Last night I covered the event From War Zone to Sanctuary held by Bath Welcomes Refugees (BWR) at the Guildhall, Bath. I was asked to photograph the event by Bath Life magazine for their upcoming issue and have used the words as written by Bernadette Howley, chair of BWR, to provide some context to my images below.
The fundraising event consisted of an evening of story through the words of Molly Case, a writer, nurse and spoken word artist; through the lenses of Abbie Trayler-Smith, an award-winning photographer, and Kae Bahar, a film maker whose short films are sweeping the award decks at film festivals all over the world; and through the haunting and beautiful music of Nabra, an oud duo from Bristol. Guests were encouraged to connect with Kae, Abbie, Molly, and Ali and Knud, all who have either suffered, recorded or helped in the on-going refugee crisis.
The evening started with a poem read by Tashan Bahar, daughter of Kae Bahar.
After Tashan’s beautiful introduction, Ali Elmubarak, a refugee from Sudan, and Knud Stüwe, the son of a refugee who fled East Prussia at the end of World War Two, took to the stage as Nabra. Nabra means the sound of your own voice in Arabic and is the name chosen for their oud duo. The pair came together via a scheme devised by Bristol Refugee Rights to introduce refugees to professional musicians. Ali and Knud share a deep love of music, in particular, the haunting sound of the oud; a classical African and Arabic instrument similar to the lute and guitar. Since connecting through the scheme the duo have gone from strength to strength and are to be found playing their unique blend of traditional African and contemporary Western music at gigs and festivals across the UK. Their partnership, like their music, has crossed borders and broken down boundaries. It was a true pleasure to listen to and see performed live.
After the amazing tones of Nabra, Abbie Trayler-Smith gave a presentation. Abbie is a documentary and portrait photographer whose work draws on an emotional response and engagement with her subject. Her first job was for The Daily Telegraph in London where she spent 8 years covering news and features worldwide, including the Iraq war, the Darfur crisis and the Asian tsunami. In 2007 she joined Panos Pictures and has continued to document social issues worldwide for international clients including the Guardian, Sunday Times, BBC, Time Magazine, Newsweek Oxfam and UNICEF. Her work has won prizes in The World Press Photo Awards, The Taylor Wessing Portrait Award, The Magnum Ideastap Grant and been shortlisted for many others.
After Abbie’s presentation, the evening continued with poetry from spoken word artist, Molly Case. Molly achieved international recognition after her poem ‘Nursing the Nation’ gained over 350,000 views on YouTube in a matter of weeks. Molly’s work has appeared in the Guardian, the Independent, the Times, Elle magazine and Huffington Post, and she was named in the Health Service Journal’s Inspirational Women list and the BBC’s 100 Women list in 2013. Her debut collection of poetry, ‘Underneath the Roses Where I Remembered Everything’ was out last year with Burning Eye Books. Earlier this year Molly travelled to Calais to help in The Jungle. There she was confronted with the harsh realities of flight and frustrated hopes all of which provided her with further material for her writing and poetry.
Towards the end of the evening, the documentary filmmaker and actor Kae Bahar introduced an extract from his latest film before speaking about his experiences. The UK based Kurdistan-born writer made his directorial debut in film drama, I Am Sami, that went on to win over 40 awards in Festivals around the world. A Special Guest, his second fiction film, explores the theme of refugee resettlement from the perspectives of a refugee child and an elderly couple that wish to extend welcome. This film will be released later this year in advance of a feature film, Blindfold Shoes. Kae is also a successful writer. Letters from a Kurd, a fictional tale of a young boy’s experiences under Iraq’s harshest regime, has received great reviews.
The event was run by Bath Welcomes Refugees (BWR). They are a young organisation with one simple aim: to bring to safety and security in the UK those people persecuted and in danger in their own countries and homelands, and in particular to help them settle in Bath or the surrounding area, should that be where their journey ends. After Kae had spoken, BWR introduced a special guest named Foutoun Dasouki to the stage – a refugee who has been helped by BWR and spoke of her experiences.
BWR maintains an a-political and a-religious position so that this one simple aim stays forever at the front of BWR’s efforts whatever else may be happening globally, nationally or locally. BWR is run by volunteers and aligns its operation with the goals of Refugees Welcome and supports those campaigns initiated to improve the circumstances of refugees. It also seeks to support and assist all agencies involved in settling refugees locally through practical hands-on involvement, befriending, fundraising, and campaigning where necessary.