Survivor Arts Community Day at the University of Birmingham

The Survivor Arts Project celebrated its 11th year at the UoB Community Festival Day on 11th June. Over 130 people came together in the Muirhead Tower to see the Survivor Arts Exhibition; participate in Recovery through the Arts workshops; and listen to poetry and music. The theme of the Community Festival was Internationalism, and the Survivor Arts events promoted this theme by exploring ideas of who we are and celebrating our diverse backgrounds and life experience.

Creativity and the process of creating art is a universal language, and everything starts with a conversation. One of the workshops focused on mono printing as a medium to engage people and facilitate stories and start conversations. Another workshop used world maps to create tea cups and cupcakes as a symbol of coming together to build relationships.

Through these workshops we met people from across the world, all connected to the University through their knowledge, skills and education. Three Japanese academics worked with us to create beautifully delicate prints using lace, feathers and threads. They taught us about gyotaku- a form of monoprinting developed in the 1800's by Japanese fishermen who wanted to record their catch before access to photography. A family from France and two friends from Germany visited us, created monoprints and exchanged stories about life, love and education. An older lady shared her love of origami with us, using the coloured paper on the craft table to make animals and figures we adopted into our collection of survivor arts.

The poetry picked up the international theme with the sharing of personal stories and an acrostic poem highlighting the different elements of what it means to be truly international. The Feelgood Choir from Dudely, together with the Wellbeing Choir from Birmingham and Solihull, then came together with social work students from UoB to perform a number of songs from around the world – concluding the event on a real high.

Julie B Jones, Teaching Fellow in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, said, "This is the first time I have attended this event and I found it so uplifting and filled with positivity. It’s wonderful to be able to use difficult times and experiences to bring people together and celebrate life in the way that the Survivor Arts Project does. Given the awful things that life throws at us all, whether it’s as an individual or as a nation, being able to celebrate life and survival is a real boost for all those involved. It is amazing what a person can endure and still come out the other side with hope and strength." 

For more information about the Survivor Arts at the University of Birmingham please contact: Dawn River, Survivor Arts Project Director and social work lecturer, at d.h.river@bham.ac.uk.