Fifteen people stand outside smiling, they are a combination of Birkbeck students and staff from the STAR team or Birkbeck university

8 July 2021

This year’s Refugee Week was a busy one for STAR, with STAR groups holding events up and down the country, from yoga classes and a treasure trail to a parliamentary workshop and an exhibition. The variety of events organised illustrates the creativity, dedication, and resourcefulness of our student network.

Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary, encouraging us all to understand what challenges they go through and to connect beyond labels. 

This year, Refugee Week invites you to participate in its ‘simple acts’ – simple things you can do to create conversations around refugees and asylum. The final simple act is ‘join the movement’, and luckily, there are still plenty of events on offer, so there’s still time to get your friends and family involved! Here’s a taste of what the STAR network got up to this year. 

Socialising in the sun with Birkbeck STAR

Birkbeck STAR held a social event and webinar on influencing parliament, hosted by Parliamentary Outreach Officer, Nichola Luke.

‘Our social event at Birkbeck University of London was amazing with more than 20 attendees. We spoke about the Equal Access network activities in line with the refugee week slogan We Cannot Walk Alone.’ – Waleed, Birkbeck STAR Vice-President and Equal Access Activist

Image shows people socially distanced and talking under a marquee.

‘Jay and Waleed gave new members an excellent introduction to the work of STAR and their plans for the new group. The quiz was really fun and a great way for everyone to learn a bit more about STAR and Birkbeck – a group we’re really pleased is led by people with lived experience of seeking asylum!’ – Siobhán, STAR Equal Access Coordinator

Art, music, and more with Goldsmiths STAR

Goldsmiths STAR held a thoughtful exhibition featuring artists with lived experience of forced migration (through Create without Borders). The exhibition included a documentary projection, and photography and art by members of the Goldsmiths community and public around the theme of #WeCannotWalkAlone. 

Four people with face masks around a stall selling STAR t-shirts and tote bags.

Create without Borders exhibited a huge variety of art, from moving watercolours to joyful acrylics, by its talented artists. Many of the featured artists attended to share stories, art, and live music.

‘It was inspiring to notice how the event drew in Goldsmiths students, local members of the public, and people from other refugee charities all keen to learn more. It was a true example of how important cultural events are in mobilising us all to unite around a common cause – in other words, #WeCannotWalkAlone. Congratulations to Goldsmiths STAR on raising £238! I also found it really moving to see such a wealth and breadth of art by refugees, who are so often photographed, filmed, or discussed, but rarely given a public platform to show the world from their eyes.’ Miriam, STAR Communications Assistant

Saying it loud with Sussex STAR

Down in Brighton, Sussex STAR organised several events – putting the Refugee Week simple acts into practice. They kicked off the week sharing a delicious Iranian meal cooked over the fire at the community garden and food-growing project where they’ve been volunteering this year.

‘Common Ground Brighton has been a sanctuary for so many over the course of this year, offering us all a deep reminder of our connection to the earth and each other. Thank you for creating such a creative, inspiring, safe, vibrant and compassionate space for the community. We can’t wait to continue working with you this coming year! – STAR Sussex

They also organised a treasure trail around Brighton for the Refugee Week simple act of ‘walk together’. They chose refugee-owned businesses for each location to celebrate and support the contributions and achievements of refugees in the Brighton community. They also stopped at the Amnesty International bookshop and the beach to get people walking around the city together as much as possible. QR code clues were put up around Brighton, and included books and songs inspired by the Refugee Week simple acts.

A woman sticks up posters with text  from real conversations shared between volunteers and people seeking asylum in Calais.

They interpreted the simple act ‘say it loud’ with an impactful stunt covering Brighton’s largest public library with printouts from real conversations shared between volunteers and people seeking asylum in Calais. 

At the STAR national office

We wrapped up the STAR year with an award ceremony for our fantastic student network. We took part in the Refugee Week simple act of ‘have a chat’ and reflected on what makes somewhere feel like home. Attendees from our student network were the first to get a sneak preview of our long-overdue rebrand, revealed to the public the next day.

We were disappointed to see the Home Office hijack the week to defend its discriminatory New Plan for Immigration, but we were proud to stand with our Refugee Week partners in this statement

Join the movement – what’s next?

Refugee Week lasts for seven days, but the movement for a kinder, fairer and more connected world continues all year round.

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