Refugee Week 2013

24th June 2013  |  News

During Refugee Week, a meeting was convened in Middlesbrough by Maurice Dezou for Tees Valley Arts, bringing together artists and voluntary and community organisations involved in supporting asylum seekers and refugees.

The idea was to use the occasion of Refugee Week to discuss and agree action on some key priorities that would make a real difference to the lives of our newer communities now resident in the Tees Valley.

It didn’t take long to identify the need for premises as being a key issue for everyone, for both cultural activities and as a resource for supporting and developing individuals and communities. This included creative spaces for workshops, performances, rehearsals and exhibitions and also as studio space for artists – the main points being affordability and security. A base for community events that also provides office and storage space was also needed.

It was thought that Exchange House in Marton Road, near the railway station, could be suitable for all of these purposes. Some of it is currently used for local archives but most is empty. It was already of interest to a small group of community organisations who aspired to buy or rent it as shared space for their operations, but who agreed that an offer on behalf of a wider collective of groups and individuals may make it more a viable proposition.

This will now be explored via discussions with the local authority owners, and with other potential partners and funders. Members of the Group will compile a list of potentially-interested parties, to be coordinated by Maurice Dezou. David Faulkner agreed to pursue a route via the Association of North East Councils to test interest from local authorities.

The meeting also decided in principle on a project for Refugee Week 2014 – to create and present a piece of work engaging artists from a range of art-forms who are drawn from the Tees Valley’s new communities or who can otherwise contribute to articulating a story around migration, identity and human rights.

The Group will meet again at 2pm at Tees Valley Arts on Monday 1 July to progress these two exciting ideas.

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