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Illuminating City Hall to Celebrate a Decade of Sanctuary

On Monday 2nd of August, City Hall was lit up in blue to celebrate a decade of Bristol being a City of Sanctuary. In those ten years, people from across the city have worked hard to make Bristol a place of welcome, safety and hope for those fleeing war, persecution, violence and the impact of the climate crisis.

On the 22nd of June 2011, hundreds of people gathered at College Green to celebrate the launch of Bristol as a City of Sanctuary. A sea of blue umbrellas were held aloft to symbolise shelter, and messages of welcome strung up on a colourful dome. It was a celebration for Bristol, bringing people together from across the city and its diverse communities to champion sanctuary. Now, ten years later, at the end of a period of anniversary celebrations by Bristol City of Sanctuary, City Hall will be lit up in blue, demonstrating the continued commitment of the city to upholding a movement of welcome.

The public celebration in 2011 followed Bristol City Council’s vote to support Bristol being a City of Sanctuary. In the years since, the organisation that started as a grassroots movement has become a recognised charity, working with dedicated people across the city to ensure that Bristol lives up to its title as a City of Sanctuary. It is part of a wider network of groups across the UK and Ireland; there are now over 100 sanctuary groups of differing sizes, ranging in boroughs, towns and cities across the lands. In a decade where an anti-migration rhetoric has been embedded within national policy and some factions of the media, the movement to foster an alternative, welcoming environment has grown stronger in the city.

“We have been so grateful for the support of so many in Bristol over the past decade” says Anna Wardell, Interim Manager of Bristol City of Sanctuary. “By illuminating City Hall, a local landmark, in blue we wanted to pay tribute to the city; to the dedication of individuals and organisations, businesses, community groups and Bristol City Council to making the city a place of welcome for those seeking sanctuary.”

“We would not be a City of Sanctuary without the people; without the incredible individuals working tirelessly to create a community which recognises the right to seek asylum, to foster a culture which recognises the gifts that we all have to offer this city. We are all human, and we want to celebrate our shared humanity.”

“Bristol is proud to be called a City of Sanctuary, and to be home to nearly 100 languages and diverse cultures,” said Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol. “Lighting City Hall blue symbolises our continued commitment to work with the refugee sector and city partners to welcome people seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.”

“By working together, we are building a city where people seeking sanctuary can rebuild their lives and reach their potential. Ten years on from the City of Sanctuary motion moved by the late Councillor Ron Stone, we are reminded of how far we have come, and inspired to do more to build a city of welcome and safety for all: a City of Hope.”

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