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As part of Nottingham Refugee Week, we are delighted to be presenting a comedy gig by No Direction Home, a pioneering project produced by Counterpoints Arts featuring stand-up comedians from refugee and migrant backgrounds, mentored by award-winning comedian Tom Parry.

Book your free ticket here

Created in partnership with Camden People’s Theatre, it’s an ongoing project of workshops, mentoring and performance for new comics from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

The gig kicks off at 6 pm, but join us for delicious free food and drinks from the Syrian Vegan Kitchen from 5.30 pm.

This is the closing event of the ‘Hostile Environment, Artful Living’ conference that runs at Bonington during the day, and attendees of the conference have automatic entry to the gig. You’re very welcome to drop by to the gig as a stand-alone event, however, and can book a place via Eventbrite.

Check out the full Nottingham Refugee Week programme.

This one day conference, held as part of Nottingham Refugee Week, will explore how creativity can be used to resist the ‘hostile environment’ promoted against refugee and asylum-seeking communities within the UK. 

The day will consist of:

Registration: 10 am
Conference: 10.30 am – 5.30 pm for free food and drinks from the Syrian Vegan Kitchen
Comedy gig: 6 – 7 pm (a more detailed schedule can be found at the end of this page)

As cited in the IPPR’s ‘Access Denied’ report (September 2020), over the past decade and beyond, the UK has witnessed the mushrooming of an aggressively hostile system that denies basic human need to those seeking sanctuary across numerous sociocultural sectors – from policing, welfare, housing, health and education to Home Office immigration systems themselves.

In response to this pervasive discourse, however, counter-narratives and counter-practices have seeded and grown with astonishing vigour across the breadth of the sociocultural sphere – from the high-profile and high-visibility (arts festivals such as Counterpoints’ ‘Refugee Week’; Charwei Tsai’s film projection ‘Hear Her Singing’ on the Southbank Centre, London; the emergence of the Cities of Sanctuary network) to altogether subtler negotiations and refusals of hostility (‘living maps’ projects whereby newly arrived sanctuary-seekers annotate maps identifying resources of use to new communities, for instance; or refugee-led wellbeing services such as Vanclaron, that operate within Serco-run hotels to nurture positive mental health). While presenting ‘life-sustaining practices’ of creative ‘uprising’ and ‘innovation’ (Espiritu et. al., 2022), this emergent nexus of narratives and practices is yet to be placed in dialogue, and thus mobilised as a site of connective critical agency.

It is the task of ‘Hostile Environment, Artful Living’ to generate a pioneering platform for such essential criticality. Blurring the boundaries between academic discourse and community-engaged activity, this 1-day event presents a series of discursive platforms designed to initiate dialogue between those working ‘artfully’ within and against the hostile environment, across and between the arts, humanities, and community-engaged sociocultural sphere.

The day is organised around three Roundtables: ‘Narratives’, exploring the mobilisation of literary, story-based, festival-based and community-based narratives that ‘artfully’ rewrite the narrative of hostility; ‘Environments’, exploring ‘artful’ negotiations of public spaces such as housing, healthcare and green space; and ‘Leading the Conversation’, presenting ‘artful’ projects developed by creatives of lived refugee experience.

Each panel consists of four ‘headline’ speakers drawn from diverse academic, cultural-creative and community locations, who will offer 10-minute presentations designed to spark debate among the wider roundtable audience. Confirmed speakers include Allan Njanji (also conference co-convenor), filmmaker of lived refugee experience, whose work explores ‘refugee voice’ in documentary journalism; blog developer Hira Aaftab, presenting refugee-led blog Our World Too; editors Rubina Bala and Alexandros Plasatis, presenting refugee-led literary journal The Other Side of Hope; and storytelling producer Naomi Wilds, discussing community-based storytelling with young communities of sanctuary-seekers. We are honoured to be hosting a Keynote (via live weblink) from Yến Lê Espiritu, Distinguished Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego, whose field-defining works on ‘critical refugee studies’ include the recent 2022 Departures and 2014 Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarised Refuge(es).

The day is bookended by performances from artists of lived refugee experience, opening with Florette Fetgo, spiritual artist of Cameroonian heritage, whose public actively contest police hostility in Nottingham; and closing with a gig from refugee-led comedy collective, No Direction Home.

We are proud to be serving complimentary food from the Nottingham-based refugee-led business, the Syrian Vegan Kitchen.

Throughout the day, our emphasis is on establishing collective, transdisciplinary dialogue on ‘hostile environment, artful living’, in the hope that our discussions will form the basis of an eventual edited collection of essays and interviews, and of an AHRC funding application.

Roundtable audience participants are invited from across every discipline and cultural sector, and are welcome to join for some or all of the day. Conference attendance includes complementary lunch courtesy of the refugee-led Syrian Vegan Kitchen, and entry to No Direction Home’s end-of-day comedy gig.

We also welcome posters, displays of projects and ‘cultural interventions’ that fit the theme of the event from participants.

The day’s events take place at Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University city campus, which can be easily reached by tram or bus from Nottingham train station.