In 2011, Bristol became one of 14 cities across the UK to be officially labelled a ‘City of Sanctuary’, as part of a national movement which aims to build a culture of hospitality for people seeking sanctuary in the UK. This significant event couldn’t have taken place without the hard work of the local Pierian Centre, supported by funding from The National Lottery.
Opened in 2002 as a centre for training and development with a focus on community and the arts, the Pierian Centre had three main principles, according to founder June Burroughs. “The first is that every business should be part of the community. The second: that everyone is remarkable. And finally, that its only purpose is to take care of everyone that comes through the doors.
” With a mixture of cultural events celebrating Bristol’s diverse population – including Somalian storytelling, Zimbabwe day and an Irish evening – the centre quickly became an integral part of the community. And although it closed at the end of 2011, its legacy lives on. The Pierian Centre had been holding annual Lottery-funded Celebrating Sanctuary festivals, with events and exhibitions based around the diverse cultures that used the centre, and works with local schools to explore the theme of sanctuary and asylum. When Bristol City Council was first considering applying to become a City of Sanctuary, working with June and the Pierian Centre was a natural move. After three years of hard work, in July 2011, it was made official.
A Lottery-funded event celebrated Bristol’s status as a multicultural, safe city with singing, dancing and a procession. “The whole event showed how important it is to be a City of Sanctuary and made it come alive,” says June. “The Pierian Centre may be closed now, but its legacy continues.”
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