The theme of this year’s Refugee Festival Scotland is “Making Art, Making Home”, and it resonates deeply. I left Calais pretty much one year ago, and have now been working at Scottish Refugee Council almost six months. Getting the job was hugely exciting, it’s exactly what I hoped to be doing, but it came with a whirlwind of anxiety whilst dealing with unprecedented culture-shock, and I had to confront a lot of demons head-on while I found my feet.
For the first few months, I was also working at Glasgow Night Shelter, providing emergency accommodation to destitute asylum seekers. This made sense to me, dealing with the immediate situation at hand, getting through each night and doing it all again the next day. My role at SRC felt like it belonged to someone else. Ahead, in the distance, floated Refugee Festival Scotland. At the time, it lay somewhere in the murky lands beyond March 29th, a future that I hadn’t allowed myself to glimpse in any sort of positive light for years – so long spent in Calais certainly didn’t lend itself to having positive visions of post-Brexit life.
In a team meeting in February, something changed as I learnt more about the festival and we began to put a plan in action. Refugee Festival Scotland is an opportunity for people in Scotland to learn about refugees and each other through arts, cultural and community events. It’s a celebration of diversity and culture, of art, tradition and identity, of people and place and unsung heroes. And, as we established in our brainstorming session, it will go ahead no matter what.
If it has to be a defiant act, it will be.
“The show must go on” blares in my head, an uplifting roar of inspiration – there’s a future, and it’s full of dance, music, food and art, people coming together and having fun. It’s a wholly needed respite from everything else, a chance for people to meet and build new friendships, a positive memory for people to look back on later in darker days, and to look forward to again the following year. And I’m excited and grateful to be part of it, promoting the incredible work that communities are doing around Scotland, in a supportive and talented team.
In making art, I get to make home here at SRC, here in Glasgow, here in Scotland, and build towards a vision of a future that we can be proud of.