Just Building Bridges

A new exhibition of photographs and short films by sanctuary seekers opens in Hexham Abbey on 3rd April, and runs until the 30th April. It’s called Just Building Bridges.

The photographs were taken by a group of around a dozen sanctuary seekers who took part in a series of photography workshops at the Hatton Gallery Learning Space, Newcastle, in 2023. The aim was to empower members of a marginalized and under-represented group to produce a body of photographs, short films and zines which creatively expressed some of their experiences and their current outlook on life as they resettled into local communities.

Group members came from several different countries and continents, and had a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and cultures. Some have lived in the area for many years, others were new arrivals. All of them were trying to ‘build bridges’ – to resettle peacefully and successfully in local communities.

The sanctuary seekers chose the topics and themes, based on their personal experiences and ideas around building bridges to justice.

 The wide range of themes chosen include local environmental issues of waste, litter, and noise; bigger economic issues such as the fast fashion industry; and some very topical issues of global significance are addressed, such as the conflicts in the Ukraine and the Middle East.

The photographs, films and zines are accompanied by short texts, by the participants, saying a little bit about themselves and about their interpretations of justice.

The series of workshops was facilitated by Theresa Easton, lecturer in Fine Art at Newcastle University; Carl Joyce, photographer and filmmaker; and Michael Quille, writer and editor from the Culture Matters co-operative, which managed the project. Thanks are due to Newcastle University, the Hatton Gallery Learning Space, and the Passionist Community for financial support.

But most of all, thanks are due to the participants. They quickly grasped the purpose of the project, learned about creative and documentary techniques of photography, filming and zine-making, and produced a fine body of authentic, heartfelt work.