This week is Refugee Week. It's not an appeal for charity but a countrywide celebration of how our communities are enriched by migrants - exactly as Jo Cox outlined in her maiden speech. "While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again ... is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”
At this moment in 2016, we more than ever need to celebrate not only the contributions of refugees but the possibilities that solidarity bring for all of us. We have done some hard mourning this week. Now we will do some singing of our shared story.
Credit: Ambrose Musiyiwa
Local organisers from the Leicester British Red Cross promise a day of 'A free and fun day out for all the family, a fusion of talented musicians, dancers and performers all drumming up noise for Refugee Week.' I've been lucky enough to be involved in Refugee Week Celebrations in this city for a few years now. And I especially pleased this year to be taking part in readings from an anthology published in 2015 to raise funds and support for refugee charities: the 'Over Land, Over Seas' anthology by Five Leaves Press. 'An anthology of 102 poems expressing solidarity with the refugees who are currently receiving so little welcome as they take to boats and rafts to cross the Mediterranean and make their way with difficulty through Europe. Readers are invited to take a view of the situation which is not governed by the fear and hatred whipped up by the language of media and many politicians.' You can hear some of these remarkable poems on the acoustic stage in Leicester's Town Hall Square from about 11.45 onwards.
Later in the same week I'll be joining co-editors Emma Lee and Kathy Bell with other readers at an event called VOICED on Thursday 23rd June at the Exchange Bar from 6pm onwards. This will again feature artists and musicians, including those from the refugee community. Poetry and story will be interwoven through a fabric of sound: 'HAIKI - blending soul and jazz sounds deriving from Ethiopia, MARCUS JOSEPH, who combines resonating rhymes and smooth saxophone'.
Finally if you want to get a flavour of what a vibrant joyful celebration of refugees in Leicester looks like, check out these wonderful photos from Ambrose Musiyiwa from the 2014 event in Town Hall Square. We were rained off last year but are hoping for a break from the Leicester monsoon this weekend! Either way we'll be making the music of our shared humanity. Join us why don't you if you're out and about.