20-26 June marked Refugee Week, where people across the UK (and further afield) are invited to “celebrate community, mutual care and the human ability to start again”. This year, the theme was ‘Healing’ and through creativity and conversation, we were all encouraged to “imagine a world where healing replaces harm, and care becomes our shared currency”.
Refugee Week has always held a special place in my heart, because of what it seeks to raise awareness of and strives to achieve. Here are some of my reflections on what the week means to me, why I feel it’s so important, and some of the events I performed at this year.
I have mixed views on days to mark specific calls for action (there are so many, each important in their own way but surely everyday should raise awareness of the right to safety, free will, freedom of speech, democracy, the list goes on…). However, similar to International Women’s Day, Refugee Week is one I always get behind – it is a great way to raise awareness, celebrate the amazing achievements and talents of fellow human beings, and highlight the vast gaps that still exist and that a mere birthplace dictates so much.
Refugee Week this year is of course particularly poignant, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has meant that so many people are alert and aware and wanting to help in anyway they can. Let’s also not forget that every single week of every single year should be driven with the same passion, commitment and will to strive for better – every day is an opportunity to use hope and love as our anchors, as we strive for peace and justice, for all.
I’m lucky enough to live and work in Cardiff, which has been a City of Sanctuary since 2014 and if you’re familiar with my music, you’ll know that I write about what matters to me and about the world around me. I feel privileged that I can use my music as a social commentary, and use my voice to have my say. This is something too often we take for granted, so many people don’t have this option and are denied this basic right.
I have worked with displaced people, refugees and asylum seekers in various capacities over the years but one thing has remained consistent – My deep desire that humanity should be exactly that, humane. One of my songs RAS, which features on my latest EP, tells the story of a friend of mine and his journey to the UK.
I was delighted to perform at a Ukraine Fundraiser event at Penarth Lawn Tennis Club on Saturday 25th June. It was a really lovely evening with lots of people in attendance. A group sang the Ukrainian National Anthem and Ukrainian flags were decorated delicately across the site.
The evening raised £6300 for O Noua Viata (A New Life), a Charity providing urgent assistance to refugees arriving from the Ukraine at the Siret Frontier Crossing.
This was one of many amazing events that Oasis One World Choir took part in and performed at over Refugee Week. Once seen, the choir will never be forgotten (although I am biased!). Such a special, talented group of people and as a collective, so very very powerful. I count my blessings every day to be living and working among such beautiful people.
The Festival was an all-day event, hosted by the wonderful Mujib Oloye and celebrated the contribution of refugees and the 2022 theme of ‘Healing’. There was storytelling from Cath Little and Sanctruary Stories, and a dance workshop with June Campbell-Davies.
In the words of one Oasis One World Choir’s most enjoyed songs “I’m not free, till’ we’re all free. Rising in solidarity”.
And so, another successful Refugee Week, raising awareness and celebrating the vibrant beauty in our society and the positive impact that refugees can bring to all of our lives, despite the often horrific life experiences that they have had to endure.
In the words of my song ‘Warriors’, “the value of a birthplace matters still, rights of a destination, with no free will…we’re warriors and we’ll march to a better day”.