There are so many great examples of sanctuary arts in action from around the UK. We’ve listed just a few here to share best practice and inspire others.
Young Vic: Sharing Food and Stories
Opera North: Reaching Out To Welcome
When people have left their homes and find themselves seeking sanctuary, the UK can seem new and unfamiliar. But Opera North have capitalised on the medium of Opera in which language does not prove to be a major barrier but which can be incredibly powerful and moving. People seeking sanctuary are encouraged to attend performances through their free ticket scheme and may even find something familiar in their projects involving World Music and performances which centre around stories of refuge.
Opera North promote staff training opportunities across their workforce (for example, inviting someone who has sought sanctuary in the UK to talk to the cast of an upcoming performance about refuge) and have worked to raise awareness within their audience through “calls to action” and follow up emails detailing how people can support.
They offer taster performances or workshops to many community organisations, including refugee support charities, and attend events such as conversation classes as a way of building relationships. They recommend forming strong links with local partner organisations who may be able to encourage participation.
(Photo Credits: Opera North)
The Art House Wakefield: Studio Space for People Seeking Sanctuary
The Art House, Wakefield is a charity which was established in 1994 by a group of disabled artists with a vision to provide facilities where they could work alongside each other within a community of artists, developing projects for disadvantaged and marginalised people. They believe there should be no barriers to creating, sharing and experiencing art. The Art House is the UK’s first Studio of Sanctuary, providing support for professional artists who happen to be refugees and asylum seekers.
With the support of the Tudor Trust these print workshops have extended The Art House’s Studio of Sanctuary provision, creating a place for people in Wakefield to learn new skills, make friends and create community. They welcomed over 100 participants to their print workshops from people seeking sanctuary and wider Wakefield communities, including children and young people, within a few months of starting the project.
(Photo Credits: Amy Charles & Art House Wakefield)
Leicester New Walk Museum: Collaboration and Participation
A major art installation on the theme of Home and Identity at Leicester New Walk Museum and Art Gallery was created by people seeking sanctuary from the Journey’s Festival Roots Group, in late spring 2019 and was exhibited for four months at New Walk Museum. The exhibition was a community response by the group to the loan of the King Richard III portrait to Leicester museums by the National Portrait Gallery as part of its ‘Coming Home’ exhibition. The Museum Arts Coordinator worked with the group and George Sfougaras, a local print artist from a refugee background. Each group member created a giant collage portrait of themselves, choosing images resonant of their home and identity to fill their silhouette.
Collage was chosen as an accessible and non-threatening technique for those with little previous art experience or confidence. The group then learnt the skills of silk screen printing with the artist, and their prints were laid on topof the series of collage portraits and enhanced digitally, and finally were printed as huge textile banners which have been displayed in the Cathedral and museum over the summer.
Migration Museum: Exhibitions and Inclusivity
The Migration Museum shines a light on the many ways that the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped who we are – as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. They are doing this through the creation of an inspiring national Migration Museum, a far-reaching education programme and a knowledge-sharing network of museums and galleries across the UK.
Their Call Me By My Name: Stories from Calais and Beyond exhibition highlighted work from artists in the Calais camp, and from those who didn’t necessarily identify as artists but who were making art, including young people taking photographs as part of the Welcome to Our Jungle project. The exhibition featured dozens of personal stories and direct testimonies from sanctuary seekers, refugees and asylum seekers alongside artworks created by artists with lived experience of forced migration. The idea was to give a platform for artists to share their own works, thoughts and experiences in their own voice and in the way they wanted. They have continued to work with some of the artists that were featured in the exhibition in subsequent projects, including Habib Sadat, who was one of their artists in residence in 2018, and Majid Adin, who has contributed to subsequent exhibitions and events.
Room to Breathe was an immersive exhibition staged by the Migration Museum in 2018–19, inviting visitors to discover stories from generations of new arrivals to Britain by journeying through a series of rooms in which the struggles, joys, creativity and resilience of living in a new land were brought to life through audio, films, photographs and personal objects. As part of the exhibition, they hosted an artist-in-residence programme, whereby six refugee and migrant artists were invited to set up and take up residency in an art studio inside the exhibition for a month at a time. All of the artists had total control over the look and feel of the space. Artists included Habib Sadat and Shorsh Saleh, who both have refugee backgrounds, and the New Art Studio, an art therapy studio for asylum seekers and refugees. The residency was announced as an open call and they did outreach to various networks. In addition, many stories and objects collected in the exhibition came from refugees/asylum seekers.
(Photo Credits: Migration Museum)
Maison Foo: Overcoming Language Barriers
Derby-based theatre company Maison Foo, worked with Talking Birds Theatre, a key project partner, to pilot translated captions into Arabic during their theatre production of A Thing Mislaid. Initially, Maison Foo worked with a professionaltranslator to translate the script, and subsequently worked with a member of their Sanctuary Seeker Steering Group, Ahmed Alabdali, to tweak and edit the translations as the production went into the final stages of rehearsal.
A Thing Mislaid explores themes of migration, journeying, friendship, displacement and hope; all things that they feel resonate with audiences concerned about the personal stories and needs of sanctuary seekers. During the research and development of the production, the company developed a steering group with Derby Refugee Advice Centre; members contributed to the themes and details in the show, in addition to helping translate welcome messages in Arabic, Farsi and Kurdish for flyers and programmes for the tour of A Thing Mislaid. The group also collaborated with Maison Foo to design a ‘Meet Your Neighbour Party’ – a unique and joyous event that celebrated the group’s cultures – sharing food, dance moves and stories.
Maison Foo have received funding to develop an installation, on the same theme as Meet Your Neighbour, which will celebrate the voices and stories of sanctuary seekers across the country.
(Photo Credit: Robert Day)
Gulberkian: Refugee Week Events
For Refugee Week, the Gulbenkian Theatre worked in partnership with Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) and East Kent City of Sanctuary to put on an event for the local community. ‘Simple Acts of Kindness’, based on the theme for that year’s celebrations, involved poetry, theatre, music, screenings and talks on the theme of refuge and asylum. Gulbenkian’s drama group for unaccompanied young refugees and asylum-seekers, ‘KRAN Fam’ performed, building on their partnership with Kent Refugee Action Network.
(Photo Credit: Gulberkian)