Hello! In this blog, we’ll take a retrospective look at Refugee Week 2017, and our activities to celebrate it. Refugee week is the UK’s largest festival celebrating the contribution of refugees to our culture, and promoting understanding of why people seek safety.

One of our events this year was (or is; it’s still open for a few more days) a photography exhibition, at the Museum of English Rural Life. The project serves to capture what Reading means to a group of young refugees who live here. The exhibition portrays their thoughts, feelings and experiences of Reading as their new home. Intrigued by the multicultural aspects of Reading, the exhibition encompasses their transition into the community and how they combine their own cultural traditions with British ones. This exhibition is still open to the public until the end of July, so if you’ve not been along yet, there’s still time! The Museum is located at 6 Redlands Road, Reading, RG1 5EX. Part of the University of Reading, their website is: www.reading.ac.uk/TheMERL.

Another event was our annual film screening in association with Reading Film Theatre. This year, we watched A Syrian Love Story, a moving documentary by filmmaker Sean McAllister. Over a number of years, Sean spent time with a Syrian family – a mother, father, and their sons. The parents met in prison, having been arrested for speaking out against the state. The story effectively and evocatively portrays the human side of the refugee experience – from the strain on relationships, to the political confusion experienced when young people are fed conflicting ideologies, and the issues around adapting and adopting new identities. We were lucky enough to have McAllister himself there, along with Stephen Hale (CEO of Refugee Action), for a discussion/Q&A session after the film. We’d like to thank them again, as well as anybody in the audience who took part!

Finally, we’ve had some sporting success! We recently set up a football team called Sanctuary Strikers, for asylum seekers and refugees, with the aim of integrating them into the local community. They joined the local league and received a 'Grow the Game' grant from the FA, which has been a huge help! In a special Refugee Week friendly tournament, Sanctuary Strikers came out on top. They have very little in terms of kit or equipment, but a lot of talent and potential. We think with a bit of a leg up, they have a bright future, so watch this space…