In BristolNews

An all-day celebration co-curated by members of Bristol's refugee and asylum seeker community will fill Bristol Beacon with music, dance, poetry, puppetry and crafts on Sunday 28 January.

The day will culminate in a world-premiere performance of Odyssey by Jonathan Dove with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of Bristol Choir, Bristol Youth Choir and Bristol Windrush Reggae Choir. 

Following Bristol Beacon’s spectacular opening weekend and Orchestral season launch at the end of 2023, the transformed venue begins 2024 with another landmark event, this time with a very different focus. Be Kind Bristol is a day of creativity celebrating the experiences and creative worlds of those who find sanctuary in Bristol. 

From 12-4.30pm in Bristol Beacon’s Bridgehouse, attendees can expect to encounter sounds, colour, stories and ideas from all over the world. Throughout the afternoon there will be performances, exhibitions and creative sharings from individuals and groups including Dovetail Orchestra, YES I Dub Mys.Tree shadow show, plus family craft activities and a chance to delve into a ‘human library’, in which attendees can sit down and chat to a host of fascinating people with stories to tell. 

The day concludes with the world premiere performance of ‘Odyssey’ by celebrated English composer Jonathan Dove CBE in Beacon Hall.  This semi-staged story in song tells the dramatic story of one refugee fleeing their home to find safety in another country. Commissioned by Bristol Beacon in partnership with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and City of Bristol Choir, this powerful music-drama for singers and orchestra draws on first-hand accounts, allowing the audience to see through the eyes of one refugee as they leave loved ones to undertake a perilous journey. BSO join forces with the voices of City of Bristol Choir, Bristol Youth Choir and Bristol Windrush Reggae Choir under the baton of conductor David Ogden, while Nigerian-American soprano Francesca Chiejina and South African tenor Thando Mjandana will perform lead roles. Theatre and Opera Director Roxana Haines directs the performance. 

Bristol Beacon has also partnered with Bristol City of Sanctuary for the event, to produce a specially composed piece of music to open the concert. Music facilitators MoYah, Alex Lupo, Ebony Love and Lewin Hayes is working with City Academy & May Park schools which are both ‘Sanctuary Schools’ on the piece - schools that have committed to being a safe and welcoming place for people whose lives were in danger in their own country.  

Todd Wills, Artistic Director at Bristol Beacon said: 

“We’re excited to be finally be giving Odyssey its premiere, having commissioned the work in 2016. The subject matter of the mass movement of people seeking sanctuary is as pertinent now as it has ever been, and Jonathan’s emotional and moving work brings the real stories of those who have made dangerous journeys to seek safety into vivid focus. 

We knew that it was vital that those with lived experience were central to this event, and that’s why we’ve partnered with Bristol’s refugee and asylum seeker community to programme Be Kind Bristol. It’s going to be a wonderful celebration of everything this diverse community of people bring to our city, and we hope audiences will come, make new connections and be inspired by everything they experience at Be Kind Bristol.” 

Jonathan Dove, composer of Odyssey, said: 

“The biggest thing I learnt writing Odyssey was how traumatic the journey is for a refugee, that experience of being forced to leave home and travel into the unknown against extraordinary dangers. It is very humbling to realise the immensity of that experience.  

I’m hoping that Odyssey will give the audience a chance to live through the refugee’s experience from the inside, so each member of the audience will themselves gain something of an understanding of what it’s like to make such a difficult and dangerous journey.” 

Be Kind Bristol has been planned collaboratively with a steering group comprising several members of Bristol’s refugee and asylum seeker community. Within the group no fewer than 12 different languages are spoken. The event’s theme and title, Be Kind, was put forward by the group as a call to action to all, to be open hearted and non-judgemental when they encounter people who seek sanctuary. The group have planned the event to give a platform to the rich tapestry of diverse refugee and migrant identities that make up the fabric of Bristol. 

MoYah, Afrofusion Hip Hop artist, events programmer and workshop facilitator explains more: 

“As a person from a refugee lived experience it’s been really impactful to me to not only see the voices of other refugees included, but right at the centre of the project, leading and putting forward valuable ideas in the steering group sessions we held, and sharing their vision of how they felt they would like to be represented throughout the project. The group has responded extremely positively to the brief of the event and are excited to see their vision come to life. 

It’s also been very inspiring to work with the children from City Academy & May Park schools to see how positively and quickly they’ve been able to create a song that celebrates diverse refugee communities in Bristol.” 

Be Kind Bristol takes place from 12-4.30pm at Bristol Beacon and is free and unticketed. Tickets for the performance of Odyssey at 5pm in Beacon Hall cost £10, £20 and £30 including booking fee. For more information and tickets, visit




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