World Refugee Day: presentation of Colours of a Journey in Cambridge

As part of the world wide refugee week, Colours of a Journey was presented at a symposium in Cambridge UK, on the topic Refugee Crisis: Challenges and Opportunities in Creative Practice Research. Organised by Anglia Ruskin University’s StoryLab, Migrant Studies Group, and the Cambridge City of Sanctuary, the symposium aimed to create a networking opportunity for researchers, artists and critics who creatively respond to, and critically engage with, creative practice methods in response to the refugee crisis. A selection of the Colours of a Journey drawings were also digitally exhibited throughout the day in the foyer.

The one day event began with a talk from Playwright by Steve Waters, as well as a few scenes from his play The Play About Calais, which is about his own experience in Calais and the limitations of writing a play about the ‘refugee crisis’. The next talk was from Photographer Bill Knight about his exhibition The Refugee’s Gift which focusses on refugees that have established themselves in the UK and shows what happens when you welcome newcomers and let them get on with their lives. The next talk from Jenny Mander, Reflecting on Migrant Storytelling in the eighteenth century, demonstrated how novels and narratives of the past are a rich and ‘internalised’ resource for reflecting upon the importance of creative practice to the hospitable reception of migrants.

In the afternoon, Colours of a Journey was presented by Tuscany Bell. There was also a talk from Adriana Sandu, Marian Pallares and Gill Ragsdale about the project Finding Home: Raising awareness of the experiences of refugees through theatre in primary schools. This project, funded by the Cambrige City of Sanctuary, raises awareness in primary schools through theatre productions and workshops about what it is to be a refugee child, and to arrive in a new environment and ‘find home’. There was also a screening of the film OSKIJAN which is shown in a number of schools. The film depicts the true story of a 7-year old Afghan refugee, Ahmad, trapped in the back of a lorry being smuggled into the UK. The directors aimed to create something that viewers of all backgrounds would be able to relate to. Next, Nerma Cridge made a short presentation, Critical Distance about her own experience as a young refugee from the war in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, ex-Yugoslavia, and then architecture student. Nerma discussed how she dealt with the trauma of losing her country and home, as well as her degree project entitled Sniper House, based on a street in Sarajevo – sniper alley – from which snipers targeted innocent citizens. Nerma thus demonstrated how we can turn painful and tragic events into a creative and productive force. Finally, Naz Yeni presented two projects. The first was a photo exhibition titled Misplaced Child. An anonymous North London artist used the image of Aylan Kurdi, edited in to the background of otherwise peaceful scenarios, to raise awareness about children who have been ‘born in the wrong place, at the wrong time’. The second project presented by Naz was the allegorical play Jungle written by an English teacher. The play was first performed by secondary school students on an island, and was based on the children in the refugee camp in Calais. It was then revived with a different and director for an integrated event at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. This version included devised sections by the students and the images from the Misplaced Child exhibition. Finally, it was revived once more with another cast and performed at a youth drama festival.

Overall, the talks and the discussions were incredibly interesting and raised lots of valuable points about how to use creative practice methods in response to the refugee crisis.