Updated: Mar 17
On Saturday 5th March we were delighted to host our third and final art workshop in Glasgow’s Townhead Village Hall. With the previous workshops focusing on the present and future, this event considered relational wellbeing in our participants’ childhood past, using a trauma-informed approach to ensure safety and respect.
Reflecting now on the series of workshops, it feels incredibly challenging to convey the special nature and power of these events through words alone. Instead, feel free to take a journey through some photos, videos and audio that capture more effectively the vibrancy and colour of the day.
This colour, of course, is no accident, and great credit must go to our expert art therapists, Bobby Lloyd and Miriam Usiskin from Art Refuge, who facilitated the day. Their skill as delicate, compassionate hosts was apparent from the outset, and their softness in tone whilst navigating through some very sensitive topics was wonderful to be part of. Our workshop also integrated components of photography, film-making and music – bringing creativity, fun and occasionally a touch of organised chaos! – and the day was made all the richer for the contributions of our film-maker, Petter Korkman, photographer, Emily MacInnes, and musician, Laurie Pitt from Sound Lab. As researchers, it was our role to help knit all of these components together in a way that gives care and respect to the individual experiences of our participants.
Most appreciation, however, must go to the participants themselves, and the wonderful ways that they give to the project, and, most importantly, to each other. Some of the photos below go some way to illustrating the warmth and happiness in the room; however, to be there and taking part of these interactions as researchers truly is a humbling experience. Our project has been beset by myriad Covid-19-related delays at every stage, but, despite these issues, we have found success through the compassion and commitment of our participants, who come to share their experiences so that other refugees can find health, happiness, and fulfilment in their lives. None of this would be possible without our two project ambassadors, Hamid and Christine, who provide critical guidance to the project as part of the research team, but who also spend so much time convening social events, building relationships and generally looking out for our group of participants.
Lastly, our final reflection is on the process of art-making, and its power, not just as a research output, but also in helping create a safe and equal shared space for our group of participants. One example of this, and one of the special moments of the day, happened during our first warm-up exercise. In this exercise, each participant was given a loose task to build some kind of structure using miniature bricks and Play-Doh, whilst sat around a large communal table. Interestingly, what started off as an individual exercise soon became a collective one, as it became clear that the different models the group were creating were being shaped to begin to interact with one another. When asked about this, the group shared that their thinking had been influenced by the current crisis in Ukraine, and their models were a response to that. The series of models they had created was in effect an ecosystem of support that they felt refugees from Ukraine would need upon entering the UK. Included within this was education services, housing, practical supports, as well as a physical and metaphorical ‘bridge’ to carry them over troubled waters.
This was a remarkable moment and highlighted how creativity in shared spaces can be used to help to raise up the most important and sensitive issues that we face as a society. More importantly, however, it highlighted how fortunate we are as a project to be able to work with such a special group of people. Their first thought is how they can help others who are going through similar challenges to those that they have experienced. It indicates there is something quite special about
the shared experiences of young refugees and the power of how they support each other as a group of peers. Our thanks are to them for sharing their experiences with us, as well as for the care and compassion that they show to each other every day.