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Gallery of Sanctuary status 2023

The Whitworth is the first art gallery in the Northwest of England to receive Gallery of Sanctuary status.

Gallery of Sanctuary
status 2023

The Whitworth supports the ‘City of Sanctuary’ vision that the UK will be a welcoming place of safety for all and is proud to offer sanctuary to people fleeing violence and persecution. We endorse the City of Sanctuary Charter and agree to act in accordance with City of Sanctuary values and apply the network principles within our work (as far as our specific context enables us to).

We recognise the contribution of refugees and people seeking sanctuary to British society. Sanctuary seekers are welcomed, included, and supported within our organisation. 

We are willing for the Whitworth to be added to a list of supporters of City of Sanctuary and linked on our website. We are also willing to be contacted by City of Sanctuary with further ideas for how we can turn our support into practical action and to discuss ways we might work together to promote the vision further.

Find out more about the City of Sanctuary programme

The Whitworth highlights

Whitworth X Afrocats partnership
Since 2020 we have worked with local charity Afrocats, which works closely with communities to create a warm, friendly, safe space for refugees, asylum seekers, and diverse young people in Greater Manchester.

Following a successful pilot, The Whitworth and Afrocats launched their partnership bringing accessible, cultural, and creative activities to the gallery during the school holidays. Seeing African and Caribbean songs fill the galleries and cultural arts and crafts workshops taking place in the galleries and our School of Creativity. A key part of removing barriers to support sanctuary seekers further we provide their travel expenses and snacks, support in getting to the gallery, and volunteers who speak various languages.

During the Summer of 2023, we were funded by Art and NESTA to run a pilot project to explore how playful museum interventions can enhance and increase parent-child interactions to support early years development goals for families living in disadvantage. We worked with Afrocats to engage 24 families from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds from recent new arrivals in the city who had a really positive experience with one dad commenting, 'being in this environment will broaden my sons’ horizons'.

Whitworth Staff Training
We provide annual training for all gallery staff, practitioners, and volunteers in Refugee and Asylum Seeker Awareness Training with Manchester City of Sanctuary. Afrocats work with key members of our teams to look at working with diverse community groups, and discussing challenges, barriers, and difficulties.

Refugee Week
In June this year, we organised a big takeover of the gallery to celebrate Refugee Week with performances from Sanctuary Sounds Choir, Music Action International, cultural dance with Afrocats, artists' tours of our Traces of Displacement exhibition, a filming showing of Samos on Fire about a group of musicians in a refugee camp in Samos finding momentary solace in their music all served with chai tea and baklava.

Whitworth exhibitions and collections
We have a responsibility to interrogate our collective history and to seek the continuous structural change necessary to address inequalities based on identity including class, disability, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. The Whitworth is an anti-racist institution committed to using its resources to address both historic and current racial inequality and violence.

Whitworth exhibition Traces of Displacement uncovers stories of persecution, creativity, and resilience, and the experiences of artists and makers who have lived experience or heritage of displacement. The exhibition has been developed from deep research into how stories of forced migration can be told using the Whitworth’s collection of art, textiles, and wallpaper. Traces of Displacement is part of a major AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funded research project: Understanding Displacement Aesthetics led by Professor Ana Carden Coyne, Dr Chrisoula Lionis, and Dr Angeliki Rousseau.

The Whitworth’s organisational pledge
As a gallery our vision guides everything that we say and do as an organisation, working towards together using art for positive social change.

We aim to transform the way that art is experienced and used, by using art as a tool to open up conversation, generate empathy, and actively address what matters most in people’s lives – here and now.

As part of the University of Manchester, social responsibility describes the way we’re making a difference to the social and economic wellbeing of our communities through our teaching, research, public events, and activities.

We will continue to work with and alongside our partners Manchester City of Sanctuary to provide a safe environment and lasting opportunities for the sanctuary seekers in our city. Providing workshops, space, time, resources, and care as a sanctuary for those who need it most.

We realise that the arts play a vital role in creating a culture of welcome and shaping the kind of society we hope to live in. We are committed as a whole gallery, from our operation team to collections team and engagement teams, to use the power of art, and creativity and celebrate the contribution of people seeking sanctuary.