The power of solidarity and the importance of freedom of expression have become ever more important in the current times of crisis, turmoil, and war. Globally, writers, artists, and journalists are facing growing threats and persecution. The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) is a global network organisation of more than 75 cities offering long-term, temporary residencies for writers, artists, and journalists at risk. The City of Gdańsk welcoming more than 250 participants from over 35 countries for the ICORN General Assembly under the theme of Solidarity. The conference will take place at the European Solidarity Centre between 8th and 10th of June 2022 and parts of it will be open to the public.
Inspired by the history of Gdańsk’s Solidarity Movement, the ICORN General Assembly will provide an opportunity for the membership, writers and artists in exile, and city officials and guests to meet after three long pandemic years. Suitably, the Mayor of Gdańsk Aleksandra Dulkiewicz will open the event at 9:30 on Thursday, 9th June, followed by the opening keynote speech by Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President of Poland, Lech Wałęsa at 10 am. The programme on the opening day of the ICORN General Assembly will also include a mayoral debate with mayors and vice mayors from seven different countries, including a testimony from the Mayor of Mariupol, Vadym Boychenko.
Throughout the two days, there will be several panel discussions on issues of freedom of expression, international solidarity, art and democracy, and refugee reception involving writers and artists in exile, policy makers, and NGO representatives. The ICORN General Assembly participants will engage in a diverse program, including workshops on the protection and promotion of writers and artists at risk, and psychosocial well-being. The context and impact of the war in neighbouring Ukraine will be taken into consideration in all events.
The artists performing on the first day of the conference will be Belarusian artist and activist Lesia Pcholka, the current ICORN resident in Gdańsk, musicians Yasmine El Baramawy (Egypt/ Malmö) and Justina (Iran/ Piteå), and artists Maryam Sharifi and Hamid Sakhizada (Afghanistan/ Harstad). The second day of General Assembly will see poetic contributions by Murshida Zaman (Bangladesh/Copenhagen) and Hafsah Mujali (Yemen/ Amsterdam). The conference will finish with a screening of the film ‘Writing on the City’ by Iranian filmmaker and ICORN resident Keywan Karimi.
The ICORN General Assembly will be happening in parallel with the European Poet of Freedom Literary Festival. Two ICORN residents, Aaiún Nin (Angola, Krakow) and Dareen Tatour (Palestine/ Östersund) will be reading their poems on Thursday 9th June at 21:00 as part of the literary festival. Other important partners who have supported the organisation and logistics of the ICORN General Assembly in Gdańsk are Visit Gdańsk, The Gdańsk City Gallery, Günter Grass Gallery and NOMUS/ New Art Museum.