Counterpoints Arts’ Learning Lab travelled to Sweden for two days 30-31st May, to explore the self-organising cooperative methodologies developed and enacted by Support Group Network- SGN and Re:Act project of Save the Children, across different refugee camps and municipalities in Sweden.

The aim of the Learning Lab was to connect and engage artists, activists, educators, civic leaders, policy and decision makers in conversations around integration and to explore the potential of arts and culture in challenging segregation across refugee communities.

Based at Valand Academy in Gothenburg University, participants worked collaboratively towards the production of a shared manifesto invested in strategic collaboration across the arts, culture, civic, and education sectors.

Participants were welcomed by Denise Langridge Mellion, Projekt Ledare för Breddad Rekrytering, Valand Academy and Counterpoints Arts Co-Director, Áine O’Brien, who introduced the ethos of the Learning Lab in bringing together diverse actors and inspiring new partnerships.

The first day continued with individual inspirational presentations of art initiatives promoting integration as well as panels, open forum sessions and workshops.

Day One also included a screening of the documentary Four Days in Restad Gård  (currently in post-production) by media artist and documentary filmmaker Juan delGado, followed by a Q&A session. The film documents the lives and stories of Restad Gård residents, combining documentary storytelling and personal testimonials, to convey the everyday life experiences of seeking asylum, while also highlighting the empowerment potential of the self-governing network model as developed by the Support Group Network.


Counterpoints Arts Co-Director Áine O’Brien interviewing Adnan Abdul Ghani of Restad Gård Support Group Network


Panel Discussion on Role of Arts, Culture and Self-Organizing: Mixed Models of Civic Participation



Workshop session: Manifesto Production

The first day ended with an exchange of culinary skills and coming together through food and music, as participants worked in groups, preparing recipes organised by food artists at Valand Academy.



Participants preparing food together at Valand Academy’s ‘Old Hotel’ communal kitchen

Day Two of Learning Lab, continued with a series of ‘inspiration provocations’ of successful arts engagement initiatives, as well as a public presentation of the River of Light children’s rights project by artist Behjat Omer Abdulla and Denise Langridge Mellion. River of Light included a series of lantern making workshops, inviting local communities and new arrivals to come together through creative synergies and civic intervention.


Manifesto Production: Collaborative Feedback Session

The Learning Lab culminated with a first draft of a shared manifesto, incorporating identified success mechanisms, challenges and opportunities, as well as key future action points. Four key pillars were identified as essential catalysts in making change happen: Access, Equality, Networking and Sustainability.

The final version of the Manifesto will be developed, to allow for the production of a document that is invested in self-organising methodologies; recognises the pivotal role of arts and culture in facilitating integration, as well as offering a framework of action addressing the current realities of social and cultural segregation experienced by refugee communities across Sweden.

Learning Lab partners include Support Group Network-SGN & Re:Act, Valand Academy, Kultur i Väst, Outgrain, and Counterpoints Arts, London.

Photographs by Abdinasir Omar and Nelli Stavropoulou

Learning Lab Programme