IOM continues to be a proud partner of Refugee Week, a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events celebrating the contributions of refugees and migrants to the UK. Refugee Week takes place every year across the world in the week around World Refugee Day on the 20 June.
An established part of the UK’s cultural calendar, Refugee Week is now one of the leading national initiatives working to counter negative rhetoric about immigration and highlighting the benefits it can bring to both refugees and host communities. In the UK, IOM’s Refugee Week events focus on inclusive and integrated communities. IOM believes integration involves two-way interactions where both migrants (including refugees) and communities build a common space to learn about each other’s experiences, traditions, and expectations. One of the most successful ways to do this is through shared interests. When people can come together through an activity that they both enjoy, there is a stronger likelihood for mutual understanding and bonding.
In 2019 the theme of Refugee Week was “You, me and those who came before” and to mark the occasion IOM co-hosted a special event in Bristol with the Mayor of Bristol and the Bristol Refugee Festival called "One City, Many Stories", a facilitated discussion about inclusion and integration where migrants, refugees and Bristol’s host communities shared their experiences and voiced what it means to them and their community.
Since 2017 IOM has been working with in partnership with Together Productions, Freedom from Torture; the Royal Opera House; Improbable; and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to unite refugees, migrants and British choir members through music for the Singing Our Lives concert. Hosted by Together Productions the event showcases original music that celebrates the strength and resilience of refugees and migrants and the annual event sees over 200 performers perform on the final day of Refugee Week.
The concert marks the culmination of a unique creative process that brought five amateur choirs and professional musicians together through a series of workshops aimed at promoting understanding among diverse groups. Singing Our Lives combines opera, classical, popular and electronic genres with music from around the globe and performed by the Mixed Up Chorus, the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus, and the Sing for Freedom Choir, and Guildhall School musicians, Woven Gold and Stile Antico. This year the Singing Our Lives concert took place at London's iconic South Bank Centre on Sunday 23rd June.