Art Refuge 

Art Refuge uses socially engaged art and art therapy to support the mental health and well-being of people displaced due to conflict, persecution and poverty, in the UK and internationally. Established in 2006, in recent years its attention has focused on supporting people in transit on either side of the English Channel - in Calais and  Kent - as well as in Paris, London, Bristol, online and further afield. 

Involved in the charity's work since 2008, I have been its CEO since 2015 as well as one its team of freelance artists and art therapists who work on project delivery for Art Refuge. A growing number of the team are artists with lived experience of displacement. Other artists, poets, activists, academics and researchers join at different times. Together they have developed The Community Table as a conceptual framework and physical entity that forms the basis around which both activity and thinking across much of the charity’s direct work takes place. It grew from a response to the urgent issues at stake for people trying to survive on the France-UK border, is used across all project sites and in a range of other settings with diverse audiences and participants. 

The freelance practitioners meet fortnightly as The Community Table Collective for peer support, discussion, planning and a shared art-making space. They also come together in various constellations for exhibitions, workshops, actions, events and research. All members of the collective have a shared commitment to the charity’s core ethos, based upon a participatory and collaborative practice informed by decades of individual and collective experience and skills in the creative industries, socially engaged arts practices, art therapy, mental health, trauma work and psychosocial approaches. 

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