Festival celebrates refugees’ culture

HUNDREDS of people joined together in Staple Hill to celebrate the cultures of people who have moved to Bristol and South Gloucestershire as refugees.

The Celebrate with Me event on June 15 saw performers from four continents appear in Page Park, including dancers and musicians from Nicaragua, Columbia, Cameroon, Ukraine and Hong Kong.

Audience members also had the chance to join in with dance workshops led by some of the performers at the end of their shows.

As well as music and dance, there was also a chance to taste the food of some of the cultures present – a stall serving free Ukrainian pies was emptied within half an hour, and there were also queues for Syrian cookies and treats from Hong Kong.

It was the third year that the event had been staged at the park’s bandstand, as part of the Bristol Refugee Festival.

Celebrate with Me was organised by Melody Beard of the Park’s Bean Tree Cafe, with South Gloucestershire Race Equality Network and dance and culture charity Movema, supported by South Gloucestershire Council, the Friends of Page Park and a team of volunteers.

Melody said between 600 and 800 people attended the five-hour event, despite early heavy rain and strong winds that only let up about half an hour before the start.

The audience included refugees and asylum seekers living in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, with charity Julian House organising transport to ensure some of them could attend.

Melody said 80% of the performers were or had been refugees or asylum seekers.

She said: “We wanted to have as many people on the programme as possible with lived experience.

“It was a day that was fun for all, and really inclusive – everyone was just enjoying everything on offer.

“If you walked around you saw people of so many nationalities, from Hong Kong and Ukrainian to Sudanese and Ethiopian, showing a willingness to be integrated into the community.

“It was great to see the community spirit and people being made to feel welcome in Page Park.”