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You, Me and Those Who Came Before...

With a series of events across Leicester, Refugee Week returns in June so Senior Producer, Nicola Middler, shares what is on offer in a blog post.

This year's Refugee Week will provide another engaging, fun-filled opportunity to find out more about the refugee experience and to celebrate their contributions to the UK. This year's theme is 'You, me and those who came before'. Celebration and providing a platform for excellent, often underrepresented, diverse artists is at the heart of our work at ArtReach, and it's something that's particularly close to my heart too!

Photographer Farhad Berahman next to one of stamp artworks.

I've worked in the arts for over 15 years now, after I graduated from my MA in Art, Design and Education (at Norwich School of Art), I was fortunate enough to land an amazing job with the Affordable Art Fair in London - a role that enabled me to develop and programme projects internationally, and produce an innovative, new education programme for the fair. But the event was for those who had the financial means to invest in art. I loved it but there was something missing... So I retrained as a primary school teacher, seeking out opportunities to work with children in the most deprived borough of London (Newham) to provide opportunities for those who had very little access to the arts to learn creatively. I worked in an outstanding school with over 750 pupils, speaking over 47 different languages. The hours were long, the workload was crippling but the children were in need of consistency, care and keen to learn. It was so rewarding but it wasn't quite right for me either...

In 2015 I made the leap out of London and headed by to my home county of Leicestershire to begin my work with ArtReach - the role I have uses a whole range of my skills in producing, project / event management, consultancy and education. As I mentioned, providing a platform for underrepresented artists is really important to me. So is using the arts as a means of facilitating learning opportunities - particularly cross-curricularly, or to help children and young people to understand difficult themes.

The work we are doing for Refugee Week 2019 does just that. We will be presenting an exhibition of Iranian photographer Farhad Berahman's 'Stamps to Elsewhere' and running workshops for primary school children alongside this. The 'stamps' explore the themes of displacement and the resettlement of communities. The images used in the stamp designs will represent countries that have the highest number of refugees in the UK including Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan. The workshops will be led by the artist and facilitated by myself and Leicester Print Workshop, with input from the British Red Cross too - we will provide a wonderfully engaging experience for the children, they'll create some excellent artwork, they'll gain their DISCOVER Arts Awards....but most importantly they will get to learn about the refugee experience from someone who has been through it first hand. Other activity highlights around the city include a mini festival on Saturday 15 June organised by the British Red Cross which will present music, dance and craft from around the world and on Sunday 23 June, New Walk Museum will host a day of family-friendly activities, including the creation of a giant collage, all free to take part in.

Refugee Week is all about sharing, learning and providing opportunities for positive engagement. We can't wait...and we are looking forward to attending lots of the other wonderful events that our partners are hosting across the city too - from football tournaments to pop up cafés!

For more information on Refugee Week events in Leicester, read our guide below.

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