News / Bristol Refugee Festival

Bristol Refugee Festival returns for 2020

By ellie pipe, Monday Jun 8, 2020

The organisers of Bristol Refugee Festival hope this year’s theme of ‘imagine’ is one that will resonate with communities across the city.

The annual event that aims to bring people together and celebrate the value and contribution of refugee and asylum seekers returns from June 15-21 with an online programme, including new additional fringe activities.

Festival organisers have had to quickly adapt this year’s lineup in the midst of the pandemic. The usual live music and celebrations in Queen Square will be replaced with Celebrating Sanctuary at Home, featuring recorded performances by refugee musicians. Artists include the Congolese drumming group Servo & Family, Kurdish saz player Dijwar Khalil, the oud duo Nabra, and kora player Moussa Kouyate with his band.

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Communities are invited to get involved in the festival in their own creative ways.

Working on the theme of ‘imagine a world where…’, people are asked to create a piece of work, be it a poem, song, story or picture that depicts their ideas and visions and share them using the hashtag #ImagineBristol.

“We felt that now more than ever it was important to stay connected, to support each other and to share the incredible ways that people have helped each other in these unprecedented times,” explains festival director Jules Olsen.

“We hope the theme of ‘imagine’ will connect with many who are also having to imagine new ways of living.”

The usual live music and celebrations in Queen Square will be replaced with Celebrating Sanctuary at Home. Photo courtesy of Bristol Refugee Festival

The online event takes place during national Refugee Week, Bristol Refugee Festival organisers are encouraging attendees to donate to Borderlands community fundraising appeal for refugees affected by Covid-19.

The programme features three animated short stories based on the themes of discovery, solidarity, and generosity. Created by Finding Words, the writers are all asylum seekers and refugees who have met regularly since 2019, supported by Freedom from Torture Bristol, to engage in creative writing and storytelling.

Bristol Refugee Festival is also partnering with sports charity Wesport to produce activity packs with simple and fun ways for people to get involved during the festival.

The #MoveCreateImagine pack includes some basic sports equipment, daily physical activity challenges, bingo cards and word searches. Aid Box Community will deliver 300 activity packs to the city’s most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers to ensure those without online access at home can still connect with the festival.

The programme includes a range of more than 25 events, many featuring or led by Bristol-based refugees and asylum seekers, with something for all ages.

Highlights include; an interactive, virtual cookalong with Migrateful, a film and Q&A session with Bristol Refugee Rights Voice project, a screening of A Strange New Space by children’s theatre specialist Tessa Bide, Imagine the City, an online art exhibition by Bristol Refugee Artist Collective and UWE Bristol Art & Design, a dance event with Refugee Women of Bristol, online yoga classes and much more.

This year, a special Bristol Refugee Festival episode of The Held in Common podcast created by storyteller Polly Tisdall for The Network Bristol will feature positive stories of refugee and host communities helping each other during this crisis.

Bristol Refugee Festival is funded by Bristol City Council, National Lottery Community Fund and Arts Council England. The full programme of events is available via

Main photo courtesy of Bristol Refugee Festival 

Read more: Refugees in Bristol share their stories

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