Following an award-winning exhibition for the party conferences ‘Not the Ideal home show’ which used a genuine refugee tent mocked up as a paint peeling grimy B&B to reflect the living conditions of refugees coming out of war torn Darfur, UNHCR invited Hartnell’s to partner them to produce a display for World Refugee Day 2008 in Trafalgar Square

Working pro bono our first challenge was how to make any impact with such a limited production budget. Our solution was to persuade other commercial companies to supply goods and services free of charge  to help turn Trafalgar Square into a refugee camp for 1 day.  The idea was to engage the general public in an emotional and engaging experience of another reality.

We managed to persuade many companies to donate goods and sercvices in kind. The event was reported by media globally mentioning the sponsors and caused a viral wave on social media. The mocked up burning village, was used to create photo opportunities and had a significant emotional impact on the audience.

The display materials were reused at other events maximising return on investment.

Here’s how one London paper reported the story;

On my way to a meeting in Whitehall on Tuesday morning I was astounded to see a refugee encampment in Trafalgar Square.

On closer inspection I discovered a powerful exhibition of a burned out small house and several simple tents of plastic sheeting stretched over a metal frame each designed to accommodate up to a dozen displaced individuals.

The exhibition “Experience Darfur,” timed to mark Refugee Week was part of a campaign to highlight the plight of hundreds of thousands of people displaced by conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

It was a moving and intelligently mounted representation of the horrors faced by individuals forced to flee their home at a moments notice – a school blackboard with the chalked message “One day we had to run” was a simple but poignant reminder of  how normality can suddenly change.

Jon Snow, Television Broadcaster reporting on the Darfur Experience

“People are rapidly becoming inured to it by seeing it on TV… When you actually look at this and you see that it is a a families’ life, a mother, a father, an extended family and that’s what’s happened to it, I think it enables people to think of it in a much more three dimensional way.”