Coventry Launch Event

Coventry launched it’s quest to become a City of Sanctuary in September 2008 with an event which over 100 enthusiastic people attended. On March 2nd 2011 after much hard work and lots of fun we were awarded City of Sanctuary status

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This amazing achievement is as a result of a committed working group who have met every month and organised lots of events and projects and also 77 organisations across the city all doing what they can to make the city more welcoming.

The status is fantastic but we must always keep up the drive, especially since the current economic climate means some good organisations are closing and also the pressure of poverty is causing more hostility to people from other countries.

Coventry is a multi-cultural city and is known as a ‘City of Peace and Reconciliation’. In order for it to be a place of sanctuary it must be a city where

  • the skills and cultures of people seeking sanctuary are valued, they are included in local communities and able to contribute to the life of the city
  • community groups, local government, media, business, schools and colleges have a shared commitment to offering sanctuary so that it is seen as part of the city’s identity by local people
  • people seeking sanctuary can easily build relationships with local people as neighbours, friends and colleagues
  • through these relationships, local people come to understand the injustices refugees face and become motivated to support and defend them.

The images below are by Year 9 pupils at Blue Coat School. They were asked by their teacher what sanctuary means to them. We displayed their work in the window of an empty city centre shop throughout Coventry’s two-week Peace Festival in November and then made them into a City of Sanctuary calendar.

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You can spot more of their work on other pages

Refugee Week – June 2010

We organised two major events for Refugee Week both of which were a great success.

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On Sunday 13th June, in partnership with the New Communities Forum, we organised a big party in Nual’s Mill Park for people from new and established communities. Performances, activities, games and 5-a-side football brought people together across all sorts of divides. Older people taught young people to knit and a treasure hunt meant that people who didn’t know each other had to get into conversations to find the answers to questions. Young people from the two neighbouring schools – one state and one private – volunteered together. Apart from ice cream, everything was free – including plenty of food from around the world. We reckon 400 people came and the sun shone until just about the end!

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From Monday 14th June, in partnership with Voluntary Action Coventry, particularly Sabir Zazai from the Migration Impact Fund, we held an art exhibition by migrant artists about life in Coventry. It was launched by the Lord Mayor and was open all week in a very accessible street-level venue made of glass, which meant that even those who didn’t come in saw the paintings as they walked by. The exhibition had work by established artists and designers, by children and by groups like the refugee night shelter art group. Each artist had a story to tell and this was also captured, along with their work, in a free booklet.

Peace Festival 1st – 14th November 2009

Coventry has a Peace Festival every year which provides an ideal opportunity to put on sanctuary type events. This year included a host of events in public spaces including story telling, chalking, street theatre, listening events, a public sleep-out (to raise awareness of homelessness – particularly for those with ‘no recourse to public funds’) and many more.

CAGE_photo-smallThe detention cage in the city centre attracted a lot of attention and people learned about the use of detention for those seeking sanctuary and of its effects, particularly on children.

A week later, in the same space, volunteers chalked a full English breakfast with a ‘Thank You’ from a refugee from Somalia who had identified this as one of the many good things about British culture.

We also performed a street drama involving lots of people in white overalls listening to an inspiring speech based on Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. It was written and delivered by an Angolan refugee.

You can also read a diary of the ‘sleep-out’.

Anniversary Event.

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On the 21st September 2009 we had a big celebration in the Lord Mayor’s Hospitality Suite to mark the first anniversary of the launch of ‘Coventry City of Sanctuary’ and also to celebrate EID and Peace One Day.

It was a great success with over 100 people attending. The Darfur community provided food and displays and their Chair, Amer Adam was interviewed so we could all learn more about the history, culture and politics of their country.

Antonio from Angola and Anastasia from Zimbabwe both talked about City of Sanctuary and why it is important to them as refugees in this country and Valerie told us some of the things they have been doing in their church to make it more welcoming, such as having bibles and readings in other languages. It was a great opportunity for people to come together and have a good time.

Launch Event – film: ‘Coventry City of Sanctuary’

The launch of City of Sanctuary in Coventry was on the 25th September 2008. Hosted by the Lord Mayor, over 100 people thought hard about what Coventry would look like as a City of Sanctuary and what part they could have in achieving that dream.

Some of that is captured in a short film.