17 & 24 Nov, 1 Dec




Refugee Nights is a virtual festival created by the IWM Institute marking its launch in November 2020. From those risking everything to cross the seas, to thousands who experienced the devastating fire in Lesbos’ Moria camp last month, 2020 has seen the highest levels of displacement on record. With an estimated 79 million people currently displaced worldwide, media attention has gravitated back to the so-called refugee crisis. But how much do we really know about the experiences of those behind the headlines? Over three nights, the festival will explore refugees’ stories throughout history in talks, eyewitness accounts, music and food, and celebrate refugees’ rich and important cultural contributions to UK public life.

Each night, spaced over three weeks, will be hosted by Hassan Akkad, Syrian refugee and creator of BAFTA-winning documentary ‘Exodus’ , who will guide online viewers through the festival and share his moving story along the way.

Episode Three: A New Home will be broadcast on IWM's YouTube Channel on 1 December, plus catch up on Episodes One and Two



    Imad Alarnab



    Imad Alarnab is a Syrian chef, entrepreneur and refugee who ran two successful restaurants, a cafe and chain of juice bars in Damascus. His businesses were destroyed when conflict struck Syria, and in July 2015 Imad fled in the hope of finding a safer life for himself and his family. Two years after arriving in the UK, Imad hosted his first pop-up brunch and dinner experience in Bethnal Green and then in October 2020 launched a new permanent restaurant - Imad's Syrian Kitchen, based in London's Carnaby Street.

  • Portrait photograph of Waad Al-Kateab
    Waad Al-Kateab



    Waad is a Syrian activist and award-winning filmmaker. She became a citizen journalist in 2011, after protests broke out across Syria against the Assad regime, and in January 2016 she began documenting the horrors of Aleppo for Channel 4 News in a series titled, “Inside Aleppo.” which received an International Emmy for breaking news coverage. Waad’s first feature documentary, For Sama, documented her life over five years in Aleppo. The film has received numerous awards, including the Prix L'Œil D'or for Best Documentary at Cannes Film Festival and Best Documentary at the BAFTAs.

    Omid Djalili



    Omid Djalili is an internationally renowned comedian and actor. His credits range from Hollywood films to television and the West End stage, including blockbuster films The Infidel, The Mummy and Gladiator and smash hit TV show, His Dark Materials. Djalili has won awards for his comedy, including the Spirit of the Fringe Award as well as the One World Media Award for his Channel 4 documentary, Bloody Foreigners. He was born in Britain to Iranian parents, who fled Iran to escape religious persecution.

    Jude Law


    Jude Law is an award-winning actor best known for his appearances in films such as The Talented Mr Ripley and Sherlock Holmes. Jude visited the Calais Camp in 2016, performing at the Good Chance Theatre, an arts space set-up in the camp by artistic directors Joe Robertson & Joe Murphy.

  • Shingain Shoniwa
    Shingain Shoniwa


    Shingai Shoniwa is a Zimbabwean-British singer who reached great heights as the lead vocalist of The Noisettes, a band whose hit singles include ‘Never Forget You’ and ‘Don’t Upset The Rhythm’. Now pursuing a solo career, Shingai has just in the last few weeks released a groundbreaking new album called “Too Bold” – a title which echoes her name (in the Shona language, Shingai means "be bold, be brave, have courage").


    © IWM (BOS 233)



    Comedian OMID DJALILI, filmmaker WAAD AL-KATEAB and UNHCR’s ROSSELLA PAGLIUCHI-LOR discuss how memories of home have shaped the stories and experiences of refugees throughout history, in a conversation hosted by CNN news anchor BECKY ANDERSON. Students from University of the Arts London speak to HASSAN AKKAD about busting stereotypes and common misperceptions of refugees. Artist ASIA ALFASI reflects on her childhood in Libya before the revolution in 2011, sharing a video of her unique drawing process that explores life beyond the ‘conflict-zone’ trope.

    © John Keane (IWM GLF 174)

    NIGHT #2: THE JOURNEY, 24 NOV, 7pm


    Labour party peer LORD ALF DUBS and refugee NUJEEN MUSTAFA – who travelled 3,500 miles from Syria to Germany by wheelchair to escape conflict – discuss how refugee journeys have changed throughout history, from the Kindertransport to today’s channel crossings. Actor JUDE LAW reflects upon his performance at the Good Chance Theatre at the Calais  'Jungle' in 2016, and discusses the power of storytelling with festival host HASSAN AKKAD

  • Refugee Nights - episode 3
    © IWM (5260.7)

    NIGHT #3: A NEW LIFE? 1 DEC, 7pm


    Oxford University Professor ALEXANDER BETTS, author MAYA GOODFELLOW and CEO of Oxfam & Disasters Emergency Committee Trustee DANNY SRISKANDARAJAH debate how the world should respond to the refugee crisis today, in a conversation chaired by CNN anchor CLARISSA WARD. The London-based Syrian chef and restaurateur IMAD ALARNAB shares his story of building a new life in the UK, cooking traditional Syrian dishes for viewers as he explores the importance of food, and CNN’s Senior International Correspondent ARWA DAMON discusses her ongoing work with refugee children in the Middle East. An dynamic and moving performance from solo artist SHINGAI closes the evening!

Refugee Nights is developed in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, and in collaboration with International Organisation for Migration (IOM, the UN Migration Agency), Disasters Emergency Committee and English PEN.

Our media partner on the festival is CNN, a news and information services available in seven different languages across all major TV, digital and mobile platforms, reaching more than 475 million households around the globe.

Refugee Nights marks the official launch of the IWM Institute, a new innovation hub at Imperial War Museums. The festival forms part of IWM's Refugees season which explores refugee stories throughout history and ongoing issues faced by those affected through two major exhibitions, a series of events and a new site-specific art commission at IWM London from world-renowned artist Ai Weiwei.