Migrant Artists Mutual Aid

humanity is the only status



Proximity: New Directions in Art and Social Repair

Friday 12 June 14:30 – Saturday 13 June 19:30, online

Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid joins with artists mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson and Jennifer Verson to host a two day virtual symposium which brings together important networks in the UK and across the Atlantic of artists, academics, arts organisations and the public sector to create a space for critical and exciting new thinking about the role of socially engaged artistic practices at an important historic moment.

Listen to MaMa Together Apart podcast

Presentations, videos and conversations will be streamed publicly via YouTube; for Proximity Zoom Rooms access please register for an invitation to join the discussions.

We’re pleased to announce the following performers and speakers, with advance videos for you to watch before the symposium:

Mary Pearson & mayfield brooks

Opening and welcome with Mary & Jennifer Verson Fri 14:30, How to Be Afraid? check-in #1 17:00, Transatlantic Horror Show: How to Be Afraid? performance 22:00, How to Be Afraid? check-in #2 Sat 17:00, trialogue with Seke Chimutengwende 18:30, digital interlude 19:30
credit: Jane MacNeil

How to Be Afraid? is a performance project that explores fear as an antidote to counteract the trauma of our separate but connected histories of the transatlantic slave trade, finding hauntings in our current psyches.

In our practice, we return to the question ‘What are you afraid of?’ as an improvisational score. The answer pours out and brings with it things we didn’t necessarily know were there.

mayfield brooks improvises while black, and is currently based in brooklyn, new york. mayfield is a movement-based performance artist, urban farmer, writer, and wanderer. mayfield is currently an artist in residence at center for performance research and abrons art center in nyc, and has performed & taught nationally and internationally.

Mary Pearson Performance maker, dancer/researcher, teacher, organizer. 2012-2018 toured solos FAILURE, The Sand Dog Cometh, and FoMO, mofos! internationally. Fascinated by collaboration as a complex and coordinated practice in survival. A co- curator of Con|VERGEREMIX collaborative performance residencies at Ponderosa Dance (DE). Teaching improvisation as a FAILURE Lab. Current practice is moving through collective and embodied trauma.

Jennifer Verson

Opening and welcome with Mary Pearson & Jennifer Fri 14:30, Proximity Zoom Room #1: What are our approaches to art and social repair? 16:30, Promixity Zoom Room #2: Connecting Social Justice Struggles through performance: Asylum, Detention, Slavery and our work with ISM Sat 13:00, Proximity Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00

Jennifer Verson is a Doctoral Candidate at The Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations at Coventry University where she holds a United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Studentship for her research ‘Performing Peace: Applied Performance and Scriptural Reasoning as a Peacebuilding Process’. The first joint studentship represents UNAOC’s  expansion of research activity in the area of intercultural dialogue and the role it plays in promoting (or inhibiting) social solidarity, trust and peaceful relations in diverse and changing societies. Performing Peace is an interdisciplinary research project that investigates the use of performance and performing arts in religious peacebuilding. 

She has a Masters Degree with Distinction in Cultural Performance from Bristol University. Recent publications include Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid: A Short History in Images. Kritika Kultura, (30/31) pp.217-223 (2018). Co-editor Migrant Artists Mutual Aid: Strategies for Survival, Recipes for Resistance. Liverpool: Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (2017) . 

She is a founder and  Artistic Director of  Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa).

Intersectionality: Arts, Ethics and Activism (pdf download)

MaMa: a short history (pdf download)

Migration Songs: Memory, Proximity and Micro Political Engagement (video 8 mins)

Seke Chimutengwende

How to Be Afraid? check-in #1 Fri 17:00, Transatlantic Horror Show: Horror Project Reading 22:00, Trialogue with mayfield brooks & Mary Pearson, Sat 18:30
credit: Charlie Morrissey

Seke Chimutengwende works as a performer, choreographer, teacher and movement director. Recent choreographic projects include a duet, Black Holes made in collaboration with Alexandrina Hemsley which was part of the British Council Showcase in Edinburgh 2019 and a solo, Plastic Soul, which premiered at The Yard Theatre in January 2019.

Seke is currently researching a new piece looking at ghosts and haunted houses as a metaphor for how histories of slavery and colonialism haunt the present. Seke will introduce his research and share some writing that he is working on as part of this research.

Aleasha Chaunte

Humanise Project Human part 2 Fri 18:00, Stating The Obvious 21:30, Trialogue with Priya Sharma and Salma Noor Sat 14:30, Proximity Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00
credit: Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival

Aleasha is an artist who works primarily on audiences; finding ways to cue, gain consent and encourage authentic, public intimacy. Her primary interests are ritual and the wisdom contained within fairy/folk/mythic tales. Aleasha is currently engaged in a research practice called the Humanise project which is exploring ways to reveal the mechanisms by which we (de)humanise one another.

Stating The Obvious is an acknowledgement that no matter how deep any of us go into investigating the human experience we find ourselves coming back to the same realisations. This session is about bringing these obvious things into consciousness and it is that consciousness that brings repair.

Priya Sharma & Salma Noor

Video & digital interlude Sat 10:00, trialogue with Aleasha Chaunte 14:30, Proximity Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00

Priya Sharma is a film maker and researcher, and has been a Stuart Hall PhD Scholar in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include emerging cultural identity, digital aesthetics, cultural production and the intersections between race, gender, sexuality and class.

art by Salma Noor

Salma Noor is a multi-disciplinary artist currently producing digital collages and GIFs. Her work uses punchlines and incorporates the compositional qualities of dereliction. She is interested in colour combinations, architectural spaces and black popular culture.

‘A Guide To Navigating Institutions’ by Salma Noor and Priya Sharma 

Comprised of a 5 minute animation, Salma Noor and Priya Sharma have created a short guide to navigating institutions based on their experiences as artists and facilitators working within and outside of arts institutions. They bring to light the diversity initiatives put forward by large arts institutions who have (by and large) failed to engage local communities and support marginalised artists and projects invested in genuine social justice and repair. In light of an upsurge in support for the Black Lives Matter movement, people have begun to demand accountability from these institutions who have gotten by on performative gestures towards social justice and community building. Edited so it can be easily shared on social media platforms (where much of these discussions have been taking place), this guide serves as a fun and uplifting primer for those entering into contracts with arts institutions, working as part of DIY collectives or bravely going it alone (or probably all three simultaneously). 

Sensitivity warning: flashing images 

Reading List

Samuel Farmery & Amina Rafique

Mama panel conversation Sat 12:30
Manual Vason with Migrant Artists Mutual Aid

Sam manages the day to day running of the MaMa group, and provides assistance with individual casework, as well as organising the food parcel deliveries during the COVID-19 lockdown. He has an MA in International Slavery Studies, focusing on Modern Slavery and has worked in the National Referral Mechanism, assisting victims of human trafficking in the UK.

Yasin Duman & Merve Kurt

Marbling Paper Ebru Art Performance (Merve Kurt) Sat 11:00, Presentation 15:30, Zoom Room #3: Performance and Peacebuilding practitioners 16:00

Merve Kurt is an interdisciplinary visual artist, humanitarian aid worker, and gender-based violence consultant. She exhibited the traditional marbling art of Ebru in Istanbul, England, Scotland, and Paris. She is particularly interested in the use of art in cohesion, integration, and expressing the diversity of society. She has explored a myriad of artistic media: from painting to ceramics, from hands-on to digital, from photography to felted making. She has attended several art therapy courses and implemented art healing techniques in her works since 2010.

Yasin Duman is a Ph.D. candidate at Coventry University and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) consultant. His research focuses on intergroup relations and social cohesion between refugees and non-refugees in Turkey. He has been providing MHPSS and staff well-being consultancy programs to national and international humanitarian organizations including the Association of Assistance, Solidarity, and Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (MSYD-ASRA), Yeryuzu Doktorlari (YYD), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Welthungerhilfe (WHH), and worked as a psychologist in Concern Worldwide. He applies art therapy techniques in his sessions and consultancy programs for individuals and groups.

Proximity: New Directions in Art and Social Repair is supported by public funding by Arts Council England, and with in kind support from The Bluecoat and Metal Culture.

Harriet Warnock, producer

George Maund, technical and broadcast support

Jon Davies, web support

Proximity: New Directions in Art and Social Repair

MaMa is happy to announce that we have an exiting new event coming up in the Summer with some co-collaborators at the Bluecoat.

Saturday 13 June 10:30 – 4:30pm

Migrant Artists’ Mutual Aid joins with artists mayfield brooks, Mary Pearson and Jennifer Verson to host a day long symposium which brings together important networks in the UK and across the Atlantic of artists, academics, arts organisations and the public sector to create a space for critical and exciting new thinking about the role of socially engaged artistic practices at an important historic moment.

The symposium shares transatlantic artistic approaches to the joint history of slavery, using as a starting point the practice and theory from Migrant Artists Mutual Aid’s recent National Lottery Heritage Funded work creating new music based on the exhibitions and archives of the International Slavery Museum, alongside duet collaboration ‘How to Be Afraid?’ which continues from its beginnings in Liverpool in 2017, funded by Arts Council England.

Inspired by the German practice of Vergangenheitsbewältigung or ‘working through the past’, critically, Proximity is a space for the creation and sharing innovative practices in peace building through performance.

We look forward to seeing many of you there.


The 29th of April was the final performance of our new song writing project, which ran over the last year, made possible with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Choir wrote new songs on the themes of migration and asylum using the archives of the International Slavery Museum to develop their work. 6 new songs were written and performed over the year with the help of the MAMA team and Meika Holzman providing artistic support. The songs Brave and Strong, No Sugar in our Tea, We Are Human, First Poets, Valobashi and Remember Your Name. Remember Your Name was inspired by the work of Turner prize winning artist Lubaina Himid, work looking at the experiences of slavery and memory. It has been a pleasure for the group to work with our partners in National Museums Liverpool on this project and our thanks go out to the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this project happen. More new work and recordings will be coming soon so, watch this space…

by our friend Dr Victoria CanningA mural in Toxteth, Liverpool, a key historic area for immigration in the city.

As a dock city, Liverpool has served as a gateway to the sugar trade, slavery and global transport for hundreds of years. It has long been a city of immigrants from Ireland, India and Pakistan to Somalia, Ethiopia and Jamaica. It boasts the oldest Chinese community in Europe, and the largest Chinese arch outside of China. But like other parts of the UK, for those seeking sanctuary in the city today, the tightening of the immigration regime has made life full of uncertainty and injustice.

In early September, the women of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa) – a Liverpool-based group of refugee rights advocates and women seeking asylum which I am involved with – were worried when two of its core members did not attend a regular meeting.

As news filtered through, we learned that the women (alongside two others) had been dispersed from their accommodation to a northern town 20 miles away: too far to walk back, and too expensive to travel for women receiving £5.30 per day while awaiting refugee status. The practice of dispersal means people seeking asylum can be moved away from friends and family at any point, without choice or negotiation, with little notice, to a place they may have never been.

Eventually, from speaking with the two women, it transpired that they had been approached by staff from one private sector provider at the accommodation block they lived in at 1pm on a Friday afternoon and informed they would need to move “temporarily”. They were given until 4.30pm to gather their belongings and leave their already temporary homes. No need for the children to get ready for school on Monday morning, since they were being wrenched from attendance at the very start of term.

Echoes from 70 years ago

The treatment of people seeking asylum in Liverpool today has parallels with a more sinister moment in the city’s post-war history. In 1946, it was Chinese migrants who bore the brunt of rising anti-immigration sentiment in the region. Having recruited around 20,000 Chinese men into the British Merchant Navy during World War II, once their service was over, they were deemed “undesirable” elements of Liverpool life.

Instead of offering these men and their families sanctuary, the Home Office ordered a police raid on their homes. In an early morning round-up in the summer of 1946, an estimated 1,362 Chinese men were arrested, temporarily detained, and deported. Around 500 children were estimated to have been left behind.

Seven decades later and similar events are still happening. In 2014, the women of MaMa were shocked when a long-time member was detained and deported by the Home Office. Her right to further appeal had been rejected. She was forced to leave 13 years of life and belongings in the city that she loved, with the friends she knew. We had known her well, some for almost as long as she had been in the UK. We sang from a phone on loudspeaker to comfort her as she sat in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. She was deported to her country of origin within days.

As weeks and months went by, other women grew increasingly concerned for their own futures. Those seeking asylum must comply with regulations which require them to sign in with the Home office regularly. In the aftermath of their friend’s deportation, Home Office meetings were daunting. Some of the women have already experienced Yarl’s Wood – none of them want to experience it again.

The ‘Utopia’ of rights

Unlike 1946, the legislative landscape of contemporary Britain is now embedded in a discourse of rights: human rights, refugee rights, and the rights of the child. Home Office policy and legislation advocate rights-based approaches and it has even published a plethora of guidelines on how to adhere to them.

And yet there seems little evidence of this Utopia of rights in practice. People seeking asylum are subjected to arbitrary detention, with no time limit in the UK. Abject poverty and destitution have become staple parts of the asylum process. Living in limbo, the threat of deportation looms every day, limiting individuals’ ability to look ahead to the future, particularly if they fear returning to their past in their country of origin. For asylum-seeking women living with violent men, refuges and support have been diminished by government cuts.

Meanwhile, people seeking asylum face ever more insidious forms of social controls on a daily basis, including immigration enforcement officers on public transport and regulations within housing. To give one example, women I spoke with who lived in one accommodation facility run by SERCO said that they had been told they would be reported to the Home Office for leaving bedroom doors open that could be a fire hazard. In this way, everyday actions become border offences.

House rules at an accommodation block for asylum seekers. Anonymous., Author provided

New laws are biting

The impact of legal aid and appeal restrictions, introduced in the 2014and 2016 immigration acts have begun to bite. Refusals for asylum faced by women in MaMa are regularly based on obscure and sometimes legally precarious grounds.

Adequate legal support is ever diminishing. Cuts to legal aid mean fewer lawyers are available to take on appeals. The 2016 act facilitates easy deportation with those removed expected to appeal from the home country, and this has already begun: 42 people were recently deported on a chartered flight to Jamaica. A huge increase in the fees for appealing Home Office decisions now threatens further limitations on access to justice: another wall between refugees and their rights.

To fight back, MaMa has turned to choir performance fundraisers among other projects in an effort to pay legal costs. Only recently we collected goods to raffle to raise legal funds: a “raffle for justice”, in one of the world’s richest countries, with one of the world’s oldest legal systems. A country that colonised many of those that MaMa members have come from. The irony is not lost.

the art of survival gallery

Featured post

transmutable voices:new aesthetics of citizenship


Tickets: £10.00 – book through Bluecoat website below
Saturday 12th November
4 – 6pm

This autumn is the 5th Anniversary of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid 5 years of performance, music, campaigning, laughter, tears and prayers. Much has gotten worse in the UK for women seeking sanctuary, but we as a group are stronger than we have ever been.

On June 24th 2016 MaMa choir members along with visiting artists began devising their current work. Transmutable Voices: new aesthetics of citizenship was conceived as a way to capture and disseminate the unique community of Migrant Artists Mutual Aid. We have collaborated with World Renowned photographer Manuel Vason and award winning filmmaker Phil Cox (native voice) to capture the journeys and the voices of the women of MaMa.

This event at Bluecoat is a unique opportunity to be part of MaMa’s ongoing journey. This relaxed performance supported by Bluecoat who have generously offered their space. It is a celebration of how far we have come, how far we have to go, a relaxed performance suitable for the whole family and also a chance to be part of a community based justice project. The new aesthetics of citizenship embraces all of us and a performance a(u)ction will offer an opportunity to support a justice fund for the MaMa choir members/

This event will combine photo-performances co-created by MaMa members and Manuel Vason with live performances, storytelling and written text and will culminate in a “performative a[u]ction” of the photographs.


When Justice has a price tag

Several members of MaMa are currently struggling with the impact of Legal Aid cuts. They are survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual slavery but cannot find any local solicitors even though they are entitled to this provision. Some have children, born in the UK who have special needs.

We have been meeting the challenge with song and targeted campaigning to members of parliament. Modern slavery and the trafficking of women for forced marriage, sexual slavery and domestic servitude will never end unless we support the courageous mothers who have resisted, stood up and escaped.

Many have never even had the right to stand in front of a judge to give evidence and they will never get that chance unless they get the legal support they are entitled to.

MaMa needs your help

Migrant Artists Mutual Aid and the Santa Dash

MaMa started meeting weekly on Wednesdays in May 2013. There are a lot of challenges and joys of a weekly meeting. The biggest challenge to migrant mutual aid campaigning groups is how we deal with dispersal and privatisation, the policy of the Home Office to scatter people about so they don’t form connections and community. Privatisation because for any group to gather the costs of covering local bus travel is simply staggering. Before we ran out of our transport budget we were spending between 60-70 pounds a week just for bus fares.

Nobody is sure what to do. Dispersal is a strategy that works. While running 5k with the Santa Dash is not really going to solve the problem of Migrant Mothers being dispersed, it will help keep us ticking along while we try and come up with a brilliant idea to deal with really expensive bus travel.

Hey friends and supporters!

Mama members are planning to take part in the Santa Dash, which takes place on the 7th December, and to raise some much-needed funds for our members to be able to attend our meetings and up-lifting choir practices! Recently we have been very quiet, though not inactive, with training for immigration raids on local public transport which have become more frequent in recent months all over the UK. We are also supporting Naome’s daughter to help her mum get back on her feet after her removal to Zimbabwe.

Some of you have already shown an interest in joining the run. It is still possible to sign up at the lower fee of £22 till Saturday at!santa-dash-enter/cclx

If you can’t make it to the run but would like to support us Hanna has set up a funding page for her recent marathon, you can donate online there!

MaMa Presents The Vagina Monologues

Migrant Artists Mutual Aid and V Day Liverpool present a benefit production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

“Spellbinding, funny, and almost unbearably moving. . . it is both a work of art and an incisive piece of cultural history, a poem and a polemic,a performance and a balm and a benediction.” – Variety

£10 / £8 concessions

All proceeds go towards Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa), supporting women and children seeking sanctuary in the UK from gender based persecution including domestic violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

**Also featuring the debut public performance of the MaMa choir! Not to be missed!!*



At The Capstone Theatre
Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus, 17 Shaw St, Liverpool L6 1HP
Tickets from TicketQuarter, Merseytravel Centre, Queen Square, Liverpool L1 1RG or tel 0844 8000 410


At Ullet Rd Unitarian Church
Ullet Rd, Liverpool L17 2AA
Tickets from News from Nowhere or on the door

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