Rise & Shine: A creative response to the refugee crisis
We’re very proud to be supporting RISE & SHINE; A creative awakening, raising awareness and funds for the global refugee crisis. Which in layman’s terms is in essence a great big party, all in the name of an extremely good cause.
Held across Temple of Boom and Byron Street Mills on the 12th December, there’ll be cornucopia of things to keep you entertained throughout the day including guest speakers, live music, DJ sets, creative workshops, vintage clothes shops, street food, and live art.
However, as much as the event is about getting together as a community to create a memorable day, the underlying message is a very important one, wanting to create a platform for those who need to have their stories heard and funds to help improve their quality of life.
This struck a chord with all the Independent Leeds team when we first got involved in the planning process but especially resonated with our writer, Louise who became best friends with a refugee named Fitore back in her primary school years. The story she tells isn’t one laced with politics, race or culture but one of the precious all-encompassing acceptance which children bring to the table
For some, the word refugee conjures up the pictures you see slapped across the tabloids with emotive headlines, tactically used to instill fear of the unknown or conveying compassion. However, whenever I think about refugees it brings back resounding memories of the fun I had with my primary school best friend, Fitore.
Back then when I was only seven, my childish naivety meant that I was unaware of the severity of the situation which had created the arrival of Kosovan refugees in Halifax. Around ten families moved into the estate down the road and Fitore, a girl about a year older than me, ended up in my class at school.
There were big language barriers but like any friendship at that age, it blossomed from a game of tag and after a few weeks we were inseparable. We got by on the limited English she had picked up extraordinarily quickly, playground games and a whole heap of imagination. To me Fitore wasn’t a refugee, she was my best friend. There was no difference between her and any of the other children in my class, she was fun and that was enough for me to seal our friendship with matching bracelets and an invite to come for tea.
She would come round to mine and be treated to the delights of traditional English meals and I relished the opportunity to go round to hers. I would make the trip down the road and be welcomed with open arms by all her family. Her dad would walk us along to the corner shop and treat us to a bag of penny sweets and her neighbours would invite me to their birthday party, even though I’d never met them before. I remember thinking that their street was one of the most exciting places to go, much more fun than some of the other kid’s houses from school.
Over her time in England we went ice skating, went on trips out to Harewood House and just did everything that normal seven year old friends do. So, when I was told the news that her and her family would be going back to Kosovo, I was mortally upset. I didn’t want to lose my friend. We threw a party for her send off and I gave her a photo album full of pictures of her time in England, putting in my home telephone number and address. My mum explained to me that it would be hard for Fitore to keep in touch but I was hopeful.
Around nine years later, I was sat in my house one day when the phone rang. Unusually for me as a stubborn teenager I actually got up to answer the phone. Very faintly on the other end came a voice I recognised and in broken English she explained that it was Fitore. I was lost for words and elated at the same time. I was so happy to hear she was ok and doing well but it was a bit of a shock. Soon after that she had found me on Facebook and we would message every now and then. Like most of us with our primary school friends, we grew up, got our own lives with different interests and drifted apart a little but we will always have a huge mutual respect for each other and each other’s cultures.
The term refugee is so widely used nowadays but like many societal labels it isn’t a term which can describe the essence of the person it’s given to. To me Fitore wasn’t a refugee, she was the girl who loved to join in our playground dance routines to the Spice Girls latest song and the person who would always cheer me up.
She was my best friend and my door will always be open for her.
You can find out more about the event and everything planned for RISE & SHINE over on the Facebook page