A returning festival in Scotland, aiming to bring together people from all backgrounds and walks of life, has announced its programme for next month.

Refugee Festival Scotland will have more than 130 events taking place across Scotland in June, with the line-up including artists and performers who came to Scotland seeking refugee protection, along with the communities that have welcomed them.

Multiple events will take place between June 14-23, for what organisers say is their largest ever, and most diverse programme yet.

Refugee Festival Scotland Manager, Mónica Laiseca said: “Packed with unique events and exceptional talent, the festival honours the resilience and courage of New Scots and celebrates a vision for a Scotland where everyone can blossom and has equal opportunity to thrive.

“At a particularly dire time for refugees and asylum seekers living in our communities, our festival puts forward an empowering message of welcome and makes visible the support that is overwhelmingly present and active across Scottish society.”

The festival comes amid the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, with the Scottish Government offering 39,000 Ukrainians with a Scottish sponsor a visa, of whom over 25,500 have arrived in the UK as of 19 September 2023.

Gaza Families Reunited also recently launched a campaign calling on the UK Government to urgently introduce a similar scheme for families in Gaza. The campaign group included 35 families based in Scotland and has amassed over 100,000 signatures.

The theme of this year's festival is RISE, to honour the resilience of people who are attempting to rebuild their lives in safety in Scotland.

Elina, a Refugee Festival Scotland ambassador who travelled from Ukraine to Scotland, said it’s important to recognise the positive stories during a time when so many are suffering across the world in warzones.

She said: “We are spreading a message that anyone can rise out of any circumstances they have faced in their own life since unfortunately, most refugees experience the worst things that can happen to any human. We can share our experience to inspire other people too.”

Refugee Festival Scotland is aiming to offer something for everyone, from music and dance, DJs and drag queens, food and drink, football tournaments, and family-friendly picnics. The line-up brings people from different backgrounds and cultures together to meet, mix, and get to know each other better.

This year’s festival includes a collaboration between the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and Refugee Festival Scotland to stage a special family-friendly concert celebrating the power of a good song. Three Glasgow-based community choirs will perform their most-loved songs accompanied by an 18-piece ensemble from the RSNO titled Raising Voices.

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The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will also hold an interactive event in Dundee called Resilience in Flight, which will host nature sessions marking the return of the white-tailed eagle to Scotland.

Hope Busák, Wild Dundee Project Manager at RSPB, said: “This year, RSPB Scotland’s ‘Wild Dundee’ initiative focuses on white-tailed eagles, showcasing nature's resilience and the importance of connecting to the environment wherever we are.

Other highlights include a walking with ramblers event starting in Holyrood Park on the first day of the festival, and an art exhibition in Paisley which is open daily throughout the 10-day event, which will also see a group unveiling their ‘Aye Welcome Refugees’ Paisley pattern inspired banner.

In Glasgow, Refugee Festival Scotland team member, Huss Al-Chokhdar will be drawing on his own lived experience to organise three events celebrating Arab resilience, which includes an event at Glasgow Film Theatre, showing a series of six short films from across the Arab regions of Palestine, Syria, Egypt and a film made by Huss himself.

He said: “It means a lot to me. I’ve found it very empowering personally, especially with everything happening in Palestine just now and all the stigma around Arabs. It’s more important than ever to celebrate our cultures and identities and provide safe spaces for people.

“Seeing so many people contribute to the festival in their own unique way is so inspiring. There is so much solidarity.  It’s beautiful to see how unique each contribution is. It all comes from such a personal place for everyone.”

Pitlochry Festival Theatre will also be embracing positive vibes with a day of Light Hope and Joy on June 19 and will host a series of workshops and activities.

Deborah Dickinson, producer at the theatre, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming New Scots and Scots to the Theatre to enjoy arts activities in the beautiful Scottish landscape around us and to celebrate our shared humanity.”

The festival will coincide with World Refugee Day on June 20, and the full programme is now available on their official website.

Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, Sabir Zazai said the festival comes at the right time to embrace diversity and acceptance in Scotland, adding how it important it is to champion stories of people who have come to make Scotland their home.

He said: “The last year has been incredibly tough for people in the refugee community. It’s important to make time for moments of joy, connect with one another, and revel in not only what we have in common but also what makes us all unique.

“The festival is an opportunity to come together and share stories, celebrate each other’s culture, and learn more about our new neighbours.

“Together, we can rise above the hostile environment and find strength in our communities.”