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Public talks and events

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We are keen to promote local awareness of a variety of issues relating to asylum-seekers and refugees, and our goal is to deliver a programme of (almost always) free public talks and events which allow a wide range of voices to be heard: those who have fled, those who volunteer to support them, and those whose work is to assist them. The following is a list of our public talks and events to date.

Asylum Matters 19 November 2020
Mary Brandon from our sister-organisation Asylum Matters kindly talked to us over Zoom about the key issues facing refugees and asylum-seekers.
Mary is extremely knowledgeable about government policy and understands how to campaign to improve refigees’ rights and the quality of their lives. She gave us an update on various campaigns and a heads-up on what’s likely to be in the ‘fairer borders bill’.

Margaret Fingerhut in concert 1 November 2019
We were delighted that Margaret Fingerhut gave a fundraising piano concert for us, focusing on themes of composers in exile. The history of classical music is full of composers who left their homelands because of war, political upheaval or fear of persecution. Other composers who had to move country because of their work were arguably no less homesick. This concert tells the stories of some of these composers through their piano music.

Live video-call to a Syrian refugee in Amman, Jordan 17 October 2019
What’s it like to live as a Syrian refugee in Amman – where there’s the same language and culture, but no hope? When you’re 21 and a widow, with 2 small children, and you’re not permitted to work? How do you survive when the UN can no longer afford to give you food vouchers? We taked to Asmaa, who told us her story.

Jack Mapanje – Poetry and Exile 12 October 2019
In partnership with Ripon Poetry Festival, we welcomed to Ripon Malawian poet Jack Mapanje, who read from his work and talked about the impact of imprisonment and exile on his poetry.

As part of Refugee Week 2019 17-23 June (see poster)

  • Monday 23 June – We showed the Australian refigee comedy ‘The Merger’. 
  • Tuesday 18 June – We held a vigil in Ripon Cathedral, remembering those who have had to flee and those who died trying. 
  • Thursday 20 June – We had a market stall in Ripon market and invited conversations with the public.
  • Thursday 20 June – We hosted a talk with Iraqi refugee poet and academic Dr Ahmed F Khaleel (with Ripon Poetry festival)
  • All week – We put up a City of Sanctuary display at Ripon Library

AGM 13 May 2019
At our 2019 AGM, we reported on our work over the past year and showed 2 short films. The call to action was to sign a letter to our MP about ending unlimited detention for refugees/asylum-seekers, and the collection was towards the cost of buying refugee-related books for our schools of sanctuary. All the documents and links from our AGM are here.

Day out in Ripon 14 April 2019
We bussed a coach of 50 refugees and asylum-seekers over to Ripon for lunch and a day out with us and Ripon’s Syrian families. 9 nationalities were represented, from Egyptian to Kurdish to Cameroonian to Rohingya. We had a wonderful day, with visits to the cathedral, Spa Gardens and Workhouse Museum.

Gulwali Passarlay 14 March 2019
We welcomed acclaimed author Gulwali Passarlay, author of The Lightless Sky – My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee. He told the fascinating story of his arduous childhood escape from Afghanistan to a new life in Britain. He is now a TEDx speaker, activist and consultant. He made lots of time for signing books for all who wanted one.

Asylum Matters 24 January 2019
We very much enjoyed guest speaker Mary Brandon, campaign projects manager for Yorkshire & Humberside at Asylum Matters.

Welcome to York 3 November 2018
We took a Syrian family from Ripon to participate in York City of Sanctuary’s ‘Welcome to York’ programme (a day of hospitality and exploring the city).

Ripon Cathedral Mothers’ Union 30 October 2018
We gave a presentation covering our support for the Syrian families as well as our wider work.

Palestinian poetry 13 October 2018
As part of Ripon Poetry Festival, Palestinian poet Mustafa Abu Sneineh and British writer Naomi Foyle came up from London and Brighton, respectively, to read and discuss their poetry at the Old Deanery.

Awareness stall, Ripon Market 11 October 2018
We talked to the public about asylum issues from 9am to 3:30pm, focusing on the Lift the Ban campaign.

Prayer station 1 August 2018
We had a City of Sanctuary prayer station at Ripon Cathedral charities day.

As part of Refugee Week 2018 18-24 June (see poster)

  • Saturday 16 June – We joined Ripon Cathedral for a walk and thoughtful contemplation of sanctuary in the context of Ripon. 
  • Monday 18 June – We held a free film night with 2 movies: a short entitled Only my Voice (2017, 12 mins) about 4 women from the Middle East as they transit through Athens, and a feature-length film entitled Syrian Stories (100 mins, 2017) revealing the diverse experiences of Syrian people displaced by war and living in neighbouring coutries. 
  • Wednesday 20 June – We hosted a celebration of Schools of Sanctuary at Ripon Cathedral.
  • Wednesday 20 June – We gave a public talk about the work of Ripon City of Sanctuary at Grewelthorpe Village Hall.
  • All week – We put up a City of Sanctuary display at Ripon Library

Volunteer service 3 June 2018
We participated in the volunteer service at Ripon Cathedral.

AGM 23 April 2018
Our first-ever AGM was a public meeting held at Allhallowgate Methodist Church Hall, Ripon. We reported on several areas of our work, including campaigning, Schools of Sanctuary, events, refugee support, clothes collections and more. After the formal business, we welcomed 2 special guests, Syrian men who have been resettled in Ripon, who told something of their stories from Syria into Lebanon and then on to the UK, having been offered sanctuary here under the SVPR scheme.

Day out on the farm 24 March 2018
We took the Syrian families to 2 farms in Nidderdale, with lunch kindly provided by Pateley Bridge Methodist Church

The SVPR scheme from both sides 26 February 2018
Jonathan Spencer from NYCC has responsibility for resettling North Yorkshire’s share of the government’s 20,000 intake of Syrian refugees. He explained how the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (SVPR) scheme works: how refugees are chosen, how they get here, where they are resettled and why, and how they are supported. Then, through an interpreter, we heard for the first time publicly from Oday, the father in one of the 3 Syrian families who have been settled in Ripon. He told some of the story of his journey from Syria to Lebanon and then on to the UK, and what it’s been like to try and settle in such an alien culture.

Trip to Wakefield District of Sanctuary 17 February 2018
We took Ripon’s Syrian families to Wakefield District of Sanctuary, where we met with Wakefield’s Syrian families for lunch and a day of socialising and music.

New Year party 2 January 2018
We hosted a party for Ripon’s Syrian families at Allhallowgate Methodist Church Ripon.

Campaigning in Support of Asylum-Seekers & Refugees 15 November 2017
Lorna Gledhill of Asylum Matters spoke about campaigning to support asylum-seekers and refugees in response to the key issues they face. She reviewed how the effects of the government’s stated policy of creating a ‘hostile environment’ for asylum-seekers is resulting in denial of access to basic rights and, frequently, destitution, and what we can do to put pressure on decision-makers to protect human rights. Lorna is campaigns project manager for Yorkshire and Humberside at Asylum Matters, an advocacy and campaigns project that works in partnership locally and nationally to improve the lives of refugees and asylum-seekers through social and political change. Lorna is bang up-to-date on the relevant legislation and data around these issues.

Investigating War Crimes 10 April 2017
We were delighted to welcome Philip Trewhitt OBE, of IICI. War crimes contribute significantly to the number of civilians who are displaced from conflict zones. Philip spoke about the various types of war crime; how investigations are approached; the challenges inherent in securing convictions; and how refugees can provide evidence and be involved in the process. He is the executive director of IICI, based in The Hague, which investigates, and trains investigators in, alleged violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Philip previously held a number of positions at the United Nations and was the UK’s lead on transitional justice in Baghdad. He is a recipient of the Order of the British Empire and the Office of the US Secretary of Defense Public Service Award.

International Family Tracing/Refugee Camp Design British Red Cross, January 2017
Olivia Franck s
poke very movingly about the Red Cross’ international family tracing programme, a vital service to families who become separated when fleeing. Maria Netto, a PhD researcher, spoke on the subject of the planning and layout of refugee camps, which has astonishingly not altered since Roman times.

Planning for the Syrians’ Arrival 3 October 2016
The Refugee Council has been awarded North Yorkshire’s contract for resettling our region’s share of the 20,000 Syrian refugees being brought to the UK under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (SVPR) scheme. Richard Orton outlined the forthcoming arrival of 3 Syrians families who have been offered humanitarian protection in Ripon, and discussed ways in which volunteers can provide support.

One in 122 10 August, 2016
One person in every 122 has had to flee, and the numbers worldwide equate almost exactly to the entire population of the UK. John Mellor, chair of Ripon City of Sanctuary and a trustee of national City of Sanctuary has been supporting refugees and asylum-seekers for many years, including previously in Southampton, which is why he was able to deliver an outstanding talk about the scale and nature of the global asylum crisis, and how the asylum system works in the UK. He provided stories of 10 asylum-seekers known personally to him – a poignant insight into a very complex and frightening situation.

Life in the UK as a Long-Term Asylum-Seeker February 2016
We were visited by two asylum-seekers from Africa: both living in Leeds, both in the UK for over a decade (one married to a British man), and both still waiting for a decision on their asylum application. They described why they were forced to leave everything (and everyone) behind in Africa; what it’s like to deal with the Home Office; the challenges of uncertainty, poverty and boredom; and their hopes for the future.

Two Sides of the Syrian Refugee Crisis 22 June 2016
First-hand accounts of the Syrian refugee crisis were provided by 2 speakers. Najem, a Syrian refugee living in Ripon, talked about how his life changed as a result of the outbreak of war, what happened to his village as a result of a siege/occupation by ISIS and subsequently the coalition bombing (the results of which he showed via video footage he had shot himself) and how he came to the UK. Lily David, a Ripon resident studying in Jordan, talked about her part-time work as an intern for UNHCR at Zaatari, the enormous UNHCR-run refugee camp in Jordan, and doing welfare visits with Syrian refugees in the capital, Amman.

Life in the Jungle May 2016
Amanda Harrison, who lives in Ripon, spoke about her experiences volunteering at the Jungle in Calais, at Dunkirk, and in Greece.