Participatory art project: young refugees’ fears and hopes

refugees31.jpg refugees2.jpg refugees1.jpg refugees.jpg [for full size click on the picture]


This participatory action research project is an ongoing collaboration between Rachel Pain and Kye Askins (geography researchers from Durham and Northumbria Universities), Gaby Kitoko (coordinator of African Community Advice North East) and 20 young people aged 5 – 16 from African and white British backgrounds living in the east end of Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK.

We have worked together for over a year using discussion groups to raise issues and decide the focus of the research, and then explored it further through two art projects.


First we brainstormed and discussed ‘hope’ and ‘fear’ in relation to young people’s lives. Over a number of sessions we then talked through and analysed the issues to narrow the focus.

As a result, we moved from thinking about a range of local/global concerns, to focusing on racist bullying, to identifying negative stereotypes about place concerning Newcastle and young people’s African countries of origin, to thinking about promoting more positive images that emphasise the connections between the people and places involved.

We chose art as a means of exploring and expressing emotions and this final research focus. The first six week project resulted in an art display. First we drew sketches and cartoons to develop ideas, then we painted the final pieces in acrylics.

The second six week project involved a professional artist (Fiona Gray), who involved young people in digital photography of significant objects to explore issues around difference, identity and place. This will result in a public artwork.


This work has resulted in a local art display, and a piece of public artwork which will hang at Next Stop in Byker Metro station in Newcastle upon Tyne. We are also preparing a report for young people, voluntary organisations and policy makers, as well as designing a website together which will feature the artwork, creative writing, young people’s stories and views and recommendations for addressing the issues raised. An important outcome for ACANE, though one which is difficult to measure, is integration among the African and white British young people involved, who live in the same locality but seldom mix.

More details:

This is a Stage 2 project of ‘Young people, fear and hope in north east England’, a participatory action research project funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust. Partners carrying out comparative research are Sara Kindon (Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand), Ruth Panelli (London, UK / Central Otago, ANZ) and Jo Little (Devon, UK). For more information contact Rachel Pain or see


1 Comment

Filed under arts, research

One response to “Participatory art project: young refugees’ fears and hopes

  1. Kathleen McCreery

    I would be interested to find out more about your work and to tell you about two projects I am involved with: 1. Them Wifies Glasshouse Arts: At the Cutting Edge, a drama/mental health project for young people, 2. A Streetwise/Waygood Gallery, etc., photograpy/drama/creative writing project on FGM (Female genital mutilation.

    I can be reached at Them Wifies 2 & 1/2 days a week 0191-261 4090, and at Streetwise on Thursdays.0191 230 5533.,,

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