Historically, Ipswich has been home to many diverse communities, including refugees. However, over the last 20 years, brutal conflicts and persecution have led to increased numbers of refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Europe becoming residents in the town. The effects of displacement and changes in language, culture and environment can be profound, but many embrace their new surroundings and wish to be accepted for their similarities, while keeping their traditions and the memory of home alive.

Using the theme of ‘Belonging’, a working group from this community has been working with photographer Gillian Allard to reflect on their own experiences of what it means to ‘belong’.   Over the past three months, facilitated by Suffolk Refugee Support, these men, women and young people have generously shared their experiences and reflections, their culture and celebrations, and in some cases their actual belongings, in workshops and studio sessions with Gillian.  The resulting images highlight the importance of family, faith, friendship, culture and memory in fostering a sense of belonging, particularly for those who’ve been forced to leave their homes.

Talking about the project, Gillian says, “I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the participants in this project in sharing their stories.  It has been a rewarding and often humbling collaboration. I feel genuinely lucky to have worked with the refugees, who inspired my creativity more than they realise.”

“Syria my love….I didn’t leave you because I hate you or because I wanted to go out and live the stylish life. I left you because I didn’t want to kill the last red rose and the last innocent child who plays with his ball in the neighbourhood where he grew up. I left you because I didn’t want to kill the innocence and beauty that I drank from in that peaceful and lovely country. The Syrians didn’t leave their country because they hate it, or they want to destroy it! Not at all, we left it because we had no place among the monsters who want to eliminate our country just for their own benefit, and we were the victims unfortunately.” Hamam

Tapestry will be exhibited for PhotoEast 2018 at the La Tour Cycle Cafe on the Ipswich Waterfront.   It has been produced in association with Suffolk Refugee Support with funding from the Chivers Trust, the Scarfe Trust and Locality Budget of Suffolk County Councillors Mandy Gaylard and Bill Quinton.



Kurdish mother holds her phone with an image of her children, her hands are in the Muslim prayer position called 'Du'a'. © Gillian Allard