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Dixon, S., Magee, J., 2017.

Refugee Tales: viewing the Belgian refugee crisis of the First World War through the lens of contemporary experience.

Output Type:Exhibition
Venue:British Ceramics Biennial 2017
Dates:23/9/2017 - 5/11/2017
Number of Works:21

The centenary of the Great War has witnessed a radical re-thinking of the role and nature of memorialisation, with contemporary artists questioning conventional attitudes to commemoration and re-thinking traditional forms of public memorial. At the same time, many more centenary projects have directly engaged the public, working at a grass-roots level, to directly engage individuals and communities in collaborative acts of memorialisation.
Within this context, and working in collaboration with The Clay Foundation, Dixon and Magee engaged refugees and asylum seekers from the Burslem Jubilee Group in Stoke-on-Trent to co-create a collection of objects and artworks that embodied narratives of identity, displacement and refuge. The central premise of Refugee Tales was based on the impossibility of gaining first-hand insight into the experience of First World War Belgian refugees, now long dead, and that a parallel insight might be gained from the lived experience of a group of contemporary refugees and asylum seekers.
Refugee Tales operated within the context of Staffordshire's historical connections to the ceramics industry, and the work undertaken by the refugees and asylum seekers explored the commemorative and narrative agency of ceramics. A focused programme of making and writing workshops on the Spode factory site enabled the participants to give voice to their personal experiences, and to manifest these in the form of ceramic artefacts, poetry and film. Dixon and Magee conceived, managed and participated in the project, and curated and disseminated its outcomes through exhibition, film screening, conference presentation and publication.
The project was funded by an AHRC/HLF Voices of War and Peace community engagement award (14,924). Outcomes were exhibited at the British Ceramics Biennial 2017 and the Legacies of the First World War Festival: Diversity, hosted by the AHRC WW1 Engagement Centres at the Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham in 2019.