On November 13th we had a fantastic start to an exciting new textiles project that we are running over the next 5 weeks in conjunction with the Boaz Trust, a Christian charity based in Manchester providing temporary accommodation and support to those who have been made destitute through the asylum process in the UK. Accommodation is provided through shared houses, a voluntary hosting scheme and two night shelters over the winter months. An additional part of their support is ‘Boaz Life’, a programme of wellbeing, recreational and educational activities for those in the accommodation.

The project is designed to create opportunities for learning new skills, relieving stress, increasing wellbeing and encouraging friendship and community. It will foster and focus on the transference of creative skills and enable the participants to build in confidence while engaging socially.

The first session was attended by eight asylum-seeking women, the majority from Eritrea and Ethiopia, at St James Church, in Moss Side. Associate artist leading the project, Mia Nisbet, was matched with the project because of her extensive experience of working in Africa. Mia’s creative practice involves up-cycling and the use of traditional African textiles with western styling for her ethical fashion collections, and planned this project to incorporate African fabrics in a similar manner. 

Over five weeks the participants will learn about up-cycling, printmaking, embroidery, embellishment and basic sewing machine skills to create a personalised patchwork cushion cover and an shirt sleeve bag. The aim is for participants to create functional pieces that they are proud of, making a mark on their new homes and expressing their identity.

The first session was a great success. The participants loved choosing from the samples of colourful African fabrics that were so familiar to them. The activities spurred on discussion and laughter as stories and creative ideas were shared…