A guest post by The Portico Library, Manchester.
As part of the First World War Centenary in 2015 The Portico Library Manchester launched a project titled Conflict and Community sponsored by The Zochonis Charitable Trust.
This project considered some of the far reaching ramifications of conflict and persecution within a broad perspective, including the movement of people.
In order to highlight some personal stories Chester-based reportage illustrator Dai Owen met with some asylum seekers who came to Manchester in search of safety. He transformed their words into comic strip posters, which describe the situations they fled and their arrival in the UK.
The resulting images powerfully illustrate the kinds of challenges they encountered, such as prolonged periods of waiting for a decision on their case, homelessness and social isolation. They also illustrate the great resilience and dignity of refugees.
The posters are the result of a collaboration with community campaigning organisation, United for Change, whose members generously shared their stories, and Regional Asylum Activism which works to inform and change attitudes about asylum seekers and refugees, and campaign for positive change to the UK asylum system.
Here you can read Dai Owen’s description of the creative process:
I’m an illustrator and, in particular, one who tries to capture the feel of events, places and people by using a fast drawing technique called reportage. At present, I’m the Artist in Residence at The Portico Library and we felt that perhaps I could use my style of drawing to depict the stories that were shared.
The decision was taken to produce three posters so we needed to find seekers who were ready to share their experiences and journeys, whether difficult, disturbing or happy. With advice from Community Arts North West we contacted United for Change, who invited me to their monthly meeting. I was made very welcome, explained our aims and four people came forward to participate.
I met each person individually so I could listen to them in real detail within the welcoming space of The Portico Library. I wrote down their story as they told it: the causes, the journey and their arrival here in the UK. I then went away and produced a rough draft of the poster, trying to summarise but stay true to their words. We met up again so that I could make sure that they were happy with the words and drawings, and so that we could make any changes that were needed. I completed the final touches of the artwork and at last they were ready to print.
I feel that the whole process was a positive experience for me and for each seeker. I hope that to tell their story was helpful, however, the next stage is equally important, which is to try to distribute these posters to places where people will stop and read them!
In January 2016 the posters were presented to the group at United for Change and to those people who were so generous in offering to speak to us. They were delighted by the results and we are incredibly proud of the work that Dai has done to tell complex and difficult stories in a way that is so accessible. Now it’s our job to share these posters as far and wide as we can. We hope that they will find a place in community centres, churches, mosques, schools, youth clubs etc. and also be shared online. These wonderful resources are free to download from The Portico Library website and the Refugee Week website is another fantastic platform to share these resources on. We hope they find a wide audience!
Follow this link: http://www.theportico.org.uk/library/our-work/outreach