Open Arms Festival 13-22 May

FOR YOUR DIARY: our Ashburton group is running the ‘Myth Busting’ event on Friday 20th May with Beyond Borders Totnes. We will also be providing the catering for Changing Places on Friday 13th May. Please let us know if you would like to be involved in either of these, and look out for further communications.



The ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the civil war in Syria have brought issues of exile, migration and immigration to the fore with daily stories in the media. Debates about refugees and asylum seekers abound. In South Devon there has been an enormous movement of support for the people caught up in the crisis. And so South Devon Refugee Support Network (SDRSN) are delighted to be hosting OPEN ARMS Open Arms week flyerweek.

The festival runs from May 13th to May 22nd in and around Totnes, raising funds for local refugee support initiatives, highlighting debates around the subject and showcasing the literature and music of exile and immigration from around the world.

The programme in Totnes

The week kicks off with CHANGING PLACES; Crossing borders with words and music, at St. John’s Church on Friday 13th at 7.30pm, a performance by Visible Ink and Sam Richards.  Poetry and prose will be augmented with music on hang drum, cello and Appalachian dulcimer and Sam Richards on piano.

On Tuesday 17th May at 8.00pm Playback Theatre present WHAT SETS YOU ON FIRE? by Tarte Noire, a piece for a women-only audience which evolved from work with middle eastern refugees in Plymouth.

On Friday May 20th at The Methodist Church, Totnes, Ashburton Refugee Support Network will be running  REFUGEES: FACTS & FEARS, a ‘Myth Busting’ evening; a friendly opportunity for people to challenge both their own assumptions about refugees, and the assumptions of others through workshops and discussions.

The final performance will be UNITY IN MUSIC, Dartington Chamber OFlyer Myth Busting event v7 (1)rchestra presenting a celebration of Arab and British musical cultures featuring Merit Ariane Stephanos and other guest soloists in The Great Hall, Dartington.

Tickets for CHANGING PLACES and UNITY IN MUSIC are available from Dartington
Box Office. Other events are by donation on the door.

As part of the week’s activities, SDSRN are organising an invitation-only children’s activity day at White House on the Dartington estate, bringing together local children with asylum seeker and refugee families from Plymouth for a fun filled afternoon.

About South Devon Refugee Support Network (SDRSN)

The Network includes:  Ashburton Refugee Support Network; Beyond Borders Totnes and District; Citizens UK Totnes; The Dartington Hall Trust; and Embracing Refugees

Further information from: Anna Lunk –  Tel 01803 762751;; Ashburton Refugees Support Network website & Facebook page.

FOR YOUR DIARY: our Ashburton group is running the ‘Myth Busting’ event on Friday 20th May with Beyond Borders Totnes. We will also be providing the catering for Changing Places on Friday 13th May. Please let us know if you would like to be involved in either of these, and look out for further communications.

Minutes for meeting of 18th April 2016

Ashburton Welcome Refugees Group

Minutes of meeting held at The Quaker House on  18th April 201613006623_1018681061547739_5099872249103647701_n
Judy Gordon Jones chaired the meeting and welcomed:
Pip Harris, Jo Barley, Alexine Tinne, Nigel Ward, Inga Page, Yaara Gregory, Lucy Lepchani, Leafy Baumgartner, Jenny Donaldson and Hilary Townsend

Apologies were received from: Anne Watts, Sara Wilson and Simon Chater

1)     Modern Day Slavery

Pip reported that she had spoken with Ruth L-W. A charity from Bristol called Unchosen make films which highlight the incidents of Modern day Slavery:
There is a DVD of one of their films with the Totnes group at present.
The films tend to be more about trafficked people than refugees but there was a thought that maybe we could co-host a showing and invite a speaker from Restore charity in Exeter:

Yaara questioned whether we ‘fitted in’ with this and as Pip informed us that Ruth is linking with other Quaker groups on this anyway, suggested that we form a steering group to follow up any developments.

Volunteers – Pip, Yaara, Leafy and Inga. Action: YG to call a meeting for steering group & Ruth.

2). South Devon Support Group – 

Yaara and Jo Barley will attend the next group meeting on 19th April and report back.
The Totnes and Dartington groups are planning a joint ‘festival week’ in  May. As part of this, Yaara will make enquiries as to what exactly our contribution to an event in St John’s Church, Totnes on 13th May would entail. At this point it would appear that we are offering to provide ‘interval’ food – dips, savouries, olives etc. – for approximately 70 people.
Several suggestions on logistics and menus were offered and JGJ agreed to co-ordinate a requirement list on hearing back from Yaara. Action: JGJ to contact Anna Lunk of the Dartington group.

2). What is really needed?

Jo Barley reported that she has yet to contact Totnes School of Language.
Inga, Judy GJ and Sara are to attend ‘About Time’ in Plymouth.

On Saturday 7th May there is to be an event in Plymouth organized by the Syrian Hope Society. This is aimed at attracting refugee families for socialising and conversation. It is hoped that this will then run on the first Saturday of every month. Anyone interested please contact Yaara.

3). New Website, Name, Aims and Objectives

The suggestion by Richard Gonski  (via Yaara) that our new title be ASHBURTON REFUGEE SUPPORT NETWORK was unanimously accepted. New aims and objectives were also accepted after a short discussion. They will be advertised on Facebook and our web site.
Yaara reported that Richard Gonski is in the process of building a new website for the group. Great thanks to Richard were minuted.

4). Items collected for refugees in Europe and Syria

Alexine has a connection to RAFT – Refugee Aid From Taunton – and will happily take a car-boot load to Taunton. If we can collect more than that, someone from Taunton will pick up from us. Alexine is happy to be contacted re RAFT.
There is also a collection point at Newton Abbot Racecourse on Thursdays – 2.00 to 4.00p.m. which also links with RAFT taking clothing etc roughly every fortnight.
They will take any donations; things deemed unsuitable can be sold in their shop in Taunton and the proceeds used to buy food and medical supplies.
This is Newton Crisis Aid and they are always looking for volunteers to help sort donations. Contact: Andrew Rose on 01626 351 886 / or There is a list of items presently required on  RAFT facebook page or                                                                

5). Myth Busting

Simon Chater from Exeter City of Sanctuary has contacted Yaara with an inquiry whether we would be interested in attending a ‘workshop’ on lobbying. All expressed a definite interest in participating in such an event.
Simon also wondered if we would run our ‘myth busting’ workshop at the same event, which Pip and Yaara would like to do. Nigel said one of our group should attend the lobbying day and pass on what they have already gleaned. Yaara will FB all details as they arise.

6). Updates

START – – run a ‘cultural kitchen’ every other Friday from 4.00 to 8.30p.m. The next one is on 29th April.

Beyond Borders do have a web-site for all current events –

Red Cross in Plymouth link –

7). Crossing Art Project

Pip reported that we have 50 paper boats ready to “float” somewhere. Any ideas for either linking with another project, or indeed launching our own, are most welcome.

8). TDC

TDC have agreed to host re-settle 6 refugee families as and when…

9). Flash Mob

Yaara reported that whilst this could not be arranged in time for United Nations Anti Racism Day she has spoken with Richard Gonski and he has expressed an interest in providing a section of his Torbay Symphony Orchestra to facilitate such an event in May/June this year. There is a suggestion that the piece to be performed be the final chorus of Beethoven’s 9th. Action YG to continue liaising with Richard.

10). Correspondence/Lobbying

Pip ventured that after the workshop being run by the Exeter City of Sanctuary Group we may know more about the best way to lobby.
Nigel urged us all to continue to write to our MP’s. There followed a discussion on how important it was to write personally as WELL as signing ‘on-line’ petitions from 38 degrees, Avaaz and Change.Org.

11). Fund-raising

Jude GJ and Hilary hosted a soup club evening at Buckland in the Moor and raised £210 for Red Cross. Congratulations were minuted.

12). LOGO

Any ideas for a logo for our group please pass to Yaara. An ‘open door’ seemed a popular starting point for the design.

13). Next Meeting called for Monday 9th May 19.30 at the Quaker House.

     Chair – Inga page.



Draft agenda for ARWG group meeting tonight, 18/04/2016

Quakers Meeting Rooms, Ashburton. 19.30pm

IMG_12951. Matters arising from last meeting:
a. Modern day slavery – PH/RLW
b. South Devon Refugee Support Network – next meeting 19.4.16 at 2pm; ‘Open Arms’ event – our group to provide food for event on May 13th.
c. Work continues on identifying what help the refugees need
d. New aims and objectives, and new name and website.
e. Items going to Europe and Syria

2. Updates

3. Sharing group responsibilities. Chair for next meeting? Group logo?

4. AOB

6. Next meeting date

Minutes of meeting of Ashburton Refugees Welcome Group Tuesday 8th March 2016.

Quakers Meeting House.12247864_1896428350582957_7184405311243464048_o

1.   Present: Inge Page, Anna, Yaara Lahav-Gregory (Chair), Audrey Ryder, Jenny (from gnash comics) Pip Harris (minute-taker)

Specific Apologies: Tanja Brown, Sara Wilson, Karen Pearson, Hilary Townsend, Mags Gainsborough

2. Review of minutes from last meeting (04/11/2015)12291697_1896429757249483_6259582167441240037_o

2i.        Minutes are currently embedded within the blog, which makes them hard to find and read/print out. We will look at alternative place to hold them.

Carry forward item: investigate possibility of hosting as a Word document on the website.

2ii.       Modern Slavery DVD can be borrowed from Devon Quakers.

ACTION: PH hasn’t watched it yet, but will obtain it. Neil is a ‘human trafficker’ police officer in Devon & Cornwall Constabulary and might be willing to come to talk to us. There is a suggestion of watching the DVD at the end of the next meeting.

2iii.      Correspondence with Mel Stride to be shared with the group. Judy GJ has received a very similar letter from Richard Harrington MP, Minister with responsibility for Syrian Refugees.


2iv.      Update of Tanya’s fundraising event on January 17th, carry forward item.

2v.       Sharing Group responsibilities. Inge will chair the next meeting. We are linked to other groups in South Devon. There is a need for people to come forward to maintain the website, be active on Twitter and take a more active part in supporting the group. We need also to focus on support and skill development.

2vi and vii. Work continues on identifying what help the refugees need. Jo Barley has made contact with the Red Cross. The Language School in Totnes has “open doors” and is investigating the need for people to practice language skills but no firm conclusions.

ACTION: Neil will talk to Janet (who runs the school) to see if there are opportunities.

2viii.    How are rooms allocated to refugees? No one came forward to offer to investigate this. Carry forward item.

2ix.      Coordination of information on specific needs for items and local gathering points for people taking materials to mainline Europe. This still needs a person. Note: St John Ambulance Hall in Ashburton has a surfeit of blankets needing a home.

  1. Group aims and objectives. Let Yaara know if you’d like to be involved in discussions to review these.
  2. Myth busting evening held on 16th February was useful and good fun.

ACTION: PH will write this up as a programme and the group will consider offering to facilitate this for other community groups.

xii.       Research for other events. With the exception of Jo’s research this item is carried forward.

  1. Updates

Refugee crossing art project. PH is keeping the paper boats created on 16th February; hopefully we will be able to make a display in the town with them.

  • 3rd February: Inge and Yaara attended an induction evening in Totnes. Content was not quite as expected, it was more aimed at the befriending scheme and 1:2:1 work with refugees.
  • 10th February: Forde House, Newton Abbot, public meeting to discuss TDC’s response to the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme. Teignbridge voted to take 5-6 families, it was passed with no objections, the Chief Exec viewed this offer as just a starter. There is a lot of bureaucracy around plans and it might take up to 10 weeks to put plans in place e.g. there is a need to find housing through private market, and schools, and surgeries need to be found.
  • 24th February: Inge and Judy GJ attended South Devon Refugee Support Network presentation in Totnes. This group meets every 4-6 weeks, with representatives from Beyond Borders, Citizen UK Totnes, Dartington Hall Trust & Dartington Parish. Next meeting is on April 19th.

They are planning a festival in May. 22nd free use of the Great Hall, with a concert (Open Arms) as a fundraiser. Visible Inc./Ink? Performance on 13th May, at St Johns with the possibility of a shared food buffet. We could contribute food for the buffet and staff to serve/clear up as ‘KPs’ on the evening?
Healing Rooms (Wendy Stayte) might bring a performance of asylum seekers.

  • Beyond Borders are actively looking for a minibus driver.
  • Citizen UK Totnes are lobbying Sarah Woolaston with a view to increasing the number of people offered asylum from 20,000 to 50,000.
  • There has been coverage in the press (Guardian article) on the pressure Kent Social Services are under to support child refugees.
  • The Syrian Art Exhibition held at St Mary’s Church was excellent. A refugee from Allepo made a good presentation explaining in graphic terms about their difficulties.


  1. Future event: Monday 14th March, Candle lit Vigil and March to mark 5 years of the Syrian conflict. Audrey’s group will be singing. Totnes 6-8pm. Small group planning to go from Ashburton.

  1. Future event: March 19th UN anti-racism day,

Long discussions on a possible local response. Possible ‘flash mob’ to come together at the Bullring, with signs and banners and to stand for a period of time. Either a silent vigil or with singing. Not everyone is able to make this date. Concerns were raised over access along pavements and misunderstanding/confusion of message of racism / refugee support. We would need to prepare a flyer with information (Judy offered to help)

Steering group to meet at Tanja’s 15th March 5-6pm to consider.

  1. Next meeting Monday 18th April at 7.30