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Art, theatre, music and poetry are all being used to raise awareness of the refugee crisis. Here are some projects created for and by refugees to promote unity

Art, theatre, music and poetry are all being used to raise awareness of the refugee crisis

Paper boat project

Horrified by the sheer number of refugee deaths caused by failed boat crossings this year, artist Bern O’Donoghue’s paper boat project aims to humanise the figures we hear about in the news.

For the project – called Dead Reckonings – O’Donoghue has made a paper boat for each of the 3,423 refugees who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. She’s currently looking for galleries interested in exhibiting the installation.

A second project, Refugees Crossing, is her reaction to the misrepresentation of refugees by politicians and the media. Supporters can sign up via the Facebook page to receive 30 paper boats which come with facts about the crisis printed on them. You are then encouraged to leave the boats in public spaces for others to find. facebook.com/Refugees-Crossing

The Paper Project's visual performances are accessible to those who can't speak English

See art

Baraa Ehsaan Kouja, a Syrian student at the University of Exeter, has curated a new exhibition created by refugee children. From Syria with Love consists of around 25 prints of poignant drawings and paintings made by Syrian refugee children aged between 12 and 18 currently living in Al-Abrar refugee camp in Lebanon. Each picture is accompanied by the child’s, name, age, and dream – often as simple as the desire to return home.

From Syria with Love aims to thank the countless relief workers that Kouja has met since his time at Exeter. The project is currently seeking a UK venue to host the exhibition. Those interested should visit facebook.com/Baraakouja

Respond to Shakespeare with Jazz Bards

Without Borders is a collective of London poets from refugee and migrant backgrounds, who will be fusing poetry with spoken performance and a three-piece jazz band to create a new, modern response to the work of William Shakespeare.

Following three workshops led by theatre director Arne Pohlmeier and poet Laila Sumpton, and focusing on The Comedy of Errors, the show at Arcola Theatre on 30 January will be Bards Without Borders’ premiere performance. For more information, visit counterpointsarts.org.uk and to book tickets arcolatheatre.com

Explore the issue

The Paper Project began as a collaboration between seven young artists from migrant communities and award-winning British artist Mark Storor, who specialises in collaborating with people on the margins of society.

The group explores the issues and experiences of migration, in particular the trafficking of young people and the human rights of undocumented children, and their most recent piece – Safina Al Hayat, which means ‘lifeboat’ in Arabic – addressed the current refugee crisis, and was made in solidarity with all those who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean.

The group’s highly visual performances make them accessible to those who can’t speak English, with shows often presented in non-theatre settings to reach a wide audience. The Paper Project team are currently working on new ideas for 2016 and are seeking crowdfunding to be able to continue to perform. crowdfunder.co.uk/paperproject2015

Mentor a refugee’s writing

Freedom from Torture is a centre offering care, treatment and support for torture survivors to help them rebuild their lives.

Write to Life is the centre’s creative writing group, which turns poignant, tragic stories into pieces of poetry, music or art. Its members read all over the country, write for online and print publications and star in live theatre and film. They meet every two weeks for group workshops, with each member offered one-to-one mentoring from professional writers. Want to get involved? Visit freedomfromtorture.org/survivor-voices/7086

Visit an art installation

In partnership with St James’s Church Piccadilly, internationally renowned conflict artist Arabella Dorman is putting together an installation called Flight, comprising one of the rubber dinghies that has ferried refugees from Turkey, and three life jackets – two adult and one child-size, representing the Holy Family.

The installation will be illuminated from below and will also include personal testimonies from refugees and a selection of photographs to reiterate the significance of each life jacket and boat that has travelled across the Aegean this year.

You can see the installation from 10 December until 7 January, but this is part of a much bigger project, so check back on the website for details. The installation will be moving elsewhere, so if you think you can host it at a venue contact Dorman via arabelladorman.com

See a play

New play Nine Lives tells the story of Ishmael, who has fled from his home in Zimbabwe to escape life-threatening homophobia and find a new life. The ensuing story, penned by Zodwa Nyoni – Channel 4’s Writer in Residence at the West Yorkshire Playhouse – threads together both humour and humanity to tell the personal story behind asylum headlines.

The play received rave reviews when it debuted at the West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year, and after a national tour it comes to London to the Arcola Theatre from 6-30 January 2016. To buy tickets, visit arcolatheatre.com/production/arcola/nine-lives

Read all about it

Brave New Voices promotes freedom of expression and encourages asylum seekers to write

Around 100 different languages are spoken in most London boroughs. Brave New Voices is a three-year project offering creative writing and translation workshops to young refugees and asylum seekers with the aim of celebrating their multilingual skills.

It was devised by English PEN, a worldwide writers’ association that defends freedom of expression and champions the global exchange of literature and ideas. Supported by the Limbourne Trust and John Lyon’s Charity, the project will include sessions with young adult fiction writers from outside the UK alongside their translators, and at the end of each year, English PEN will publish an anthology of writing by the young refugees and asylum seekers who have taken part in the project. Visit englishpen.org to find out more.

Learn about Afghan arts

Afghan Association Paiwand is a multicultural organisation that was founded in 2002 by Afghan refugees living in London, working with refugees and migrants of all backgrounds and nationalities.

At its annual Afghan Cultural Festival in London (next taking place in summer 2016), the association celebrates the work of professional musicians, actors and poets, aiming to inspire young people and introduce Afghan arts to those living in London.

Paiwand means ‘integration’ in Dari and Farsi, and, in that vein, the festival promotes the creativity of multiculturalism by inviting the Afghan community and others to denounce violence and war. afghanculturalfestival.co.uk or paiwand.com

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