Refugee Week Events at The Open University

Open University students, staff and external guests are invited to three events being held during the course of Refugee Week 2022!

The Sanctuary Working Group at The Open University, in partnership with Covid Chronicles from the Margins, are delighted to announce three very exciting seminars that will be taking place during Refugee Week 2022. We invite all staff, students, internal and external guests to come and join, at a time where we celebrate the contributions, creativity, and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary! 

All tickets are now available on Eventbrite 

No Friends but the Mountains   
Tuesday 21st June, 12:30 – 13:30  

To kick off Refugee Week, we will first be facilitating a showing of this wonderful short film, composed of Kurdish voices and Welsh animation, made in Swansea in 2021-22 by Shahsavar, Lucy and Tom. The film was made with support from the Arts Council of Wales, and in collaboration with the Open University's Covid Chronicles from the Margins project. It grew out of our multilingual children's stories and animations, which you can view on the Hafan Books website.  

Shahsavar Rahmani is a professional interpreter in Swansea, originally from Kurdish Iran. Shahsavar interviewed dozens of refugees from Kurdish Iran and neighbouring countries for the Covid Chronicles project. He narrates the film, which presents five interviewees and their stories of persecution, flight, resistance, and hope. Interviews are in Kurdish (Sorani), with English subtitles. Poems by Sherko Bekas and sayings in Farsi and Kurdish frame the film.

Lucy Donald is a professional artist in Burry Port, South Wales. She created striking images and stop-motion animations inspired by interviewees: the title proverb, Ebrahim's idea that a refugee is like a transplanted tree, the traumatic channel crossings. The images accompany the stories, rather than illustrating them, adding emotive layers.

Tom Cheesman is a retired academic, trustee with Swansea Asylum Seekers Support, editor of Hafan Books. He secured a small grant for this project from Arts Council of Wales, worked closely with Shah on subtitling and audio editing, and used Audacity and Movavi to assemble the film.  

Identity Over Time  
Wednesday 22nd June, 12:30 – 13:30 

The second session will present a digital photographic exhibition of works by amateur and professional Swansea photographers. It will explore how, through a series of photography workshops organised by the Open University’s Covid Chronicles from the Margins project and the Iberian Latin American Association during the pandemic, Spanish speakers from Swansea came together to explore their pasts, presents and hopes for the future in visual genres. The group of photographers consisted of exiles from Chile in the 1970s through to today’s refugees from Venezuela and El Salvador in collaboration with Spanish speaking Swansea locals.  

The workshops were led by the renowned photographer Humberto Gatica Leyton, Andrea Ibarra Abreu, a visual artist and undergraduate at Trinity St David University, Charly Ibarra Abreu, a digital artist and media studies student at Swansea University and Carlos Ibarra Rivadeneira, educationalist and refugee support worker. They will lead the session alongside Patricia Jones who leads the ILLA.  

Blood and Gold – A Journey   
Thursday 23rd June, 12:30 – 13:30 

In her award-winning show Blood and Gold, which had its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe, Mara Menzies explores migration journeys, weaving tragedy, loss, and trauma in a rich tapestry which tells the story of colonialism, migration, and oppression but also of humanity, love, and healing.   

Mara Menzies is an award-winning performance storyteller whose dynamic, colourful style brings this ancient artform to life, drawing on her rich, dual Kenyan / Scottish cultural heritage, to create worlds that explore contemporary issues though legend, myth, and fantasy. She has been invited to share stories in 27 countries with her latest production, ‘Blood and Gold’ exploring the legacy of colonialism and slavery through myth, legend, and fantasy. It premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019 as part of the Made in Scotland showcase and was nominated for the CATS award 2020 and was one of 5 shows nominated for the Filipa Braganca award for best emerging solo female performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019, receiving rave reviews from top theatre critics. 

All tickets are now available on Eventbrite 

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Hazel Nixon

One Comment

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  1. Thank you for sharing this @hazelnixon, the Refugee at the OU sessions we inspired, emotive and captivating. I truly felt a sense of belonging listening to others who are Migrants and Refugees (like myself having moved to the UK in 1997 due to being displaced by a natural disaster) and although some of the experiences expressed were harrowing and heartfelt, for my it signified hope and overcoming, against all odds.

    Still, I know those were the voices of only a few, and that many others are still at risk of serious harm, social and economic inequities and isolation (something the pandemic subjected many of us to but highlighted, for many marginalised groups, challenges with immigration and finding suitable living spaces and places of refuge, the weight is near impossible to bear).

    The work the Sanctuary at the OU Team (website link here: and OSTARS club (Facebook page link here: are doing, to amplify and advocate for the voices of these cohorts (including staff and students at the OU) is commendable, and I am truly grateful to see the (new) Open Futures Sanctuary Scholarships for Students (Link to the OU’s website: is presently open and available to students, until the cut off date on July 22nd 2022.

    I hope OU Students are embracing this opportunity and/or are sharing it with their peers, to ensure others can benefit from this also. I, for one, am sharing it and encouraging students to do the same!! πŸ‘πŸΎ

    Thank you once more for your collective efforts and for this article and insightful event.

    Patrice 🌺🌱🌀️
    (V P E D I)