REFUGEE Week 2017 was Swindon’s biggest and most successful yet.

Almost a year ago, the town celebrated the launch of Swindon City of Sanctuary, an organisation seeking to create a culture of welcoming support for those who have fled danger and persecution and now call Swindon home.

Since its launch, City of Sanctuary has held a number of successful events and most recently was the leading force behind Refugee Week.

Lead organiser, Kate Hudson, said: “The purpose of Refugee Week is to raise awareness and celebrate all that is good about diversity in our society. As a group, we feel that this is needed more than ever, and it appears we’re not alone.

“The feedback we’ve had from events like our Global Tea Party has been overwhelmingly positive. We’d love to do it all again next year and would welcome contributions and ideas from others in the community.”

This year’s event began with the Great Get Together, a day of fun for all the family but with a serious message in memory of the murdered MP Jo Cox.

The week that followed has been described by organisers as “a whirlwind of art, activity, education and celebration”.

It included school outreach programmes that reached more than 200 children, gallery exhibitions, dancing, a special radio show, a topical film screening and international themed entertainment throughout.

Nicola Johnson, Swindon City of Sanctuary’s Development Worker, said: “It’s been an incredible week – organised and supported by the most amazing volunteers. A wonderful celebration of Swindon and the community spirit that can be found here.

“There are a few reasons why we have wanted to make Refugee Week a much bigger event in Swindon this year: sharing stories to create better understanding of why people seek refuge and to encourage successful integration, enabling refugees to live in safety and celebrating the valuable contribution they bring.

“I think it’s easy to demonise a group of people, to blame unknown faces for our own misfortunes and struggle. Hopefully events like this create a space for people in Swindon to meet the individuals not just a ‘refugee’.

“For me, it was also incredibly poignant, coming so soon after the sad news of Lord Joel Joffe’s death.

“He was instrumental in getting Swindon City of Sanctuary to where it is today in just a year and a huge support to me in providing funding for my role as Development Worker for Swindon City of Sanctuary.

“Refugee Week feels very much like a testimony to his work in championing three very meaningful dimensions in his life: human rights, refugees and Swindon.

“I can think of no better way to say thank you and honour his memory than continuing our work to promote a culture of welcome and inclusion as well as providing opportunities to celebrate the wonderful people who live in Swindon and our community which was apparent during Refugee Week.”

On July 22, supporters of the refugee community will take to the streets for what has become an annual march of solidarity.

Last year’s event saw the highest turnout for any political demonstration in the town that year.

The 2017 ‘refugees welcome’ march, organised by the Swindon Trades Council, Hope Not Hate and Swindon City of Sanctuary, will set off from Wharf Green at 2pm.