Refugee Week 15 – 21 June

Image: (c) David Foldvari & Save the Children – Boat, from Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis, a touring exhibition from House of Illustration

Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. The theme for 2020 is ‘Imagine’ and this year Sunderland Culture is supporting the work of FODI (Friends of the Drop In) and partner organisations across the city to share an online programme of activity.

The week begins today with a ‘Walk of Sanctuary’ when we remember how people travel to get here. This year City of Sanctuary Chair Chris Howson will walk at 2 metres apart with different members of the refugee and voluntary community accompanying him on sections of the walk around Sunderland’s landmarks with a send off on zoom at 9am by the Bishop of Durham.

If you are feeling creative, why not get involved with FODI’s virtual community Coronaquilt? Inspired by Art Refuge’s national Coronaquilt project which aims to bring people together.  To get involved, send your pictures of what you have been doing during lockdown to [email protected].To see Sunderland’s Coronaquilt online visit:

Following a pre-lockdown collaborative ARTS project between Sangini and FODI women’s group,  led by artists Padma Rao and Miki Zea,  both groups have been working together on felting and drawing inspired by the joys of lockdown creativity. This teaching has been funded by COVID 19 response funding from Cultural Spring with FODI materials funded by WCDT Wearside Community Development Trust and National Emergency Trust at the Community Foundation Tyne and Wear. The results have been a joy of daily sharing on social media groups and many images are included in the Coronaquilt. Join Padma on an abstract drawing project here

For more information on these activities and more projects organised by FODI: 

As well as supporting FODI’s virtual art projects, we’ve also brought together a selection of project work below that has taken place over the past 18 months – including films and learning resources – to raise awareness of the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers in our communities.




  • Film: Adrift

    Watch a short film about the making of ‘Adrift’, a refugee fairy-tale about two children in a boat written by Beverley Hancock Smith and developed by Action Transport Theatre, which was shown at Arts Centre Washington in February this year.

    Adrift celebrates the resilience and imagination of childhood and was created in collaboration with school children from St Bernard’s RC Primary School in Ellesmere Port.

  • Journeys Drawn: Learning resources

    In summer 2019, the exhibition Journeys Drawn: Illustration from the Refugee Crisis from the House of Illustration was shown at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens as part of a national tour.

    The exhibition tells the stories of refugees through art – some observed and some experienced first-hand.

    Since the 2015 refugee crisis, it’s become more important than ever that pupils learn about the human experiences of asylum seekers behind divisive newspaper headlines.

    To equip the teaching of this vital subject, House of Illustration have produced some unique resources for using illustration for teaching and learning about refugee experiences. They’re completely free to download and full of creative active activities for you to try:

    These are suitable for Key Stage 2 children (7+ years).


  • Film: Who Do You Want To Meet?

    The Who Do You Want to Meet programme in 2019 brought together different community groups across the city to work together on creative projects.

    Refugees and asylum seekers from FODI and participants from the Falling on Your Feet project were supported by artists Tracey West and Anna Hall to choreograph a contemporary dance.

    At the same time, writer James Whitman worked with groups from Hendon Writer’s Project and FODI on a story writing project.

    This project is part of the Unify strand of the Great Place Programme, funded by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Film: 15 Days

    The Arts Council Collection is the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art. Throughout 2019-2022, Sunderland Culture have been selected to present exhibitions, projects and creative learning opportunities drawn from Arts Council Collection.

    As part of this week’s Refugee Week 2020, Jon Weston (Exhibitions Officer at Sunderland Culture) has selected Imran Perretta’s film 15 days from the Arts Council Collection which explores the refugee crisis through personal accounts.

    Imran Perretta’s film 15 days combines compelling filmed footage and personal accounts from a former resident of ‘the jungle’ an infamous refugee camp (January 2015 – October 2016) setup near Calais, France during the peak of the migrant crisis in Europe. The film focuses on the period after the camp was demolished in October 2016 leaving thousands sleeping rough in the nearby surrounding woodlands.

    The theme for this year’s Refugee Week 2020 (15-21 June) is Imagine, to place ourselves in the position of others. 15 days is particularly striking during this time when we are all more conscious of facing uncertainty and threat in our lives offering up a stark comparison to people facing these concerns daily on a much greater scale.

    You can watch the film here:


    Credit line – Imran Perretta, 15 days (still), 2018. Courtesy Jerwood:FVU Awards. © Imran Perretta

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