CSB Refugee Week Festival 2023

Refugee Week is an annual event that takes place across the country. We've been hosting Birmingham's celebrations for the last 21 years, it's how we started and will continue to be a huge part of how we grow each year.
The 2023 festival of music and art from around the globe was celebrated with us at the MAC, Symphony Hall and venues across the city with a programme filled with live music from Ethiopia, Sudan, Kurdistan, Anatolia, Sierra Leone, Poland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Zimbabwe, Guinnea-Bissau and more.
We curated short films, spoken word, artist commissions and book readings to inspire you.
All events were free for all to enjoy.
Here's what was in store ... 

Compassion in Refugee Week

Fridays 16th and 23rd June - 1.30 – 3.30pm

Prayer at St Martins in the Bull Ring Church

For Personal & Confidential

Prayer for healing and hope      

Erdington Arts - Evening of Creativity

Friday 16th June - 6:30-9:00pm

Oikos Cafe 58 High Street, Erdington

The Evening of Creativity is a monthly extravaganza of art, music, poetry and drama held at Oikos Café in Erdington. Erdington Arts Forum partnered with Celebrating Sanctuary once again! We invited a mixture of local and refugee acts to our EoC, and warmly looked forward to welcoming them through our doors.

The Evening of Creativity has been running for 6 years and has never missed a month.

Events were also live-streamed to the Active Arts Castle Vale YouTube channel.

24th Meeting of Bosnian Supplementary Schools in Great Britain

17th June       09:30 -1700

Tile Cross Academy Gressel Lane Birmingham B33 9UF

9:30 am Registration
10:00 am Welcoming Speeches
10:20 am Performance by children
12:00 Folk Dance
12:30 Lunch
1330 Sport Activities
17:00 Awards

Refugee Week - ESOL Meet Up Mornings

Saturday 17 June - 10:00am– 12:00pm

Brasshouse Languages (inside the Library of Birmingham)

Run by the ESOL Hub Birmingham and aimed at asylum seekers and refugees who would like the opportunity to practise their English in an informal, social setting.

Programme involved:

  • Informal conversation session led by BAES teachers
  • Coffee or tea with a fresh pastry or cake
  • The ESOL Hub's friendly charity partners onsite to provide advice and information on issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers - immigration, employment, housing, education and much more
  • Opportunities to meet other refugees and asylum seekers and make some new friends
  • Children welcome - free activities

Czech & Slovak Club UK

Saturday 17th June - 11.30am – 12.45pm

Mac Courtyard  Cannon Hill Park, B12 9QH

A collaboration of dancers and musicians from 5 communities - Slovak, Romanian, Latvian, Czech & Roma. With performances from:

  • Slovak Folk ensemble BREZA
  • Midlands Latvian choir NORA
  • Romanian community musicians
  • Czech & Roma Folk 

Procession of all communities started at 11:30 from the MAC courtyard to the mini golf and return. Followed by performances from each community within the courtyard.  At 1pm the groups gave a short performance to open the Refugee Week Festival Family event in the Outdoor Arena.  

Refugee Week Festival Family Takeover

Saturday 17th June, 1:00 - 06:00pm

MAC Outdoor Arena 1:00-5.30pm
Cannon Hill Park, B12 9QH

Live music from:

  • Mohamed Osman (Sudan)
  • TwoManTing (Sierra Leone / UK)
  • Karolina Wegrzyn & Banda – (Poland / UK)
  • Suntou Susso (Gambia)

Plus performances from: Czech and Slovak Group, In Her Shoes, Stories of Hope and Home

Information Stalls, Activities and Workshops

MAC Hexagon Theatre 12:00 – 6:00pm

A programme of short films, spoken word, presentations and book reading

  • Short films and Artist commissions by refugee and Migrant artists
  • Looking for You - A short film created by Anna Nguyen & Kristine Landon Smith
  • Kate Rafiq - “We Are Here” Book reading & Spoken Word
  • Refugee Rescue - (presentation)
  • Spoken word from Writers Without Borders

Refugee Week Inclusive Gathering & World Feast Community Meal 

Sunday 18th June - 3:00-6:30pm

Upstairs at The Loft - a special Refugee Week worship gathering will be led by the fabulous Journey LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers Group.

Following the gathering (from 4:30) attendees were invited to join a ‘World Feast’ Bring & Share Community Meal.
Attendees were invited to bring food items or drinks that represent their culture or just something they enjoy. CSB supplemented this, so bringing food was not a requirement.
This was a proper FAMILY meal everyone pitched in in laying tables, and clearing up and there were opportunities to prepare some recipes together on the day..

MILE tour of Birmingham Council House

Mon 19th June, 10:30am – 2:00pm

To celebrate Refugee Week 2023, MILE project partners, Birmingham City Council and ACH, organised an event to explore the theme of Compassion in Action. The event began with a tour of the Birmingham Council House, followed by activities exploring how we can change compassion into action, and refreshments at ACH offices. The event commenced at 10:30am outside the council house and ended at approximately 2pm at ACH, Floor 8, Cobalt Square, Hagley Rd, Birmingham.

The event was open to all sanctuary seekers and migrants who have come to live in Birmingham from outside of the UK.

MILE established a consultative body that met with BCC staff to consult on the revised City of Sanctuary policy. The consultative body is an open group that recruited more members, interested in engaging with BCC and participating in decisions about communities and are sanctuary seekers, or migrants, from outside the UK.

Mangoes On The Beach With Peter Chand

Monday 19th June.          6:30pm -7pm

 Donation were greatly appreciated  

Thimblemill Library Thimblemill Road, Smethwick B67 5RJ

Love...Loss...Separation and the ties that bind a family...

1937.India is still under British rule, and in a small village in the north, a 10 year old boy dreams of a better life. A life of endless opportunity free from the shackles of the castle system, which has imprisoned his family for a long as long as anyone can remember.

British Indian storyteller Peter Chand has taken the story of his parents journey from the Punjab to England in the 1950s and seamlessly woven it  with traditional Indian folk tales. The result is a unique performance that is moving witty and thoughtful and delivered with great skill  by one of Europe’s most accomplished storytellers.

This little nonstory of migration has stirred audiences the length and breadth of Britain and also Greece, Norway, Canada, Austria, and the Netherlands.

'He's a bridge between two cultures in two generations… I will spellbound' [Kim Normanton, producer, Loftus productions for BBC 4]

**Suitable for adults and 12 years and over**


Late Night Exchange: World Refugee Day

Tuesday 20th June - 6:00-9:00pm

The Exchange 3 Centenary Square, Birmingham B1 2DR

This special Late event marked World Refugee Day held at The Exchange for talks, performances, films and drop-in activities to learn more about the experience of refugees, honour the contributions that refugees have made to their communities and advocate for the rights and protection of refugees worldwide.

Our varied and thought-provoking programme included:

  • A panel discussion chaired by Professor Nando Sigon, Stories of Hope and Home, individuals with lived experience who have sought sanctuary in Birmingham
  • Nahal Music Group of migrant children led by Sara Teymouri
  • A Viewing of “Not a single safe place”, a series of powerful films featuring testimony from survivors in Ukraine and Poland
  • Music from Zimbabwean musician - Millicent Chapanda

Writing workshop with Anthony Anaxagorou

20 June 2023, 12.00-15.00

Centre for Migration and Forced Displacement  Aston University, Birmingham, B4 7ET

This was a free, invite-only writing workshop with the poet Anthony Anaxagorou. Participants took part in a creative writing workshop led by Anthony and themed around migration. The participants were a mix of academics, students and people of refugee backgrounds.

Live at B:Eats for Refugee Week

Symphony Hall – B:Eats Cafe Inside the International Convention Centre, Broad St, Birmingham B1 2EA

In the lead up to our Refugee Week Takeover event on Saturday 24th, we put on 2 great musicians during the week at B:Eats Cafe in the Foyer at Symphony Hall

In Her Shoes - Creative Journeys Project

Thursday 22nd June, 10.30am -12.30pm (with lunch from 12.30-1.30)

Moseley Exchange 149-153 Alcester Rd, Birmingham B13 8JP

This is a women only event 

Creative Journeys project involved a sharing of the songs created with women in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival in a celebration workshop. The songs had been re-imagined with over 40 diverse women and our guest musicians who have brought new rhythms, beats and styles of music. Available were In Her Shoes musicians Ann Jones and Katy Bennett supported by Joelle Barker on drums. This was a fun, lively and moving way to spend your Thursday morning!
The project was supported by Birmingham City Council Arts Commissioning as part of the Legacy 2022 funding and is free to attend. Donations were welcome to support the ongoing work of In Her Shoes.

My Birmingham - Birch Network

Photography Exhibition and event

Thursday 22nd June - 4:00-8.30pm

Centrala Unit 4 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley St, Birmingham B5 5RT

An exhibition of photographs by Birch Network service users was displayed with the photographers present to engage the public in conversations prompted by the work. There were interpreters on hand to help with conversations. With live music from ‘In her Shoes’, singing songs written by refugee women.

Plus activities and refreshments

Free Jazz Friday for Refugee Week

Friday 23rd June - 5:00-6.30pm  

Symphony Hall's Jennifer Blackwell Space
Inside the International Convention Centre, Broad St, Birmingham B1 2EA

  • Collaboration between Niwel Tsumbu, Didier Kisala & Steve Tromans

Celebrating Sanctuary teamed up with B:Music and Free Jazz Friday as part of our Refugee Week Festival, to present an international collaboration between Congolese musicians Niwel Tsumbu and Didier Kisala with pianist Dr Steve Tromans.

In The Shadow of the Trees

By: Stories of Hope and Home

Friday 23rd June - 7:00pm

The Door, Birmingham Rep Centenary Square, B1 2EP

Written and performed by members of Stories of Hope and Home, "In The Shadow of the Trees" is based on our personal stories of seeking sanctuary. It uses the trees that have been the backdrop for our stories to explore memories of the places left behind, the places passed through on the journey, and the places where we are gradually finding a new home and creating dreams for the future.

March for Compassion

Saturday 24th June - 10.15am

Birmingham City Centre - Meeting at Waterstones 10:00am

March to Birmingham's Get-together for Compassion in Centenary Square

Let's walk through Birmingham city centre to show our solidarity with refugees and people seeking asylum.


Bring your own placards

Refugee Week Symphony Hall Takeover

Saturday 24th June - 10:00am – 5.30pm

Symphony Hall's Jennifer Blackwell Space
Inside the International Convention Centre, Broad St, Birmingham B1 2EA

Yoga with live music in the Main Auditorium 

10:00 - 11:00am      

Attendees were invited to join Iyengar yoga teacher Julie Baker in the iconic Main Auditorium of Symphony Hall, for an organic yoga session on the stage. Accompanied by live music from Mbira player and singer Millicent Chapanda and Tabla player Mendi Mohinder Singh.

Live Music from around the world In the Jennifer Blackwell Space 2:00-5:00pm

  • Melisa Yıldırım & Swarupa Ananth (Anatolia / India) - 2.15
  • Nifeco Costa & Babock Djazz (Guinea Bissau) - 3.05
  • Krar Collective (Ethiopia) – 4pm

Information stalls, arts and crafts

Birmingham Communities get-together for Compassion

Saturday 24thJune 11:00am – 2:00pm

Centenary Square

BCC held a city centre event to celebrate Refugee Week. A professional stage featured world music from Celebrating Sanctuary, and music, song, dance and poetry that celebrates the diverse cultures of Birmingham. A market area provided stalls with information about asylum and migration, and other wellbeing services and organisations in the city.

The event was compered by Amerah Saleh (who performed at the CWG) and also included performances from Congolese, Arabic, Ukrainian, Kurdish, Roma, Bulgarian and Slovak musicians and dancers; a Chinese Lion dance; spoken word from Amerah Saleh; and the Birmingham City Council Choir

CSB Presented performances from:

  • Iryna Muha
  • Didier Kisala & Niwel Tsumbu
  • Zirak Hamad and Daholl Kurdish Band

Congolese Independence Day event

MAC – Cannon Hill Park

24th June - 4:00 - 8:00pm

The Congolese Independence Day Celebration shines a light on the beautiful, diverse culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

An entertaining afternoon showcasing talent from the local Congolese community with music, dance and fashion

The line-up for the day includes Didier Kisala and Niwel Tsumbu. 

Black Country Type: PhotoWalk for Ukrainians

Saturday 24th June         12 - 2pm   

Centrala  Unit 4 Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley St, Birmingham B5 5RT

In collaboration with Post-Socialist Britain? We organised a PhotoWalk with Artist Tom Hicks for Ukrainians as part of Refugee Week, celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and those seeking sanctuary.
Black Country Type is a photography project led by Artist Tom Hicks and shared from his influential Instagram account @blackcountrytype. Through his photography, Tom applies his unique perspective to the region, focusing on words, typography, handmade lettering and signs. His photography also captures types of architectural features and buildings in the ever-evolving Black Country landscape.
Post-Socialist Britain?: Memory, Representation and Political Identity amongst German, Polish and Ukrainian Immigrants in the UK explore the connection between memory and identity in the context of migration with a particular focus on movers from Central, East and Southeast Europe and their integration into diverse communities. The project thinks about how the changes brought about by the end of the Cold War mean that Britain can itself be thought of as a “postsocialist” space.
This event will be a great space for you to come together and share your ideas as well as uncover Digbeths Heritage, and an opportunity to contribute your own stories to the work of Post-Socialist Britain.

The Even was FREE for Everyone,

Face Front Theatre: The Hero Next Door by Onjali Q. Raúf

25th June – shows at 2:30 & 5:00pm

MAC – Cannon Hill Park

From the award-winning author of ‘The Boy At The Back Of The Class’, Onjali Raúf, ‘The Hero Next Door’ is a celebration of difference and working together to do the right thing.

The play is based on real insight from children across the UK and was developed during extensive research as groups of children helped shape the plot and the characters. The result is a ground-breaking new production created especially for 7 – 10 year olds.
The play explores the themes of friendship, empathy, and the notions of what it means to be an ‘outsider’.
Mac was delighted to confirm that Onjali Q Rauf, writer of The Hero Next Door, award-winning author of The Boy At The Back Of The Class and activists joined us to sign books and meet audiences AFTER the 5pm performance of The Hero Next Door as part of our Refugee Week events.

Supported by Arts Council England