Words: Danny Vincent, Bristol Refugee Festival

The Bristol Refugee Festival, of which I’m Artistic Director, runs throughout June and plays host to music from around the world, at events across the city. Audiences will be able to hear music from heritages ranging from from Congo to Iran, Iraq, Kurdistan, Senegal, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe, performed by refugees and asylum seekers living in Bristol, in collaboration with local musicians at venues both in and out of doors – in the city centre and further afield.

It’s a testament to the richness of the collaboration between musicians from Bristol with those with a refugee background that, in the last couple of years, Bristol’s contribution to the national Refugee Week celebrations have had to be extended to a month-long festival. For example, this year we will see the Bristol Reggae Orchestra again, performing songs written by refugee musicians and their repertoire for their performance at Queen Square on 24th June. At St George’s on the 28th, we’ll see for the first time a collaboration between Moussa Kouyate, playing the kora from West Africa, with the oud duo, Nabra, whose Sudanese music is brought from East Africa.

An evening at Colston Hall of spoken word and music launches the festival, and a month’s worth of events ensue, including art exhibitions and talks. The flagship event is Celebrating Sanctuary, an afternoon of live music predominantly led by refugees. This will showcase professional refugee musicians alongside community groups and locals. The event has become a fixture on the Bristol calendar over the last twelve years and has often been an occasion for debut compositions and collaborations – last year we saw the female hip-hop duo, Poetic Pilgrimage, pair up with Servo, a Congolese drummer, for the first time. This year, Celebrating Sanctuary will open at midday with an open jam session, ‘Stand Together Jam Together’, led by Brook Tate in collaboration with refugees, with songs chosen by refugees. Local musicians are invited to bring their instruments and join in the session, to start an evening of standing and dancing in solidarity with refugees

Bristol Refugee Festival takes place throughout June. More at: bristolrefugeefestival.org