29 June 2020
We had a successful Refugee Week this year, celebrating the contributions and achievements of people who have sought refuge and communities who have welcomed them with open arms. STAR groups across the UK marked the week by organising events, amplifying voices of people with lived experience, and imagining a better future while we also launched the Hearts of STAR project to celebrate STAR’s 25th birthday by looking back at STAR’s history and the exceptional people who have been part of the welcome movement.
Read on to find out some of the amazing STAR Refugee Week events that took place.
STAR’s Refugee Week events
STAR and Counterpoints Arts Comedy night
In collaboration with Counterpoints Arts, STAR hosted a virtual comedy night with comedians of refugee backgrounds from No Direction Home and Mo Omar. It was a hilarious night and really fitted one of Refugee Week’s Simple Acts to share a joke and we shared it with 140 people and raised over £500 for STAR. Big thank you to everyone who came and to the comedians and our friends at Counterpoints Arts.
The Giant Dolls’ House
STAR groups had the pleasure of hearing from Refugee Week coordinator Emily Churchill-Zaraa and architect Catja de Haas to learn more about Refugee Week and the inspiring story behind The Giant Dolls’ House Project. The Giant Dolls’ house project is an international collaborative arts project that engages local communities and raises awareness for homelessness and refugees. STAR’s were given the opportunity to make their own dolls’ houses and take part in the Alone Together Virtual Dolls’ House Project.
STAR Groups’ Events
Essex STAR teamed up with Phosphoros Theatre to host a free online theatre workshop for women in their English conversation class to explore the painful topics of forced migration and the human rights issues that come with it in a safe and creative way.
Beth, Essex STAR’s president had to this to say about the event: It was amazing to see the women be able to express themselves in a safe space with both movement and words. Some of the women wrote short poems (20 words) which will join together with other voices from Phosphoros’ workshops nationally. They plan to perform a poem that collects these all together, so watch this space for updates! It was a really collaborative, powerful workshop with great energy and shared creativity! Thank you to Kate and Becca for the fantastic session!
You can listen to the collectively written poem here.
Warwick STAR held a stimulating panel event with speakers from Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, UNHCR, and refugee rights campaigner Gulwali Passarlay, to discuss the problems that refugees and asylum seekers face, the worsened situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, and what people can do on a local, regional and international scale to help create a better world.
Eve McKeown, Warwick STAR president said: The highlight was our discussion of the most important actions we could take now to help improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers – there was a lot of passionate support for the Lift the Ban campaign and loads of interest in community organisation, I feel it left people feeling impassioned to continue campaigning and activism work! It was also really moving to hear the personal accounts from Gulwali & Victor, from Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, about their asylum journeys in the UK and I feel really grateful that we were able to hear their stories.
Glasgow Arts School – GSA STAR
Glasgow School of Art’s STAR group organised a day-long radio event broadcasting from sunrise to sunset on the UK’s summer solstice, raising funds for the Unity Centre in Glasgow – a charity providing practical support and solidarity to asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland. The day went incredibly well, raising £1332.10. They had an amazing range of speakers, musicians, and DJs broadcasting shows, and the group was particularly excited about being able to reach out to audiences outside of the GSA network.
Ella Wright commented that a particular highlight for her was “hearing poet, activist, politician and musician Graham Campbell’s discussion with Eve McShannon, our STAR president. He spoke about the relationship between grassroots activism and political change, the vital importance of students involving themselves in local communities and projects outside of university networks, and his own work challenging the colonial legacy of Glasgow. Dan Glass, writer, performer, activist, and mentor, also spoke to the GSA’s Student President Ale Marini about his journey as an activist and his commitment to ‘cultivating curiosity’ as a key component to creating sustained change. Oppressed communities are denied ‘their own legacy, their own identity, their own sense of understanding in history’, the curiosity, the questioning process can uncover this.
Other highlights included an interview with Cathy McCormack, live music from Glasgow African Balafon Orchestra, Otis Jordan and jazz-band Amara, a conversation with Welsh harp player Catrin Finch about her borderless musical collaboration with Senegalese Kora player Sekou Keita and a discussion with filmmakers Rose Iredale and Lulu Freeman about their time volunteering and filming in the Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos island, Greece.
GSA STAR also launched an online shop selling small artworks to raise money for the Scottish Refugee Council.
KCL STAR held a virtual quiz night to raise funds for their volunteering partner, Love2Learn. They started off the session by learning together a TikTok dance which the children at their Homework Club love and enjoy. They then got serious with general knowledge questions and questions related to the refugee topic.
This is what KCL STAR said: Our wonderful partners, Solidaritee, who provide grants for legal aid to charities working with asylum seekers, supplied a print designed by a refugee as a prize to our winner. We all turned our screens off having learnt a lot and had a lot of fun. We launched our fundraiser to get tablets for the Love2Learn homework club that evening and £500 had been raised by the end of the quiz. Thanks so much to our participants and donors.
KCL also produced and shared social media content to educate and inform people about issues related to forced migration, check out their Instagram.
Restorative Yoga With Maddy
Maddy held an online restorative yoga session to fundraise for STAR. The session was open to all and donation-based so that everyone can take part especially people engaged in human rights and activism work.
STAR in the media
There has been an extensive coverage of STAR in the media this Refugee Week highlighting the positive impact of STAR and STAR groups on both local and national levels. UNHCR helped us celebrate our 25th birthday and highlighted STAR’s impact with the Equal Access campaign and our mutual goal and collaboration to make Higher Education more accessible to people seeking asylum and refugees.
Last year, ahead of the Global Refugee Forum, STAR gathered pledges from 40 universities and organisations for 15by30 around the UK, committing themselves to better access to education for refugees. You can watch the video about STAR made by UNHCR here
Northampton STAR has been in the spotlight for the amazing work they have continued to do with refugees and how they adapted to their work to the lockdown. You can read more about in the Northampton Chronicle, Nlive Radio and a piece by Northampton university. You can also listen to Natasha Murphy, the president of Northampton STAR’s interview on BBC Radio Northampton and also Izzy Rainbow’s interview by BBC Radio Northampton.
The work of KCL STAR was also covered by KCL university’s online media during Refugee Week, read about their interview with Siobhan McShane, KCL STAR’s Outreach and Homework Club officer. Also read about KCL STAR’s president Samuel Remi-Akinwale story and some of the amazing work he is involved in.
Things you can do
- Refugee Week might be over but our work continues and we need your support more than ever so please donate and share so we can carry on the work we do.
- If you are a student, you can join the STAR group at your university or start a STAR group if there isn’t one at your university.
- There are still Refugee Week events taking place so make sure to check them out.
Help Refugee Week learn & grow: