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Hello, befrienders! This is our 15th fortnightly newsletter and we hope you still enjoy seeing them arrive in your Inbox. For those of you matched very recently,  for whom this will be the first you receive, you can find previous ones on our website under News

Last week saw the publication by Freedom from Torture, the Refugee Council and six other organisations, of Lessons Not Learned, a hard-hitting report on the historical and systemic failures of Home Office asylum decision-making. Examining the record of the last 15 years, it found that gathering of information from applicants was often problematic, unrealistic and unlawful demands for evidence were made, and the Home Office failed to deliver fairly on its responsibilities towards people seeking asylum here. It called for a complete overhaul of the decision-making process. You can download the report here. 

 As we move into October and the weather gets crisper, London trees are turning glorious shades of autumn colours. It's a great month to visit the many free parks across the city - from the large expanses of Richmond Park or Hampstead Heath to smaller, local ones - and enjoy the beautiful displays of the new season. 

It’s also a lovely time to wander around Kew Gardens! So, remember, if you would like to go with your friend but haven't done so yet, just drop us a line (at and we will send you the voucher so you can visit for free.

This Sunday, 29th October, the Thames Barrier is due to carry out its annual full tide test closure. The barrier is an iconic example of British design and engineering, protecting 1.25 million people and a huge amount of important London infrastructure. Its closure offers the chance to see how it works and to meet the teams who operate it and protect London from flooding. Guides will give regular talks and provide a running commentary, as the gates are closed and re-opened. For more information and times to see the barrier in action see here.

Also taking place on Sunday is Regatta London, a new challenge event raising money for many different charities. The significantly reduced tidal flow during the closure of the Thames barrier will allow two paddle boarding events to be held, as well as kayaking, canoeing and rowing challenges. Registration for participants is now closed but watching people taking part should still be fun. There will be two main routes, the London Crossing, starting from Hammersmith and ending in Greenwich, and The Big Ben Challenge, a loop from Putney to Big Ben and back. For routes, times and spectator maps take a look at this link.

Continuing with our river theme, Foragers of the Foreshore, running till Sunday 29th, at Bargehouse, Bargehouse St., SE1 9PH. is the most expansive exhibition on Mudlarking ever to be held. The exhibition features historical artefacts found by the prestigious Society of Thames Mudlarks, photographic portraits of mudlarkers and work by artists who use mudlark finds in unusual ways. There's also a chance to meet Mudlarker in Residence, Nicola White, who has recreated the studio where she keeps objects collected over 15 years of foraging. On display, too, is her collection of messages in bottles from the Thames.

And if you venture down to that section of the river after dark, you might want to see the lighting of the four bridges - London, Cannon Street, Southwark and Millennium - that form the first phase of Illuminated River, an ambitious public art project that aims to transform up to 15 London bridges over the next few years and celebrate the role that Thames bridges play in the global identity of London. 


And more things to do for free in London over the next fortnight:

1. Friday Late: Anthropocene at the V&A - for those who might be meeting up this evening, 27th Sept! - considers how human-driven changes have become a geological force and explores ways to reconnect with the natural world. 
2. Those of you South of the river might like to explore Lambeth Open over the weekend of 5th-6th October when artists and crafts people will open their studios and workspaces across the Borough. Doors will be open to 10am to 6pm both days. See the map of exhibitors here. 
3. UCL runs It's All Academic Festival on Saturday 5th from 10am to 4pm, with talks, panels, exhibitions and tours. It's a chance to get hands-on, discover the breadth of research taking place at the university, and quiz leading academics. 
4. On 5th-6th October the campaign promoting culture at the heart of community, Fun Palaces, returns with a weekend of action created by, for and with local people. Check the map to see what might be happening near you.
5. The theme of Imperial College's Late on Wednesday 9th October - 6pm to 9pm - is Science without borders. Their globetrotting community of scientists will tell stories of exploration and adventure: from new, low-cost prosthetics engineered in Cambodia and diet monitoring wearable tech trialled in Ghana, to oil-spill clean-up sponges developed in India and gardening therapy for patients in Italy. It's free but you need to register here

And, advance notice of Welcome Cinema + Kitchen's next event: their 3rd Birthday celebration, on 29th October, at Amnesty International UK, 25 New Inn Yard, EC2 3EA, between 6pm-10pm. Their events (where half the tickets are sold, half reserved for refugees and asylum-seekers, who attend for free) are very popular; more details and tickets will be released very soon. 

All best wishes, HostNation team
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