The Welcome Tent Co-Founders


A Gift

The Welcome Tent was given as a gift to a group of friends - from UK, Sudan, Kurdistan, Afghanistan - who met in the Calais “jungle” between 2015-16 and continued to build friendships once reunited in the UK. Initially by cooking and sharing food together, as a group we wanted to build on and share this positive experience with other displaced people.

Until the wars are over and people are able to return in peace to the lands of their birth, this extended community will continue to welcome, building bridges across borders and friendships that will last a lifetime
— Reframing Migration, 2016

Emma Barrett Palmer brings her experience as an innovator for social change and eight years as project lead for the Social Innovation Lab Kent, the first social innovation lab in UK government. In the field of migration, Emma was a partner in Reframing Migration in 2016 to “start thinking about interactions with refugees as collaboration rather than charity and what that would achieve” and earlier this year commissioned to do a qualitative research piece for Innovation and Research In Scottish Social Services named ‘Borders as Horizons: the role of Scottish Social Workers in Reframing Migration’. 

Sparky has been working with food and people for over 25 years. As a Chef, he has cooked in top- end restaurants internationally. As a food Producer, he has studied and worked in organic, biodynamic and sustainable agriculture. As an Educator, he has been learning, studying and teaching in fields, kitchens and classrooms all around the world.

Dr Hannah Parathian-Thorn, Co-Founder from the UK, shares her time as an Anthropologist at Centro Em Rede De Investigação Antropologia in Portugal and Wild Bread, her sourdough artisan BakeHouse in the UK. She specialises in human-wildlife interactions, drawing from her participatory research experiences amongst the Tikuna indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon and her own Mauritian heritage.

Mohammad, Abdulaziz, Sheko and Ibrahim, Co-Founders from South Sudan, have received refugee status in the UK and are currently living, working and studying in Newcastle, Stockton, London and Derby. 

Christine Davies, Co-Founder from the UK and who first volunteered in Calais in 2015, is a retired Potter with a career in creative therapeutic interventions in the UK. Bagzada, Co-founder from Kurdistan, is a hairstylist and entrepreneur. We first met in Calais camp and now he is living and working in the UK.

The Hadafmand family, Co-Founders from Afghanistan, have known Emma for over 10 years after she supported their teenage children become volunteers in Gravesham community on arrival into the UK. The whole family participated in The Welcome Tent in Hythe Life Food festival in Kent and have been an invaluable source of inspiration, insight and support ever since.


The beautiful artwork and logo design is by London based Laxmi Hussain. We have collaborated with User Experience Designer, Myriam Weisenfeld for a series of live pen and ink drawings capturing the performances in The Welcome Tent in Nottingham.

Photography and documentation on this website has been by Emma Barrett Palmer, Jorgen Bundgaard, Duncan Brown, Guki Giunashuili, Emily Parish, Gabriel Gee-Jay Jenny, Hollie McNish and Bagzada.

Filming has been by Emma, Sparky and participants: footage is currently being edited in a voluntary capacity by Adam Naldaal, a student from Aarhus.

We take great inspiration from Ella Matheson, Trustee at the Desmond Tutu Foundation and ongoing support from the wonderful Tinna C Neilson, Founder of Move The Elephant For Inclusiveness and Ingrid Van Der Wacht from the Dutch Design Foundation.

On behalf of the Co-Founding crew, Emma and Sparky as a husband and wife team and their son and dog, are now pooling their professional and personal skills to take The Welcome Tent on a learning journey around Europe, while living and working from their van. Read more about their family's journey here.