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This year’s Refugee Week celebrates concepts of home with food, film, and music events across Tower Hamlets.

In the wake of anti-immigration law demonstrations taking place across London, Refugee Weeks celebrates the strength of refugees

Refugee Week is a worldwide celebration of refugees’ resilience, and several activities are taking place across Tower Hamlets this June in honour of refugees in our borough.  Refugee week is from the from the 17th to the 23rd of June.

Refugee Week is the world’s largest arts and culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary worldwide. Tower Hamlets has a line-up of its own, combining music events, film screenings and community food created by refugees. 

The Refugee Week festival is a partnership project that is organised by the charity Counterpoints Arts. Counterpoints Arts in Hoxton is a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change. 

Every year has a theme, and this year’s theme is called ‘Our Home’.

The week-long event connects people not only with in-person community activities but also raises awareness of refugees’ struggles and empowerment through social media campaigns. 

Last year there were over 9,500 refugee week events in the UK alone and over one million people took part.

Established in 1998 in the UK, Refugee Week festival aligns with World Refugee Day, also celebrated globally on June 20th.

It is an international festival that will take place in over 10 countries including Australia, Germany, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Malta, Lithuania and Slovenia. 

Tower Hamlets has one of the most multicultural populations in the UK, making the celebration of refugee involvement in this area particularly pertinent. 

Here are some events taking place across Tower Hamlets that you can get involved in during (and in the lead up to) this year’s refugee week: 

Azmari Bet at Rich Mix:

8 JUNE 2024 at 7pm

East London’s Ethiopian community is creating an Azmari Bet x Refugee week special at Rich Mix at 35-47 Bethnal Green Road. An Azmari Bet is a traditional club found in the back streets of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. An Azmari Bet is typically held in a small, intimate setting, such as a local tavern or a specialised music house, where patrons gather to enjoy the performances. Audience members participate by making requests, offering tips, or engaging in playful banter. The performances can cover a wide range of topics, from personal anecdotes and love stories to social issues and political satire. The event aims to re-create an Azmari bet experience. 

Visit Richmix for more info.

Demo day at Museum of the Home;

18th JUNE 2024 5.15-8.30pm 

This celebrates the launch of over 15 refugee-led social enterprises and non-profits. Join fellow purpose-driven professionals for an evening of pitches and networking with VCSE (voluntary, community or social enterprise organisation) leaders. Over 15 refugee founders will be launching their non-profits and social enterprises. 

Topics include Ethical Products and Business Services, Art and Community and Education, Training and Advocacy. When you sign up for the event, you can choose the topics that interest you the most.

Visit Ideas Into Action Demo Day for more info.

IN THE MIX Dinner at 1-3 Yorkton Street:

19th JUNE at 6.30pm 

IN THE MIX is a community kitchen run by refugees and asylum-seeking volunteers. The event will be a pay-what-you-can dinner. It will serve Eritrean, Sudanese and Yemeni food. Proceeds will go to the Charity Refugees Biryani and Banas who currently distribute food in Rafah and Gaza, as well as Greece. The event is about more than just the food itself, and is designed to bring people around the table to live a shared experience. 

Visit IN THE MIX for more info

‘We Dare to Dream’ Film screening at Museum of the Home:

21st JUNE 6-9.30pm

‘We Dare to Dream’ is a documentary film about five refugee athletes overcoming immense challenges. They are from Iran, Syria, South Sudan and Cameroon and swim, run and fight their way to opportunity and safety in host nations across the world. 

This will be followed by a Q&A with the producer Waad Alkateab and Ahmad Al- Rashid, from the International Organization for Migration on the theme of ‘our home’. They’ll share their journey and personal stories of home.

Visit We Dare to Dream for more info 

Guided art walk on The Line at The House Mill:

22nd JUNE at 2pm 

The Line, East London’s public art trail, is hosting a guided walk for refugees, migrants, displaced people, asylum seekers and anyone who wants to show their support and care. 

The walk will start at 2pm at The House Mill. Here you will hear more about The Line and do some simple warm-up activities. Guided by facilitators, the walk will pause along the route to introduce you to each artwork. It will end at 3.30pm at Cody Dock, an urban ecology site near Canning Town. 

The walk is also part of The Great Get Together, a joint initiative of Refugee Week and The Jo Cox Foundation.

Visit The Line for more info

Queer Migrant Pride festival at St Margaret’s House:

23rd JUNE 12-9pm 

This will be a free daytime festival of well-being workshops, talks, screenings and performances ‘to foster a world without borders.’

The month of June is also Pride month. This makes the combination of refugee week along with pride a double whammy of celebration for queer migrants. 

Tickets to this event are free but booking is essential. 

If you liked this, read: Dancers flow through Whitechapel’s streets in Andrew Pierre Hart’s multidisciplinary exhibition at Whitechapel Galler

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