Firing the Heart: Tales of Exile and Sanctuary


Bringing together storytellers, refugees, and members from the Oxfordshire community, Firing the Heart was a vibrant series of masterclasses and community workshops led by storytellers Gauri Raje and Sef Townsend.


The series explored the art of storytelling and what stories mean today in contemporary society. Participants used traditional storytelling modes from cultures around the world to explore issues around migration, family, community, culture, love, and loss.


Firing the Heart took place in Autumn 2014 at Fusion Arts’ studios in East Oxford. The workshops concluded the ‘Inside Out/Outside In’ project, funded by The Tolkien Trust, Lankelly Chase, and supported by Oxford City Council.


Exploring themes of exile and sanctuary, take a look at what the sessions involved:



Masterclass 1 Exile Saturday 11th October 2014 10.30am – 4.30pm 
What is Exile? What is it like to be a refugee? To be forced from your home? Arriving in a strange land and starting again from scratch? Walk in their shoes.

An experiential workshop day where participants looked into the phenomenon of asylum and the journey of exile. Using materials developed by the UN Refugee Agency, this day placed participants into the shoes of a refugee on his/her journey to sanctuary.


Sunday Story Sessions, Sundays 19th October – 23rd November 2014, 2.30pm – 5pm
Exploring working with multi-cultural migrant groups, these practical sessions explored stories at the heart. Sessions took place at Fusion Arts, alongside sessions ran at Campsfield House IRC.


Masterclass 2 Sanctuary Saturday 29th November 2014 10.30am – 4.30pm
Sanctuary: what does it mean? What is involved in the transition from an unsafe space and how do we arrive at a sense of safety?

This final masterclass explored how the ‘story’ can be a gateway to one’s own personal journey. Participants investigated how visual art and craft work is used in story-telling, particularly amongst refugees and marginalised communities.