A guest blog by Ben Knight a social work student on placement on the Wellbeing project at Refugee Action.
Ben worked with the arts drop-in group at Refugee Action to create a banner with positive messages about refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester.
As the collection at the People’s History Museum demonstrates – the making and displaying of banners has always been present at protests and marches. They are an essential way for the uncounted or underrepresented to make their voices heard loud and clear.
For the weekly arts drop-in at Refugee Action we wanted to create some banners that are inspired by the rich tradition of banner making on display at the People’s History Museum. Many of the participants in the group have experience organising protests around asylum issues such as the ‘Shut Down Yarlswood Detention Centre’ campaign and we wanted to channel this energy into creating some positive messages about refugees and asylum seekers in Manchester.
During the designing of our banners the educational resources made available by the People’s History Museum were invaluable. These resources included some symbols that have appeared on protest banners throughout history, including images of unity, diversity and collective action. The sessions resulted in two banners, one based around the phrase ‘Refugees Make A Greater Manchester’ and an ‘Asylum Seekers Welcome Here’ banner. Both banners are on display in our office at Canada House, and the latter banner was used by Manchester University students at a recent pop-up campaign to raise awareness of asylum issues on the streets of Manchester.
Of our art-sessions, regular participant Bisham Dass says, that the art-sessions ‘aimed to provide a means for stress relief and emotional healing for asylum seekers and refugees who have been victims of abuse and hardship, and are in need of a mental sanctuary’.
The banner making session was a stimulating and thought provoking activity and we’re all pleased that the banners could be used in a public campaign.
Refugee Action are one of our Parliament Week partners. Find out about our programme of events inspiring you to change your future.