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A most memorable day in Hay.

It was the last chance to see the Refugee Exhibition at Hay Castle before it was dismantled. Christina borrowed a minibus and transported 11 men from the Three Counties Hotel to the castle. As is often the case, things weren’t straightforward. The minibus keys were hidden and it took some time to be able to set off from the kind School that had agreed the loan and then to alert the prospective visitors that she was ready. Some had decided not to travel but those who did, accompanied by Ian and Christina, had a great day. They were met by Claire, Morgan, Ailsa and Lawrence and welcomed to the Clore space.  They were a friendly bunch who mostly spoke English well and seemed very happy to look around the castle, take photos, check out the exhibition and dress up and take more photos!

Lawrence and Morgan chatting whilst waiting for the visitors to arrive, Morgan’s biscuit display, and the view from the window

Some opted to stay in the warm and chat with Maddy when she arrived but others wanted to look around town. We set off towards the main car park to pick up a spare rain coat and were amazed to hear bagpipes playing. It turned out to be the Cwmbran and District Pipe and Drum Band practising and they seemed delighted to give us a short performance and pose for photos before letting us know their plans for the day.











We headed off towards the river where were had a super walk  with some of the younger people dashing down to the river whilst the other folk continued along a well maintained track. We chatted as we walked and I learnt about Freethinking Islam, St Lucia [The birdsong and trees reminded him of home] of gang warfare, of journeys, getting into college, about Afghanistan, Eritrea and overall difficulties in finding legal advice.

As we walked back into town we were able to see the Band perform again at the Clock tower and watch a procession start to form. We watched and listened for about 30 minutes and as the procession set off , we took a short cut back to the castle to have additional  warm drinks. Christina opted to take the bus up to Hay bluff so people could see the view before returning to Hereford.

It was good to be able to see Director Tom and  some people were able to thank him in person for a great day out.


After tidying up ,Claire and I stood by the Castle gates and watched the Remembrance day parade in the square and the presentation of wreaths. More than ever it seemed a time to celebrate peace and the sacrifice of those who helped to achieve it. Our visitors had fully respected and enhanced our experience. Most had known war at first hand  and were glad to be in a peaceful country.

Press release

Hay castle has recently played host to a number of visits from men seeking asylum in Hereford. The initial impetus for the visits was to see the wonderful exhibition of refugee art curated by executive Director Tom True. This exhibition contained a wonderful selection of work by Josef Herman and friends who had sought refuge in Wales after fleeing Nazi Germany and also  artworks by many contemporary sanctuary seeking artists working in Wales. These artists working in a range of media from iconography, paint, pens  photography and  sculpture  presented a diverse range of thought provoking artworks. Some were traditionally beautiful such as the icons and the paintings of the castle itself. A poignant painting of the graves in Aberfan marked the 57th anniversary of the disaster on 21st October which was the date of the first of the visits  from Hereford. Photography by Nathaly Buitrago and Michael Baye maybe hinted at the feelings of loss and hope whilst drawings done by men who had lived for  a time in Penally camp illustrated more clearly these ideas. One depicted a man holding a gun that was being played like a flute and another the heartbreak of leaving home and the ties with family left behind.

Over the course of three visits of small groups from Hereford and one from Swansea these artworks were admired and in some cases inspired drawings and poems. Tours of the castle and some explanations about  Welsh and British history helped with integration into Britain and acquisition of additional language. Walks around the town gave  the opportunity to see some beautiful scenery and on the last visit a remembrance parade. This was especially poignant as so many of the visitors had fled war torn  countries such as Eritrea, South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan. The Cwmbran And District Pipe and Drum band rehearsing by Hay school at the start of a walk were kind enough to play and have photographs taken.
Dressing up in the castle costumes  was enjoyed by all visitors giving more photo opportunities and  selfies from the tower were also popular. These photos were to be shared with family or friends left behind.
The warmth of welcome given by staff and volunteers at the castle and the use of the Clore space allowed for relaxation and a chance to forget briefly the day to day fears. suffering  and anxieties inherent in seeking asylum.
Hay,  Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees  (HBTSR) coordinated these visits and is immensely grateful to the castle staff, volunteers and the people of Hay who made these disparate people so welcome. HBTSR  Secretary  Ailsa Dunn reflected that ‘watching the Remembrance Day Parade from a castle with people who had fled war made one appreciate the sacrifices made by so many to allow us to live in peace. ‘