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Eastbourne, East Sussex

Art Refuge is delighted to have been commissioned by Public Health to offer arts-based psychosocial support this Autumn at Sanctuary’s weekly Friday drop-in, a lively, growing community with triage system, women’s room, practical & social support & advice, alongside signposting. People from countries across the world who are seeking asylum in the UK and living in local Home Office hotels are the majority attendees, some of whom join the volunteer team.

Amidst the space’s industriousness, we have seen many gentle, calm moments each session. Individuals have commented on the quality The Community Table allows - a young man from Venezuela coming to connect whilst mending a broken rucksack; a group slowing for a moment with the soft ‘timeless’ light of the camera obscura to capture on their phones; a young man fixing his phone while smelling herbs and spelling wooden lettered words.

Volunteers join in-between tasks and use the space to exert excess stress & energy, or look for distracting moments of humour and play. Last Friday was the 1st time we joined our table with the long-standing art table. We were also joined by Iranian artist who set up his animation kit on arrival and with it, his infectious sense of play and fun which was the predominant mood throughout the session.

With animation as the main activity, a young woman arrived ready to make a film, animation app ready on her phone! Directing us with her creative vision, we became a team around her making characters, set & backdrop. One man made a tree with figures, a poetic image which others were drawn to and added to. An animated film ended the session - a piece of string spelling ‘Welcome’ across the table.

Along with the playful tone there was also a poignant sense of #hope - a pocket of something here at Sanctuary - quite different to the chaos and injustice of the reality for those seeking asylum in the UK. The Community Table & art materials allow for a sense of connection and a different kind of dialogue. We have been taking this model and thinking into a series of psychosocial training sessions for Sanctuary & linked services.

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