Glasgow’s Story: A very Scottish welcome

A Night of Notes (image courtesy of Owen Cook)

A Night of Notes (image courtesy of Owen Cook)

“I thought of the old bigot and the taxi man…do they really not understand? That refugee, asylum seeker, economic migrant…just make our Scotland so much more vibrant”              – extract from Tiff Griffin’s poem Nae Offence

It was a night to celebrate new arrivals, with Glasgow-based singers, songwriters and poets performing pieces inspired by locals’ welcoming letters to refugees.

A Night of Notes was dreamed up by community project Refuweegee, which distributes essentials, Glasgow-themed items and welcome letters to new Glaswegians, working alongside rakurna, Lucy Cathcart Froden’s collaborative song writing project.

The gig took place as part of the West End Festival, under the beautiful stained glass arches of Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church.

It brought together people from all walks and all parts of the world, with free entry to refugees and asylum seekers, and an audience that included Britons, Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians, Iranians and Eritreans.

Selina Hales, Refuweegee’s founder, read aloud some of the letters from locals to accompaniment by Jamie Robert Ross on guitar – a simple but effective reminder of how many have already opened their arms to those in need.

The refugee crisis had been on my mind quite a lot and I felt like that was a really difficult thing to write songs about or to really engage with on an emotional level,” said Lucy Cathcart Froden, who also performed on the night.

“I just loved what Refuweegee was doing and felt that within that there was something to celebrate – there was light breaking through the darkness of all the media images and all the pain and all the horror that we see. I wanted to do something that would bring out that light.”

Tiff Griffin, with his poem “Nae Offence,” along with Martin Cathcart Froden’s poem “Golden Wonder,” got several laughs from the audience with their sometimes irreverent take on what it means both to be Scottish and to welcome others to Scotland.

Each of the Glasgow-based artists who took part in the event were asked to pen something original, inspired by the letters sent by locals to Refuweegee.

Those songs are now the album “Flight,” launched at the event with original artwork by illustrator Gabi Froden and mixed together by Ross Clark of Three Blind Wolves.

Alongside Clark and Lucy Cathcart Froden, the audience were treated to emotive performances from Donna Maciocia, Kim Edgar of Cara, Nicolette Macleod, Dave Frazer and Andrew Howie.

Yaman Shalaan, 20, a Syrian who arrived in Scotland six months ago, found the night unforgettable.

“I had so much fun because there was a lot of talented people at the event, I don’t think that I’ll forget the amazing night. I was mostly touched by Lucy’s song that she wrote from the welcome letters and Tiff’s poem was great too – it made [me] laugh but in the end of it, it was meaningful,” Shalaan said.

This article originally appeared on Positively Scottish, a new website dedicated to good news and “inspiring stories that need to be heard”.

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