Pod Collective, founded by Emily Hayes and Anna White, brings together arts practitioners who are committed to creating in-depth cohesive projects with vulnerable and often marginalised groups that have limited access to arts and culture.
By using a diverse range of art skills including printing, photography, craft and embroidery, Pod Collective enables participants to learn and develop new transferable hard and soft skills including, improved well-being, reduced isolation, increased language skills, an expansion of self-esteem, motivation and confidence.
How did you come to work with refugees and asylum seekers?
We (Emily and Anna) met in 2011 and after seeing each other’s art practices we decided to volunteer at the Rainbow Haven refugee and asylum seeker drop-in centre in Gorton, Manchester. We had both previously worked with different community groups and knew that asylum seekers would struggle to engage in the arts when they moved into new to a community. After volunteering, we knew that they would enjoy working with people seeking sanctuary and that art was a vital way for people for people to have a voice in the community.
What have been the biggest challenges with the work?
With a continually changing world around us, time is our biggest challenge. We work over the North West and feel that we could spend more time everywhere, we constantly meet fantastic people that we would love to get to know better and create more thorough work with. As the North West creates new dispersal areas and has a rising number of destitute sanctuary seekers we feel there is an ever-growing need for more welcoming projects that give individuals a voice and an outlet to their circumstances.
What aspects of your work do you think have been most successful?
We love our work, which is a personal success to ourselves but a great part of each project is getting to know participants and building relationships with people, people who make our community more exciting and invaluable, this is always a success to us.
One outcome that we strive for and think has always been incredibly successful is when members feel confident enough to run workshops themselves, this is exciting to see and hear when they have come up to us at the end and said things like, ‘this makes me feel worth something, that I can give something back’.
How do you see the work developing?
Pod Collective wants to continue having art as one of its core values, and wants to continue working with sanctuary seekers using art as a tool to build people’s confidence. Art allows us to engage in difficult subjects and campaigning issues that asylum seekers raise with us, this is something that we think is important our work and will be for a long time. As the future of Pod is constantly developing, we would like to work on making Pod self-sustainable which in turn would allow us to work in more towns and cities in the North West.