Ideas for building an event at the intersection of arts and refugee care

Drawing from Alex’s proposal here, collecting here some ideas for the concept and format.

“VAULT Festival is a multi-week line-up of non-stop entertainment across eight unbelievable venues, three stylish bars and a top-notch restaurant, all hidden away within the labyrinthine Vaults beneath Waterloo.”

A Fundraising Workathon

We connect the attendees of the event together, bringing new support and volunteers to organisations in the UK (and further afield), creating the opportunity for collaboration and skills sharing in the future. (Alex)

->the event becomes an opportunity where sponsor company employees co-work on their professional company project, and the payment for the day goes into a common fund directed to a non-profit (most obvious choice is Crew for Calais). Source

A Writers' Challenge

We set out to solve a problem that the people who are likely to attend could help solve. The number one target on my list is: How can we change the prevaling narrative about refugees in the UK? As part of this has to do with the stories we tell about them, and who tells them, it fits really nicely into the other work that we are producing at the festival as well. (Alex)

-> the event becomes a space for meaningful human encounters between people who wish to learn and make a contribution to building a new media narrative around refugees. A playful mix of Storytellers and Capturers combining various media (text, visuals, audio, video etc) produce and reproduce what are essentially deeply human stories.

-> we’d need experienced journalists, (v)bloggers, data people and art storytellers to support the creative process

Creative concepts: New Media Therapy, Citizen Journalism, Data Journalism, #nofilter #nostigma

-> modelled on an event in Kathmandu in 2015 - Call for participation | Planning document

-> Morroccan volunteer led blog

-> Humans of NY style for massive outreach.

-> Parts:

I. SEEDING Refugee data and stories:

  • Case studies presented on site: Orange House, Backpacks for Refugees, TraumaTour, RefugeesWork, The Shit Show exhibition for mental health, SAVA creating furniture for refugees etc.
  • Live testimonials: people we can invite to share their story, i.e. in a performance style.


  • articles production in a facilitated context (one on one and reshuffling pairs; groupwork etc; if held in an open space think how to involve spectators to join along..)
  • Awesome Journalism Kit made available.

what other formats could be suitable??

What worked in ER driven workshops

  • knowing who comes (from Bucharest, Nepal etc experiences)
  • engaging with participants and collecting data ahead of the physical meeting
  • facilitation heavily focused on what participants care about rather than imposing a big, hard topic that is disconnected from their work
  • organisers having a personal/ professional high stake to make the event a success
  • contextualizing the event in an ongoing conversation

Example of what could be agreed DELIVERABLES from early on:

Required deliverables

There are a number of concrete deliverables that are required in order for the event to directly contribute towards furthering good work:

  1. That the discussion on location departs from a shared core base of knowledge about what makes the issue relevant in everyday lives and societies.
  2. That participants articulate what they found most relevant from key case studies: in personal statements, live introductions or by leaving comments online prior to the event.
  3. That participants can locate their role in a brokerage model for a new deal between institutional politics, media landscape and the individual's own possibilities to take meaningful paths of action.
  4. That participants design a fair value proposition for the communities which their workshop output is intended to serve.
  5. That main insights from the meeting are summarised in the form of high quality blogposts to be posted on the event and partners platform no later than a week after the event.
  6. That participants are sent a follow up email with all summaries and reminder of what has been agreed and what the next steps are.

What we need to pay attention to

  • How to structure collaborative writing? The long collaborative writing session was possibly a bit disorienting. I don’t know, did participants enjoy this time, or did they feel left alone to “work for us”? Since the sharing time session worked so well and was seemingly more interesting, a next writers’ workshop might consist of just the sharing session (and the presentation sessions before). Not every participant would have to come with a text to share, some might enjoy to hear the comments and discussions when others share, and learn a great deal from that about how to write. (Matthias on the Writer's Workshop in Kathmandu)
  • I (Noemi) suggest efforts to secure timely live translation are set up in advance
  • followups are always tricky - rigourous collection of documentation may not be enough. engagement to deliver on key promises would be welcome (if there is enough support from this)

Thinking out loud

There’s some really good thoughts here.

The Hackathon around changing the narrative is scheduled for the Sat 25th Feb, 1pm-5pm.

I’m wary of spreading ourselves too thin and trying to achieve too much in a limited amount of time on the day. I agree that producing something concrete as a result would be preferable. Whether that needs to be specifically creative output (e.g. written work) i’m not sure. Crew for Calais has a lot of creative output happening at the festival (I’ll explain more when it’s more finalised - if you like cutting-edge perfoming arts mixed with your social activism then this will be a festival for you!)

However, if we could encourage people into writing groups and get people to write a series of different format pieces (e.g. Blog post, Letter to a newspaper, Newspaper comment section post, newspaper article [comment is free type], Letter to their representative [EU, Westminster] etc…) These could be co-authored in groups, and then made available to everyone, participants or interested outsiders to use and send to the correct sources.

It’s also possible that we could have some non-written content made - videos, short podcasts. That would depend on having the correct personnel in the room, but we could definitely have the equipment available so that it’s another choice.

To me, i’m starting to see the bare bones of a structure.

The workathon isn’t scheduled yet, but we could do it before the 10th Feb.

I’m still waiting to hear back from Tin Gerber to see if he’s interested in helping me set it up. If not i’ll press ahead anyway. I’ve also discussed a variation on the idea. I don’t know if i’ll have time to make it happen, but it’s basically the same except we solicit paid tasks from theatres, performances companies, festivals and others in our field, then we get arts professionals together to do that work on a day and the money is paid to Crew for Calais or Help Refugees aid.

Same premise, different cross section of participants.

So glad you liked it!

I thought we absolutely need to go with a creative output, but good to know there’s no boundaries. Other than that, my preference for a writing workshop is also that it’s the only thing my mind works with - text. If you or someone likes a different approach to changing the narrative, I would totally go for it… maybe we set a window for exploring ideas, then we commit to one and plan the thing concretely. Again, I’m very happy to get involved in preps, even though I might not be in Europe at the actual time… :frowning:

Collaborative writing would be taking @Matthias 's work in Nepal up a notch and there is plenty of stuff to build on, so great learning guaranteed!


Timeframe for thinking about it = maybe to the end of November. I will have to present an explanation of the concept to be included in the Festival publicity around that time. Once that goes in there will be limited opportunity to dramatically change the theme and concept, although the structure can be tweaked until the final day.

I think that the collaborative writing approach is a strong one because we would be looking to write in English, with native English speakeres. I think, because its part of an arts festival, that we will attract people with a lot of writing and performing experience and skill.


Hello, I’ve been away without wifi, and not catching up with email but I did spot one that asked about funding for this (?) project. I can’t find that message now. I wanted to mention that Oxfam might be interested in funding a programme that uses culture to directly engage and support refugees. I know someone there talking about it. I don’t know about Wellcome but it depends what project idea you were referring to in your original message.

Looking up

I hope to find a bit more time to be involved. I’ve been busy!

I will tell the person I know at Oxfam about Edgeryders. She is hoping that it is a distributed, widespread project, I think.


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Not sure if this is the right event project for them to fund at this point. But very interesting to know they are looking at a distributed and widespread project that uses the arts and culture to engage directly with refugees. This would certainly be of interest to us (Crew for Calais) as it is part of the approach we are looking at for our future development.

Perhaps this person could be encouraged to come and participate in the event in a personal capacity (they will certainly have useful experience and skills) and afterwards we can discuss more about possible collaboration opportunities?

There are 2 organisations that are well poised to help provide a link between refugee services and arts/culture, Crew for Calais and Good Chance Calais. The links between the 2 orgs are growing stronger and so there is a real potential for an interesting and exciting collaboration if Oxfam got behind us! It would be really satisfying to me if we could bring it to fruition.

Three small points

Hey guys – this is great!

Three small points.

  1. Consider talking to the wonderful @Natalia_Skoczylas , whose hand is obvious in the citizen journalism/storytelling workshop organised under the ER aegis in Nepal. 
  2. If @Bridget_McKenzie engages in the Culture Squad, our prospects look up! 
  3. Would you guys be OK with me adding this thread to the opencare community group as well? This would make it part of the opencare ethnographic study. 


Hey! Of course Natalia is our go to person, it was their work in Nepal which inspired this in the first place.

Bridget is a dear, like always… And if this happens in London I think it’s even more of an opportunity. The discussion where Alex mentioned you had to do with how would we look for funding for a project involving research and mapping of preparedness to care for refugees in very concrete terms eg packing clothes in a backpack based on criteria and systems different working  groups involved in refugee work have experimented with. How do we package the knowledge? (see this discussion:

Finally,  OK to adding this to ethnographic material base.

Happy to discuss ideas with @Natalia_Skoczylas. I know she is getting ready to go to Asia at the moment, but i will also reaquiant myself with the Nepal projects and look at the outcomes and lessons learnt.

Happy for this to be included in the Opencare, it’s coming out of the People on the move strand of activity anyway.

Pitch document

Below is a one-page summary of the event that is intended to be used as part of the Festival marketing and online event page:

It sets up the outline for what we want to achieve and some of the ways we may go about doing them, all wrapped up in a narrative structure that is likely to appeal to that platform’s audience (arts attendees, young professionals, industry insiders)

I intend to spend today writing another pitch that i will send out to prospective partners and charity organisations working in the field in London and SE UK. I have already highlighted a few i would love to have representation at the event. I will link to that once it is finished.

Final plan for today (time permitting) is to put together a basic framework for the event, as well as ideas about the deliverables and the intended outcomes of the event. Much above is possible, some i don’t fully understand, and some i’m not sure is possible given the likely audience/attendees.

Feel free to look it over and suggest improvements or clarifications.

Link not working

@Alex_Levene it says “Not found” :frowning:

Reposting link


Hey @Alex_Levene, just looked through the document. I think it  would be good to precise the topics you would like to be discussed during the hackathon, like refugee integration, accommodation/employment issues, cultural integration and ways to achieve it( here’s a good example and here’s another one ), healing from the traumas, etc.

I think it would be a perfect event to showcase our project, so let’s see how we can make it happen. Here’s a recent article on the refugee situation in Armenia.

Good luck and let me know how I can help.

Hi Anna

Here is the document in which i am starting to create the structure for the event.

I agree that we need to select areas of focus for our discussion. I am hoping t invite a number of partners from the UK who are working on specific areas you mention (UKLGIG - advoacy for LGBT assylum seekers; HelpRefugees - citizen led humanitarian work; etc) At this moment i am waiting to contact/confirm if people can participate before finalising the exact strands. If we are unable to bring any local partners into the room to participate (this would be very unfortunate, and unlikely) then i think to base the strands around stories from the ER ‘people on the move’ strand of OpenCare. This will form part of the structure anyway.

I expect that i won’t start confirming participants until after the Holidays now, but i hope to get the initial email out to them before next Wednesday.

link not found

Looking forward to read it and hopefully come up with a way to help! @Alex_Levene