Art + refugees network

CLUSTER: Organisations providing innovative services to migrants

START DATE: January 2011



art, community, events, exhibition, inclusion, opportunity, place, refugees


whereHoxton Works 128 Hoxton St London N1 6SH, UK


Managed by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with organisations across the country

Refugees, Asylum seekers and their host community.


Empathy, guidance and networking, particularly within the art community.

Platforma arts and refugee network supports and develops art by, about and with refugees and migrants from marginalised communities and provides a space for sharing and promoting artistic practices that explore refugee experiences. They bring together groups and artists of any background or political status, whose work examines the varied experiences of refugees, both before and after they arrived and settled in their host country.

why it is

They encourage new audiences to relate more closely and empathetically to the experiences of refugees.


Team and competences:
Counterpoins Arts is a migrant and refugee led organisation: the two founding Co-Directors are Almir Koldzic, originally from Jugoslavia, and Aine O’Brien, originally from Ireland. It has different strands of work: a network called Platforma, a network and campaign called Refugee Week, besides other productions, learning events and collaborations. Counterpoins Arts’s team is made up of 6 people. Tom Green has managed the Platforma project since 2011.
Legal Form:

Service Description

Main Problem Addressed / Activity Sector:
Platforma engages with refugee and migrant experiences through the arts. It provides support and development for artists across every art form, including artists with migrant and refugee backgrounds, artists that work on those themes, refugee and migrant communities.
The main target are artists with migrant and refugee backgrounds, but mainly people who have experienced forced displacement in some way. Other targets are people who are working in the arts and people who work with migrant and refugee communities. Platforma meets its target through the network itself and through meetings, events, word of mouth and social media. But, since migrants and refugees are usually hard to find, Platforma works with both arts and non-arts organisations who are locally working with refugees.
Solution (Project/Service):
Platforma provides free consultancy to artists and career development (finding funding, finding learning and peer-to-peer opportunities, developing connection with universities)..
The innovation lies in the way Platforma approaches to arts and culture. The most significant piece of work about the topic was written by the Arts Council and it is called “The Creative Case for Diversity”. Platforma’s team firmly believes that culture development comes from the margins: from migrants and refugees, from diversity in general.


Main Milestones:
The network itself is the main milestone of the whole project: Platforma works with around 100 artists a year and across the network there are probably 500 artists they are in connection with. Collaborations are also very important, Platforma is London based, but it works across England, the UK and internationally (it has connection in Sweden, Slovenia, France, Italy).
Main difficulties/challenges:
One of the main challenges is finding the core money to run as an organisation and establishing a clarity of purpose across so many different arts form, convincing people to focus on the quality of the art, not on the issue.


The project kicked off 5 years ago. Now it is established and secure. The Arts Council has a funding cycle every 4 years and Platforma has just received the second fund and we will be funded by them until 2022.
Employees, Stakeholders and Partners:
Platforma is supported by the Arts Council. It also has long term partnerships with some national venues (the Southbank centre, Tate Modern, the British Museum) and smaller partners around the country who connect them to grassroots networks.


Main Goals/challenges:
The main goal is to disseminate the mindset that arts and culture are critical to society. Arts and culture are not a luxury, they define how well we live together and how well we cooperate and integrate.
Critical Factors and suggestions:
It is really important to find a balance between defining the audience and subject matter but not overdefining it so it becomes a restriction. Sometimes the identity of being a migrant or refugee can be over stresses that it becomes restrictive and self defeating. The second thing is that when you are dealing with refugees and migrants you don’t have to underestimate how difficult people’s lives can be. For this reason, Platforma focuses on having long-term relationships with organisations working in refugee support and welfare. Platforma approaches to people as artists, but it also spends time trying to understand the bigger picture and the context, so it can work with people with migrant and refugee background effectively, without being over sensitive and patronising. A third critical factor is linked to the fact that sometimes policy makers don’t understand the centrality of arts and culture which can’t be effective without services and support.