Greengross Global Arts for Brain Health Changemaker REFUGEE Conversation, 20 June

World Refugee Day: Thursday 20 June 14.00 – 16.30 BST

There are 110 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of these, 6.1 million are asylum seekers  (having applied for asylum awaiting decision as to whether they will be granted refugee status) and 36.4 million are living as refugees. Some 404,000 refugees returned to their countries of origin during the first half of 2023 while 59,500 were resettled. From the war in Ukraine to ongoing conflict in Syria, the Middle East, to climate shocks and economic turmoil in East Africa and Latin America—global instability is increasing. To address the trauma of displacement, torture, prevent retraumatisation on entry into even a safe but strange new country, a remarkable range of organisations offer care and rehabilitative support.  Working in temporary hotel accommodation, day centres, detention camps, and with trauma-informed training, artists and arts therapists are encouraging refugees to connect, express themselves through participatory arts so as to preserve their heritage and gradually rebuild their brain health and a new sense of belonging.

Who for?

If you are involved with arts practice for refugees, or if you teach, study or work in the fields neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry involving arts to preserve brain health, and social prescribing to enable people to access inspirational cultural and creative opportunities to preserve their brain health, identity and confidence among their new communities.

T H E C O N V E R S A T I O N (Online: 14.00 – 16.30 BST)

H O S T:  Veronica Franklin Gould, President, Arts 4 Dementia.

C H A I R : Alexandra Coulter, Director, National Centre for Creative Health.

P A N E L Chair: Professor Cornelius Katona

P A N E L Chair: Professor Rachel Tribe, Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of East London

P A N E L Chair: Professor Rachel Tribe


Chair: Alexandra Coulter, Director, National Centre for Creative Health

Veronica thanks and close at 16.30 BST


ALEXANDRA COULTER has been Director of the National Centre for Creative Health since it launched in 2021. She was Director of Arts & Health South West (AHSW) from 2010-24, providing the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing. She project managed the APPG’s two-year inquiry which led to the publication of the Creative Health report in 2017. AHSW delivered three Culture Health and Wellbeing International Conferences and along with colleagues in the field helped set uptake Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance and the Lived Experience Network, with both the National Centre for Creative Health continues to work closely. 

CORNELIUS KATONA is Honorary Medical and Research Director of the Helen Bamber Foundation – a human rights charity working with asylum seekers and refugees and Hon Professor in the Division of Psychiatry at University College London. He is the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ lead on Refugee and Asylum Mental Health. He is Chair of the Steering Group for the Commission on the Integration of Refugees. He was a member of the Committee that recently updated NICE guidelines on PTSD. He has published more than 300 papers and written/edited 16 books. In 2019 he was awarded the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Honorary Fellowship, the College’s highest honour, for his ‘outstanding service to psychiatry’.

ALMIR KOLDZIC is Director and Co-Founder of Counterpoint Arts.. The main focus of his work so far has been on developing creative strategies and national networks for arts and refugees; building long term collaborations with leading inter/national arts, cultural, advocacy and philanthropic organisations; and curating and producing a wide range of commissions and programmes relating to displacement, diversity and social justice.

DANIELA NOFAL is a Producer at Counterpoint Arts., with a particular focus on producing, commissioning and programming artistic projects at the intersection of displacement and mental health. Daniela has been working as a cultural organiser and arts practitioner, and has produced various artistic projects and creative interventions, sitting at the intersection of art, arts education and social engagement. Over the years, she has collaborated and worked with a number of organisations across the UK and internationally, including Beyond the Now, Shubbak Festival and Ettijahat.

Counterpoints Arts, a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change. We support and produce the arts by and about migrants and refugees, and seek to ensure that their contributions are recognized and welcomed within British arts, history and culture. Central to our mission is our belief that arts can inspire social change and enhance inclusion & cultural integration of refugees & migrants. Our work takes place at the intersection of climate, racial justice, mental health and displacement. Our programmes in the UK and internationally include Refugee Week,PopChange and Platforma festival

BOBBY LLOYD is a visual artist, art therapist, supervisor, lecturer and CEO of Art Refuge. She has worked over many years in NHS and community settings, and internationally in contexts of conflict and social upheaval. Through direct programme delivery on either side of the the English Channel over the past 9 years, she has become increasingly interested in the roles of socially engaged art and art therapy in relation to displacement, crisis support, co-production, community and social justices.

Art Refuge is a UK charity (no 1114353) founded in 2006. We use art and art therapy to support the mental health and well-being of people displaced due to conflict, persecution and poverty, in the UK and internationally. We deliver long-term programmes and take part in short-term projects, public exhibitions, conferences, cross-disciplinary collaborations and research. We also deliver tailor-made trainings and skills-sharing activities for frontline workers, most recently in western Ukraine. Working in close partnership with other organisations, our longitudinal psychosocial group programmes take place where refugees and asylum seekers are located on either side of the English Channel in northern France and southern England – in day centres, drop-in spaces, refugee camps and hotels. Our trauma-informed work is led by an experienced freelance team of HCPC registered art therapists and artists, including artists with lived experience of displacement. 

SHEILA HAYMAN is the Coordinator of Write to Life, the therapeutic creative writing group at Freedom from Torture. She has held this role for over twenty years, and is proud of its unique status as the longest-running therapeutic writing group in the UK, and the only one for survivors of torture. As the child of a refugee from Nazi Germany who became a distinguished mathematician, she was used from a young age to visitors from around the world, and relishes the mix of cultures in this work. In her other life, she’s a documentary filmmaker, writer and journalist. Her films have won a BAFTA, Time Out Documentary Series of the Year, Arts Documentary of the Year nomination and a Robert Kennedy award. She has been UK Young Journalist of the Year, the BAFTA/Fulbright Fellow in Los Angeles, a Hodder Headline Lead Title novelist, Director’s Fellow of the MIT Media Lab and a columnist for The Guardian newspaper. In 2020 her work on the carbon footprint of ‘AI’ led to her being Artist in Residence at PIK Potsdam, Europe’s premier research institute on the climate emergency. Sheila is currently on the Board of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy in Cambridge.

Freedom from Torture provides specialist psychological therapy to asylum seekers and refugees who have survived torture, helping them recover and rebuild their lives in the UK. We also provide other therapies, including gardening, bread baking and music therapy, as well as Write to Life, a unique therapeutic creative writing group with members from many countries including Iraq Kurdistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Egypt, DRC, Burundi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. With survivors, we campaign for change. Together, we raise awareness and influence decision-makers about torture and its impact. Our current ‘Stop the Flights!’ campaign against the illegal Rwanda policy is collecting signatures here .

RACHEL TRIBE is Professor of Applied Psychology at the University of East London. In 2014 she was awarded the British Psychological Society Award for Challenging Social Inequalities in Psychology. Rachel is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society and an HCPC registered psychologist. She has over 30 years’ experience of developing clinical services and conducting research in the UK and abroad.   She is active in national and international consultancy and training work.  She has experience of working in the private, public, charity and academic sectors. She has worked clinically with a range of diverse communities. She has published widely on migration and mental health, refugees and asylum seekers, community psychology, critical psychology, social justice, professional and ethical practice, ageing and trauma. She was a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ expert panel on Improving Services for Refugees and Asylum-Seekers and the World Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on Migration and Mental Health.  She is currently a member of the BPS Presidential Task Force on Refugees and Asylum Seekers.  She co-wrote the BPS guidelines with Dr Kate Thompson on Working with Interpreters in Health Settings. Professor Tribe also co-edited a book on Working with Interpreters in Mental Health with Dr Hitesh Raval, re-issued in 2014. In 2011 with Dr Pauline Lane she produced a DVD and guidance notes on Working with Interpreters in Mental Health for the Department of Health. 

SARA GREEN, Founder and Executive Director of Art for Refugees in Transition (A.R.T.), received her MBA in Finance and Economics from Columbia Graduate School of Business. She holds a BFA in Dance and a BA in History from the Ohio State University. Ms. Green has seven years of experience in management, fundraising, development and strategic planning for non-profit art organizations, including The New York City Ballet and Dance Theatre Workshop. Ms. Green danced professionally for 10 years in Europe and the U.S. In 2011, Ms. Green was awarded the Ariane de Rothschild Fellowship. Her work with A.R.T. has been featured in several books, including More Than 85 Broads, by Janet Hanson and The Art of Doing Good, by Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon.

Art for Refugees in Transition (A.R.T.) helps rebuild individual and community identity for refugees worldwide. Drawing upon the indigenous art forms of each community, A.R.T.s programs are designed to enable the elders of a culture to educate and incorporate the younger generation in their cultural traditions. By developing self-sustaining curricula and training programs, A.R.T. engages children and adults in visual, performing and creative arts drawn from their own cultures. A.R.T.’s initial program was launched in two Burmese refugee camps in Thailand in 2003. Since then, A.R.T. has reached refugees in Colombia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

DR HANAN KHALIL is an Associate Professor of Neurological Rehabilitation in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the College of Health Science at Qatar University She holds BSc Physiotherapy at Jordan University of Science and Technology, and a MSc and PhD at Cardiff University. Hanan’s area of research focuses on rehabilitation and exercise and related outcome measures in people with Long Term Neurological Conditions, notably, multiple sclerosis, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Further research interests include cross-cultural adaptation and validation of outcome measures in Arabic language as well as motor learning and the impact of exercise on improving non-motor symptoms in these populations such as sleep, cognition and mood. Hanan is also involved in mental health specifically, trauma-informed care for traumatized individuals.

LIS MURPHYCreative Director and Founder of Music Action International, has pioneered the use of singing and songwriting, co-creating programmes with war and torture survivors. She has facilitated skill-sharing and programme delivery with local people in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Georgia, Palestine, Ireland and Sierra Leone.

RAMSEY JANINI, Creative Producer of Music Action International, is a bass and flute player, finance expert, programme manager and co-facilitates our Crisis Choirs programme in Manchester. He has experience of being displaced by the Gulf War and identifies as being born to a refugee family. 

Music Action International Crisis Choirs Multi award-winning Music Action International co-create life-changing music programmes with survivors of war, torture and persecution. Our unique approach significantly reduces physical and emotional trauma and creates a sense of family for people who are alone. Our specialist team, most of whom have experienced the effects of war, are trained to support children, young people and adult survivors to improve well-being through creativity in many different contexts. This talk will feature Crisis Choirs, our programme in drop-in centres in Manchester, London and Brighton for survivors – including LGBTQ – recently arrived from countries including Sudan, Iran, Sri Lanka, DR Congo, Eritrea, Pakistan, Afghanistan. 

JOHANNE HUDSON-LETT, Artistic Director, has worked as a freelance artist for Hear Me Out for over seven years. For the last 25 years her career has centered around the arts and media. From theatre acting to international marketing, radio presenter for the BBC, UKCCA Carnival participation manager to Senior Producer working to enhance and expand the artistic lives of young people in Luton. Johanne has always been passionate about working with local and marginalised communities as this is the world she grew up in and feels that now is the time to give back. Johanne is also a trustee for the Philharmonia Orchestra, championing our drive to welcome more diverse audiences and players.

Hear Me Out takes music-making into UK immigration detention centres to release the words, music and life stories of people held inside  28,000 people are detained every year while they wait to find out if they will be deported from the UK. Held in a prison-like place, music has the power to free their minds and make their voices heard.  LAMIN says I am a Gambian national, singer-songwriter, musician, DJ and music promoter. Now, after spending nine months in immigration detention, I am a Trustee at Hear Me Out. 

PHOEBE SHAW is Communities Programme Manager and coordinator of Untold Stories at Artcore in Derby. Untold Stories at Artcore Community Hub welcomes people in the local community, including refugees and asylum-seekers and recent immigrants to express their unique narratives through a diverse range of artistic methods.Artcore is a visual arts charity encompassing an art gallery, artistic studios, a shop, and a café. Artists have the opportunity to participate in local and international residencies. Artcore is a lively community hub dedicated to supporting and collaborating with local communities and offering tailor-made training workshops, catering to diverse groups, including senior citizens, recent immigrants facing language barriers, schoolchildren, youth, unemployed adults, individuals with physical disabilities, those with borderline mental health issues, and members of BME and LGBTQI+ communities. 

KUNLE ADEWALE is a Multimedia Nigerian award winning International Artist, Curator, Cultural Producer, Mental and Brain Health Advocate based Arts in Health Practitioner based in Manchester, United Kingdom. Kunle is a Global Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health and the founder of the Global Arts in Medicine Fellowship. He is a certified artist in Understanding Arts and Dementia (University College London, UK), Medicine and The Arts, Humanizing healthcare (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Psychology and Mental Health, Beyond nature and nurture, University of Liverpool, Effective Fundraising and Leadership in Arts and Culture, University of Leeds, UK.  Kunle leverages the use of creative technologies and art engagements to support the brain and mental health of refugees of persons in Nigeria, United Kingdom, Ireland and Bosnia. He is a steering committee member of the World Health Organisation Jameel Arts and Health Lab established in New York University. 

Creative technology for refugees Virtual Reality’s positive impact on mental health has been well documented. The nuance of offering immersive therapies to marginalized communities, like refugees, has also generated promising positive effects when healing PTSD, and depression, among other mental health conditions. This presentation aims to highlight the impact of Virtual reality engagements with refugees and humanitarian workers in Sheffield, United Kingdom, Bosnia and Dublin Ireland. It will also present the next phase of the project of creating an XR hub specifically for refugees in Sheffield as pilot project design. The use of digital technologies helps us humanize refugees’ experience by giving them a sense of belonging.

MARIA ABERG, is an award-winning director, writer and the founding and artistic director of PROJEKT EUROPA, an artist collective, advocacy group and arts organisation creating migrant-led work at the intersection of performance, co-creation and participation. She has made work for venues including the National Theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Royal Court, Dramaten and Staatstheater Mainz. She has been an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company since 2017 and has directed over ten productions there, including As You Like It, The Duchess of Malfi and King John. Her current practice sits between participation and performance, working with migrant artists to explore notions of identity, locality and the juxtaposition between personal and collective history. By working multilingually she actively challenges the colonial assumption that underpins the dominance of the English language, and as a result her work is often choreographic, focusing on the imperfect body as a site of knowledge and experience and the physical/visual as the central gesture of expression.

PROJEKT EUROPA, is a migrant-led theatre company and artist collective creating multilingual work at the intersection of performance, co-creation and participation. Believing that anyone can be an artist, our work focuses on supporting the creativity of refugees, asylum seekers and first-generation migrants in the UK, amplifying marginalised voices and celebrating multi-national perspectives. We work in partnership with theatres, community groups and civic organisations to co-create interventions serving migrants and migrant artists; and create employment pathways for migrant artists, either via our mentorship scheme, or by producing innovative theatre created by migrant artists. We provide opportunities for career advancement, creative development and industry visibility for migrant theatre-makers, alongside development and production of migrant-led performance work. Our programmes, from free workshops for refugees to commissions for migrant artists to co-create work within local communities, aim to create a transformative nationwide offer. Our audience-facing work – Let Your Hands Sing in the Silence, inviting refugee and migrant performers to reconstruct their family tree; Themba Lo Hambo led by Zimbabwean artist Butshilo Nleya and co-created with displaced communities in Northampton, and Desire Maps, a collaboration with award-winning interactive makers Coney, inviting audiences to reimagine their ancestors’ geographical journeys – places migrant talent and experience centre stage.

DR ANGELIKI VARAKIS-MARTIN is a Lecturer at the School of Arts (drama and theatre) at the University of Kent. She holds an MA and PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. Her main interests and publications are in Greek theatre and masked performance. She has published numerous papers on the Greek mask and is currently working alongside colleagues and participants in PROJEKT ENCOUNTER to explore how masks enhance physical expression and creativity in applied drama workshops and/or a performance featuring migrants and vulnerable participants whose first language is not English. In her role as employability lead for the division of Arts and Humanities, she is working to develop and/or maintain strong links with arts organisations, such as PROJEKT EUROPA in order to support their impactful projects. Through our collaboration with PROJEKT ENCOUNTER and their work with refugees the university aims to link its employability initiatives to its civic mission and to create a model of community work where Arts education, academic research and student experience informed by external engagement – such as volunteering, and work experience – helps build bridges with external partners and vulnerable communities that can benefit from our support.

DR FRANCISCA STANGEL is PROJEKT ENCOUNTER‘s drama workshop director. Originally from Sweden, she is a clown, theatre maker and applied theatre practitioner. Her passion for working with young people and marginalised communities led Francisca to co-create performances with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, as well as with organisations such as Clowns Without Borders UK. She is a company director of award-winning Acá Theatre who make witty and slapstick-tastic performances for young people, and works as a freelance performer, director, producer and facilitator. With a PhD in Elizabethan drama, Francisca is a guest lecturer at the University of Kent, and frequently facilitates workshops in clowning, ensemble, LAMDA, classical theatre and physical theatre.

TOM TEGENTOPROJEKT ENCOUNTER drama workshop facilitator, lived for ten years in the Sudan before arriving in the UK. He is a multi-faceted professional, also working as a session artist, company advisor, mentor, and performer. His aim is to engage with interdisciplinary, inclusive, transcultural, and transgenerational creative environments that inspire and resonate with individuals and communities through their lived experiences. Tom’s artistic endeavours are deeply rooted in the conviction that creativity is a catalyst for holistic well-being, capable of touching lives in every sphere. 

PROJEKT ENCOUNTER In collaboration with the theatre company PROJEKT EUROPA, this 20-week drama workshop programme for refugees, asylum seekers and first-generation migrants opened in January at the University of Kent’s School of Arts, The programme, aimed at underserved migrant communities with no existing relationship to theatre, provides transport from Napier Barracks weekly workshops and interpreters for each weekly workshop and public performance, led by local, professional migrant theatre-makers, Kent drama alumni, Dr Francisca Stangel and Tom Tegento. University of Kent students are offered placements as a Production Assistant, Tech Assistant and Design Assistant, and a public sharing of the work in Summer.  The University of Kent’s Centre for Creative and Practice Research (based within the Division of Arts and Humanities) is supporting the programme, alongside Canterbury City CouncilKent County CouncilThe National Lottery Community FundKent Community Foundation and The Womad Foundation.   This year-long programme ia aimed at internationalising the UK theatre industry by championing and platforming the work of first-generation migrant communities and artists around the country. 

VERONICA FRANKLIN GOULD founded the charity Arts 4 Dementia in 2011 to develop weekly programmes at cultural venues, to re-energise and inspire people above early symptoms of dementia, with a website signposting arts opportunities for dementia nationwide. She worked with Dementia UK to devise training for arts facilitators, and with universities to provide best-practice conferences and reports. Her inaugural A4D Reawakening the Mind programme (2012-13) won the London 2012 Inspire Mark and Positive Breakthrough in Mental Health Dementia Award 2013 and she was 2014 Sunday Times Changemaker finalist. On publication of Music Reawakening (2015),Veronica was appointed A4D president. Her regional guide Reawakening Integrated: Arts & Heritage (2017) aligns arts within NHS England’s Well Pathway for Dementia. Her social prescribing campaign (2019-23) encourages professionals to empower people to access wide-ranging arts from the outset of symptoms, to preserve their Brain Health, with practice disseminated in A.R.T.S. for Brain Health: Social Prescribing as Peri-Diagnostic Practice for Dementia (2021). Her Global Social Prescribing: The A4D Arts for Brain Health Debates involved speakers and delegates from 40 countries around the world. Veronica is trustee of The Amber Trust and Vice-President of Decibels (Music for the Deaf) on the advisory boards of Global Arts in Medicine Fellowships and British Society of Lifestyle Medicine.