Refugee Week takes place every year across the world in the week of World Refugee Day on the 20th of June. In the midst of the current refugee crisis, Refugee Week is a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities.

Refugee crises are nothing new in history, and there are rarely easy answers or solutions. Depressingly consistent throughout history are those who seek to deny entry to those fleeing persecution, and seeking asylum.

Perhaps the most well-known and shameful example of this type of behaviour is the denied entry of European Jews seeking refuge in America, Canada, and other ports throughout the world before and during the Holocaust. The current European refugee crisis is enormously complex, and again, it appears as if there are no easy answers or solutions. However, as a student of history, one thing seems clear to me: history has repeatedly judged those who seek to build walls, rather than bridges, harshly.

And when you consider the big picture, you realize that the crisis is not about foreigners, or outsiders, or so-called illegal aliens. It’s about people. People fleeing unimaginable persecution, chaos, extremism. People who simply want to be able to go about their lives without constantly fearing for them. And people who, in many cases, just want to be able to play, and sing, and share the music they love in peace, just like the rest of us.

To commemorate Refugee Week, my guest today is Lis Murphy, the Director of Music Action International. 

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Lis has pioneered the use of singing and songwriting to help war and torture survivors find peace through personal expression and collective experience.  Lis is also a professional performing musician, supporting artists such as New Order and Billy Bragg.

In today’s episode of Travels in Music, Lis tells me about her work with Music Action International, and shared a number of moving stories about the incredible healing power of music, the challenges faced by refugees in the UK, and how sharing music with war and torture survivors has changed her life, and her musicianship.

In commemoration of Refugee Week, I hope you enjoy sitting in on my conversation with the Director of Music Action International, Lis Murphy.

Also available via Stitcher Radio

Mentioned in this episode:

Learn more about Lis at:

  • Her profile page at Music Action International