Midlands Regional Conference

11th January 2020, Conference Aston, Birmingham

Conference Aston is part of the campus of Aston University a ten minute walk from Moor Street station. The conference was attended by around 80 to 100 people.

We were welcomed by Gethin Davies the East Midlands Regional Rep. He introduced Imtiaz Choonara who talked about Derby Peace Week which started in April 2018 and then moved to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace (21st September) in 2019.

Kerry Moscogiuri the Campaigns and Communications Director at AIUK talked about a new initiative called ‘Building the Impact of the AI Movement’. This will involve a more activist driven focus for activities rather than the historic top-down approach. It will also encourage a more collaborative approach working with other organisations. The final part will involve the restructuring of the regional set-up within AIUK.

The final morning speaker was Jeremy Thompson the manager of Restore Birmingham a charitable organisation supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Birmingham. Their main focus is a one-to-one befriending scheme where trained volunteers offer support and encouragement to refugees and asylum seekers. They also organise group social activities.

We then split into groups to attend one of six different hour-long workshops. I chose the one entitled ‘How local AI Groups can support Refugees and Asylum seekers’. Here we listened to three speakers. The first was Coollen Molloy from City of Sanctuary a charity supporting a network of groups across the UK and Ireland who are part of a movement to build a culture of welcome and hospitality within their communities. She was followed by Irene Austin from Herts Welcomes Refugees. Finally we heard from Sue Wolfendale of Malvern Welcomes. These last two charities have a big involvement of local Amnesty members.

During lunch we took part in a photo action in support of Ali Aarras. Following lunch we heard from Kate Allen the Director of AIUK. She answered a number of questions which had been supplied in advance. We then split again for Group discussions to offer feedback on Building the Impact of the AI Movement.

The main focus of this discussion was the proposed new regional set-up. The idea is for the Regional Rep to be assisted by a Regional Organiser and ‘expert’s in the following areas – Media, Fundraising, Advocacy, Thematic, Education and Local/Student/Youth Groups who will be a focus for these activities within each region. The main issue raised, unsurprisingly, was the likelihood of finding volunteers to fill these roles.

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