From politics to potatoes: real views and stories from Bristol refugees and asylum seekers.
Bristol Free Voice facilitators talk about how they’re challenging negative perceptions of refugees by creating a platform for people to speak in their own words.
Bristol Free Voice is an attempt to tackle the ugly stereotypes about refugees and asylum seekers in the mainstream media, which fuel hate crimes, discrimination and prejudice.
We – a group of volunteers and members with the charities Bristol Refugee Rights and Borderlands – have begun talking about what we can do to change this. We are creating a platform that refugees and asylum seekers in the Bristol community can use to express themselves, on any subject.
We’ll publish stories on politics, whether it’s opinions on the immigration process from people who are living through it, or looking at issues like housing that affect asylum seekers and everyone else too. We’ll also publish on culture and lifestyle, with people sharing everything from music mixes to potato recipes from their home countries, for everyone to read.
It’s about challenging stereotypes by getting to know people through their own words and perspectives, as well as showcasing the talent and skills in Bristol’s refugee community.
For our first project, the Voice Box, we recorded a group of refugees and asylum seekers sharing ideas and memories of home. Though participants told their stories anonymously, each person picked a meaningful object go with their words – a flower that reminded them of their garden at home, for example, or an item important to their work.
These stories were showcased at the Arnolfini as part of this year’s Refugee Festival; people listened to the recordings while looking at the objects the speakers had chosen. Their reactions included that the experience was “fantastic”, and that the Voice Box was a reminder that “it is not ‘me’, it is not ‘you’, it is us all together”. One person noted that the event offered a glimpse “behind the masks” that diversity can sometimes present, helping promote a better understanding of others, while another commented, “Bristol is a very diverse city, and to show off that diversity is the only solution we have for the future.”
To build on the success of the Voice Box, we want to give a platform to more people and to experiment with different ways in which people can express themselves, such as podcasts and articles.
We’re facilitators, so people can tell us what they want to talk about and have a stage from which to do it. A few people have told us that they want to speak on women’s issues, so that’s what we’ll be working on next. We want to hear from you too.