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Notes from City of Sanctuary conference and AGM, 5 July 2017

Thanks to David Brown, Chair of Birmingham City of Sanctuary  for the first set of notes from last week’s Learning and Working Together Day and AGM held in Reading 

The event opened with welcoming remarks from Sabir Zazai and a presentation to Reading as a new Town of Sanctuary. Following a school video, a keynote speech by Brendan Cox was, inspirational, stressing the need to

  • Build our movement
  • Help the ‘anxious middle’ (the ~50% in between the solidly liberal-minded at one end and the ‘angry extreme / UKIP’ at the other
  • Talk about what we have in common rather than what divides us

Cox urged that avoid alienating those who do not feel comfortable with the diversity which many of us cherish, and stressed the importance of a story-based rather than a purely fact-based narrative when seeking to achieve influence.

The new national City of Sanctuary charter was accepted, with the organisation moving forward to change its legal status to a charitable incorporated organization (now ‘City of Sanctuary UK’). It was clear that the national group considers itself to be a connector and facilitator for the network comprising independent local groups (noting that these have a wide range of different structures and functions, ranging from those providing extensive services directly to those acting as more of an umbrella such as Edinburgh and ourselves in Birmingham) and thematic Streams of Sanctuary. Reference was also made to the bringing of Asylum Matters under the umbrella of CoS UK, albeit with its own agenda and priorities.

Jonathan Ellis, vice-chair, stressed that we are part of a movement, not the whole of it. He saw the important features for such a movement as having an authentic base of people, a clear vision and aim, a sense of leadership although no one single leader, and an advocacy infrastructure (which Asylum Matters will now provide). A culture of welcome should be embedded across society and embraced by the state, while we press for a more humane asylum policy.

Group sessions provided an opportunity for sharing of activity, experience and ideas which I am hoping will be documented in due course, and later, exploration of a number of specific topics as listed on the agenda (attached)

Within the AGM section, accounts were presented with the explanation that reserves looked very high as a result of a new accounting convention which means that the £400k Guardian funding over three years is entirely shown in the 2016 income. Currently the reserves include around £ 80,000 of unrestricted funds under full trustees’ control (the Guardian funding is jointly controlled by the trustees and the Guardian newspaper group)

There was much talk about Schools of Sanctuary ( I liked the resource pack which I had not seen before) and a very positive reaction to the Wales Nation of Sanctuary initiative. Bristol illustrated a close collaboration with Amnesty, which we might want to consider learning from in Birmingham,

Other examples included the benefits of drawing on the professional skills of individuals such as the restaurant manager in Newcastle who had been able to guide the provision of a pop-up restaurant and the IT skills of another group which had been able to create a mobile app.

Andrea Vukovic of Asylum Matters described the merger of Still Human Still Here and Regional Asylum Activism. They are keen to capture stories and case studies and to focus on taking forward the Birmingham Declaration.

City of Sanctuary Conference & AGM 2017 – 5th July 2017   
 ‘Learning and Working Together’

10.00 Registration & Exhibition
10.30 Welcome and housekeeping:
Nick Harborne, Reading Town of Sanctuary
10.35 Opening Remarks and Sanctuary Recognition presentation to Reading Town of Sanctuary:
Sabir Zazai, City of Sanctuary Chair
10.45 The Mayor of Reading Borough Council, Councillor Rose Williams
11.00 We Refugees, Class 5b, Avenue Junior School, Norwich
11.05 Keynote speaker:

Brendan Cox – ‘Working together effectively we are greater than the sum of our parts’

11.25 Tea and Coffee
11.35 Conference Address:

Jonathan Ellis, Vice-Chair, National City of Sanctuary –

‘How can City of Sanctuary contribute to building an ever broader social movement in the UK to ensure that all people seeking sanctuary are welcome in our country?’

Launch of the City of Sanctuary Charter:

Caroline Beatty, National City of Sanctuary Trustee

11.45 Learning and networking exchange

Discussion: What activities, projects and initiatives (including streams) does your group take part in? How do they help to realise the City of Sanctuary vision? How do you apply the City of Sanctuary principles within those activities?

12:30 AGM  AGENDA (See separate agenda and notices)
13.00  Lunch  & Entertainment from Nabra (a collaboration featuring Ali Elmubarak (Sudan) and Knud Stüwe (Germany


14.00 Introduction to afternoon session:

Sabir Zazai, City of Sanctuary Chair

14.05 Feedback: Three inspiring stories of how groups are working towards our vision and applying the City of Sanctuary principles

Stories of Sanctuary: Tiffy Allen

14.15 Updates from Ireland, Scotland and Wales



City of Sanctuary and Asylum Matters staff team – Reflections on the past year and an outline of our strategic objectives

14.45 Tea and Coffee


Roundtables: Dynamic input and discussion (see choices form for full details):

1. Influencing Decision-Makers (Andrea Vukovic, Asylum Matters)

2. Engaging with the media (Tim Finch, Imix & Forward Maisokwadzo, CoS)

3. Handling difficult conversations (Tom Godwin, HopeNotHate)

4. How to measure the difference you are making? (Richard Williams, Brighton and Hove, Sanctuary on Sea)

5. Good Governance (Kate Smart, Asylum Welcome)

15.40 Networking : Opportunity to network, read flipcharts, discuss feedback from roundtable with other participants and facilitators
15.50 Launch of Guardian Funding Second Round:

Pam Inder & Jeff Morgan, City of Sanctuary National Trustees

15.55 Closing Remarks: Joseph Chivayo, City of Sanctuary National Trustee