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Gruffalo co-creator illustrates poem by refugees on National Poetry Day

Axel Scheffler illustrates poignant poem by refugees at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants

Renowned artist collaborates with Amnesty to campaign for a change to UK refugee family reunion rules

Unique illustration up for auction

An emotive new illustration by the Gruffalo’s co-creator, Axel Scheffler, and inspired by a refugee poem has been released today (3 October) in support of Amnesty International UK and the #FamiliesTogether campaign.

Released on National Poetry Day (3 October) the thought-provoking image depicts a mother with child, painting under a tree. The illustration in Scheffler's iconic style is based on a beautiful poem - Trees of Home - created by refugees at the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.

Reflecting on the theme of family, the poignant poem centers on refugee family separation and the longing to be reunited with loved ones. 

The image was live drawn and filmed, and took Scheffler approximately two and a half hours to sketch. The original image will be auctioned off with proceeds going towards supporting the vital work of Amnesty International UK and the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants.

Scheffler, who was born in Germany and has lived in the UK since the early 1980s, is best known for his work on critically acclaimed children’s book The Gruffalo which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Axel Scheffler, said:

“Some of the most cherished childhood memories involve parents reading stories to their children. As a children's book illustrator, I cannot bear the thought of children being separated from their parents and missing out on these small moments that make family life wonderful.

“But current UK rules are keeping refugee families apart – children who have fled war and conflict reach safety in the UK only to be prevented from ever seeing their parents again. Children need their parents, it’s time for these rules to change.”

The poem was written in collaboration with Waterstones Children's Book Prize winner and Amnesty Ambassador Sita Brahmachari. It is part of Amnesty’s poetry and human rights education project, Words That Burn and has been specially created to support the Families Together Campaign, which works to expand the UK Government’s refugee family reunion rules, so that more refugee families can unite safely in the UK. 


Here I wait

Painting the trees of home

With their splendid, succulent, splintered roots

Banana, Birch, Mango, Chilli, Cherry, Apple, Oak, Coconut, Palm, Plane

Here I paint

At the foot of the memory tree

Deep roots

Legs of skinny brown bark holding up a blue world

My child is kissed by a falling leaf

And kissed

And kissed

Here is the tree planted by my grandfather on my daughter's birthday

Now I sit in a London park

And paint and wait

To hold her in my arms

Among the saplings

The bright green leaves

The promise of spring


Another summer

Now sparse winter, bright red berries


Season after season I paint and wait

For these branches to bud.

To see my family again.

About the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants

The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants was founded in 1997, offering English classes to asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants. The Centre works to create a strong, positive, community for people who have been displaced from their countries of origin due to persecution, war, and poverty.  Artist in residence, Jane Ray, and writer in residence, Sita Brahmachari, work with refugees in an art and writing class, to make pictures and collect words and stories exploring themes such as trees, maps or rivers. The poem is a culmination of their efforts.

Find out more about the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants here:  

About the Families Together campaign

Amnesty International UK is a founding member and co-chair of the Families Together coalition, which campaigns to expand the UK Government’s refugee family reunion rules, so that more refugee families can unite safely in the UK. The campaign has three calls:

  • Allow child refugees in the UK the right to sponsor their close family, so they can rebuild their lives together and help them integrate in their new community;
  • Expand who qualifies as family, so that young people who have turned 18 and elderly parents can join their family in the UK;
  • Reintroduce legal aid for refugee family reunion cases so people who have lost everything have the support they need to afford and navigate the complicated process of being reunited with their families.

The campaign is backed by over nearly 50 organisations, including the Refugee Council, British Red Cross, Oxfam and the UNHCR. Take action here.  

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