In June 2007 Norwich became the UK’s first City of Refuge, thereby signalling its commitment to free speech and anti-racism.
National Centre for Writing has promoted the City of Refuge aims through a community programme since 2006. As a literature development organisation, we use the medium of creative writing to work in schools, libraries, arts venues and community centres to encourage students and the wider community to think about ideas of home and belonging, and what it may feel like to be exiled.
“I learnt that refugees shouldn't be given a hard time in their new country, as they've probably had a hard enough time.” Esther, aged 13, Notre Dame High School, workshop participant
- Every year we take part in and programme various Refugee Week events in Norwich in June, celebrating the contribution of refugees to the UK.
- We have trained journalists in the sensitivities and complexities of refugee and asylum seeker coverage, looking at the legal terminology and at how these stories are often misrepresented in the press.
- The ‘Strangers and Canaries’ schools project pairs exiled and refugee writers with local professional writers in local schools and youth groups. The students learn about refugees and asylum seekers through creative writing workshops initiated through the topic of the ‘Strangers’ of Norfolk.
- The Shahrazad Letters to Europe Project brought together six of the ICORN cities. Writers across the world were commissioned to write ‘Letters to Europe’ expressing their feelings on the identity and future of Europe, including how Europe is perceived by refugees and asylum seekers. School children have been responding to these letters by writing their own letters to Europe. Some of these letters have then been made into films (in partnership with BBC Voices).
- Many different members of the community have had the opportunity to create digital films on stories relating to topics like ‘home’ and ‘identity’.
- A Place of Safety
National Centre for Writing hosted it’s first exiled Writer in Residence in 2008. Jiao Guobiao from China arrived in Norwich in February 2008, and was given a place to stay, time to write, and the opportunity to tell his story at various events around the UK. We’ve continued to host writers and provide this space for safety and reflection.
If you would like to get involved with any part of the City of Refuge programme, we are always open to volunteers. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org