrant and diverse city. Bristol Refugee Festival celebrates and values the contribution of refugees, giving them opportunities to share their culture with local people. It’s an exciting, dynamic celebration, where communities are encouraged to embrace their differences whilst sharing similarities through activities we all enjoy.

That’s why we are excited to be expanding our Celebrating Sanctuary Local programme this year. These community-led events are taking place in neighbourhoods around the city, bringing local people together to forge new connections and strengthen their communities.

Our theme of Healing Through Community reflects this emphasis. We all know that healing – becoming sound and healthy again – is much easier with others’ help. Having the support of family, friends and neighbours is so important when we’re going through difficult times. Refugees and asylum seekers arriving in the UK have lost these networks and need help to build new ones to feel safe and valued. Local communities can play a significant role in providing that care – simply sharing food and a little bit of conversation can help someone feel welcome and less isolated. We can all be a part of that support network, and we can learn, have fun and make new friends along the way.

Here are a few words from our Ambassadors, our amazing refugee and asylum seeker volunteers who live and breathe our values of welcome and inclusion:

 “The Bristol Refugee Festival brings the sense of diversity and togetherness under one roof. There will be a lot of interaction between asylum seekers sharing different backgrounds and a chance to make new friends. Hopefully this will help them to rejuvenate mind, soul and body affected by the difficult asylum process.” Pooja

“I’m made to feel so welcome and I’m proud to be part of such a mature and talented group of people from around the world. We have made big family here in Bristol; me and my son look forward to festival events.” Fatima

“The refugee festival shows a lot of support for refugees, making them feel like they belong and are welcomed. Learning about the cultures and customs of other countries makes us closer to each other and increases mutual respect. The celebration brings people together in joy and pleasure.” Sherien

Adults and children stand together, smiling, in a green garden, with bunting overhead. There are men and women standing, some wearing hijabs. Some people hold flowers. Some of the children hold a placard with hand drawn art of hands on it. It says "Celebrating Sanctuary. Friends of St. Anne's church."

The Festival runs from 6th -26th June. Please do check out our programme, come along to an event and help us make Bristol a true city of welcome. Find details of all events on our website, on Facebook, and Twitter.