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CELEBRATING SANCTUARY

Updated: Jul 1

QUEEN SQUARE, BRISTOL

23rd June 2024


Bristol, one of 118 UK Cities of Sanctuary, hosted the Celebrating Sanctuary event as the finale of the @bristolrefugeefestival, a month-long programme of events coinciding with @refugeeweekuk. Bristol voted to change this year’s theme of Refugee Week from ‘Our Home’ to ‘Home’ to reduce any possible interpretations of othering.


Queen Square - originally marsh land close to the harbour - is a site that holds hundreds of years of ugly political history for the city (see Bristol Radical History brh.org.uk). In huge contrast, the atmosphere was one of community, creativity and connection, showcasing the musical talents the city now benefits from and giving space for the shared hopes for peace and safety.


Under a cover of thick cloud, we moved the caravan into place, middle of the square with a prime spot to see the stage. Here we heard music and poetry including from several men we have worked with over the last 2 years in Home office contingency hotels. We also met other familiar faces from the hotels, alongside colleagues face-to-face for the 1st time, and encountered many new people who played with cyanotypes outside of the caravan and turned ideas into an inhabited space inside.


With themes of ‘Home’ and thresholds in our minds, we watched with delight as children took ownership of the interior of the caravan, lightly constructing barriers with tape across the top half of the doorway, so that they themselves crossed the threshold both ways with ease but adults needed to be flexible to gain access. Children moved between arranging cyanotypes and dipping into other activities across the site, including the evolving installation of the caravan.


Unusually, the large map hanging outside of the caravan drew the attention of just one man today. Having fled Iran, and a lorry driver for 35 years, he told us how he knows how to get anywhere in England, unaided by maps or modern technology, holding the entire country’s roads inside his mind.


Words by Sarah Philips (@caravan.arts), Emma Lunt & Sarah Robinson.




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