This year, the theme of Refugee Festival Scotland is the beautiful expectation and desire that is hope. But, what does hope really mean? How can it confront what we see happening in our refugee communities? 

By Olivia Sykes, Refugee Festival Scotland volunteer

Hope is one of our world’s great unifiers. To me during the festival, I see hope as an aspiration of joy and togetherness. It means that there is so much to be excited about. It means bright colours in banners and artwork. It means delicious smells and food that nourishes. It means cultural beauty, dance, music, and smiles. 

In refugee spaces and discussions, it can be difficult to find much hope. When confronted with so much doom and gloom – in the media, in books, on television – it can feel paralyzing and difficult to see a path forward. It is vital to recognize and confront the many difficulties and challenges our refugee communities faces. But it is also important to seek out the positives and possibilities. To celebrate successes, relish the good moments. To be hopeful in spite of the challenge. 

When we as a community choose to only focus on fear and hatred, it can help to reinforce negative attitudes. If we celebrate together, and integrate hope as part of our struggle, it changes the narrative. To have longevity we need to take pauses and build up our communities, which is a key part of taking action.  

I am not a refugee, but I have experienced hopelessness. I grew up in French Canada and there is a French saying I love, which goes ‘vouloir, c’est pouvoir’. The direct translation is: ‘to want is to be able’. To desire, to hope, is to mean you can. However, pouvoir has another meaning, which is ‘power’. Even in difficult moments, we can all be powerful, fearless, and celebratory. That is what this festival means in my eyes. 

This is what I hope for. I will be reflecting on how others perceive this hope, how they interpret it, and return to what it means after we celebrate our coming together. 

Take some time to be hopeful this festival and strive to find little pieces of joy wherever you are. Not every resistance has to be a heavy one covered in sadness. Joy is a powerful force. 

Refugee Festival Scotland runs from 16-25 June. Take a look at the programme to see what events are happening near you. 

Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb