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'Out of Place' Learning Lab: Camps and Urban Settlements: The Role and Impact of the Arts

Out of Place is a Learning Lab launching a multidisciplinary research programme and cross-sector collaboration.

Partners: Royal Holloway University of London, Counterpoints Arts and FilmAid, in association with Shoreditch Trust.

Counterpoints Arts' Learning Lab runs in partnership with the British Council


Date: 23 January 2015
Time: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm (with lunch provided and evening reception)

Venue: Shoreditch Trust, Units 1-2 Waterhouse, 8 Orsman Road, London N1 5QJ

What is the place of culture and the arts in the refugee experience when identities and basic human needs are stripped away?

Bring your knowledge, stories and experience to help us reflect on the role of culture and the arts in refugee camps and urban settlements.

The number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people now exceeds 50 million people. ‘We are witnessing', says Antonio Guterres, head of the UN's refugee agency, ‘a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world'. Journalist, Harriet Sherwood, imagines this quantum leap geographically: ‘if displaced people had their own country it would be the 24th most populous in the world'.

Filmmakers, visual artists, theatre practitioners, architects, writers, performers and musicians are producing powerful and provocative work on the lived realities of refugee communities in camps and urban settlements.

The Out of Place Learning Lab explores a series of critical questions, these include:

• In what ways can the creative arts and the power of everyday storytelling constitute a restorative role in the re-building of recently formed communities of place, specifically refugees?

• How are stories and experiences on the ground mediated first hand through literature, film, photography, theatre, music and the visual arts? Who is listening and engaging locally and globally?

• What do arts and culture do that humanitarian support and infrastructures cannot? How do arts and culture work with and alongside humanitarian practices and agencies to develop educational opportunities for potentially lost generations of children and youth, particularly young women and girls?

• How is it possible to re-think ‘first response', reckoning with a diversity of cultures in the design and messaging of humanitarian aid?

During the course of a day-long learning incubator, we will collectively make sense of just how and whether the creative arts and culture works as a catalyst for change within the everyday infrastructures of refugee groups, in camps, such as Dadaab, (Kenya), Ein el-Helweh (Lebanon) and Za'atari (Jordan), as well as far flung refugees in outlying communities and urban settlements in global host countries.

We aim to find imaginative and practical ways of bridging silos and sector languages, unpacking techniques, outlining priorities, and communicating and sharing hard-won experiences gained on the ground.

Out of Place

Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings.
Edward W. Said

The specific aim of Out of Place is to explore the role that arts, culture and new technologies play for communities in the midst of global humanitarian crises and human displacement and re-settlement. The Learning Lab will address this question through bringing together a mix of participants working as change-makers with and alongside refugee individuals and groups living in precarious global communities of place. These will include: people and projects working within the creative arts and culture, development and NGO agencies, academics, cross-sector practitioners, activists and technology innovators.

Out of Place embraces the potential of bringing like-minded global projects into a productive dialogue in order to make sense of diverse yet complimentary practices and to establish collaborative alliances.

The title of this Learning Lab and research project Out of Place is used in two ways - as historical homage to the late Edward Said's memoir of 1999 evoking personal legacies of displacement and exile, together with acknowledging rich, creative legacies and ordinary practices of place-making.


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