Michele Benn taught English as an additional language for over 30 years and now works part-time in a supplementary school for unaccompanied young asylum seekers. She is the daughter of a Judeo-Spanish refugee and enjoys exploring the culture and places of that ancestry, which provides inspiration for many of her poems. She lives in Leicester, where she co-ordinates social action activities for Neve Shalom, the Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation.
Paul Conneally is a poet, artist and musician based in Loughborough, UK. Conneally leads live rengasessions across the UK and has explored the form and processalongside other UK artist poets including Alec Finlay, Gavin Wade, Gerry Loose and Anne-Marie Culhane. He is associated with the modern Situationist movement through psychogeography, social intervention and literary detournement, both alone and in collaboration with others.
Kate Drucquer is a film maker that specialises in socially relevant content. She is uniquely placed to handle this kind of material with sensitivity and insight. I am indebted to her for preserving the essence of the archives given to her and for creating a subtle, poignant film that weaves a gentle, yet powerful narrative journey through many lives and experiences.
Malka Al-Haddad has previously taught Arabic literary criticism at Kufa University in Iraq. A defender of human rights, member of the Iraqi and American reconciliation project, and the Leicester Civil Rights Movement, Malka has performed her poems in Parliament and at The Southbank Centre, London. She was poet in resident in Swindon and Lincoln. Her book “Birds without Sky" was shortlisted for the Leicester Book of the Year award 2018.
Linda Harding is the Community Engagement Officer for Leicester City Museums. I worked with Linda in creating the community response to the Richard III portrait at New Walk Museum. Linda, a successful textile artist, and I asked her if she would embellish one of the images in the exhibition, entitled ‘Geo-Metrics’. This is in homage to my aunt Dimitra Georgiadi a seamstress, who played a significant role in my early life and whose presence is often felt in my work.
The ROOTs Volunteers, Bharti, Manoj and Nisha Patel, Minaz Samnai, and Maya shared a little of their lives with me whilst making art together, specifically three large prints for Recovered Histories and six banners as part of the Richard III Coming Home exhibition. They informed me in ways that will continue to influence my work. Also thanks to my long term friend and Leicester resident Arvind Bhatt, an engineer, mathematician and linguist who kindly shared his family photographs and memoirs with me.
Paul Rudman is a scientist, an expert in virtual reality and a lighting designer. His programmable lights animate the stories in three of my works and create another layer of meaning, but also, in my opinion, a background of compelling beauty. Light is another medium for the artist and Paul’s work is now available to others who wish to pursue this path. You can read more about Paul’s work in the exhibition. I asked Paul to animate ‘Ruins’, ‘Geo-Metrics’ and ‘Re-examined’.
My grateful thanks to Nicola Middler, Senior Producer with ArtReach, and to Yasmin Calvin, director of the Print Workshop in Leicester, for their encouragement during the writing of the bid to the Arts Council and as the project unfolded. Finally to all of the staff and volunteers at the LPW and LCB who have supported me in hanging the show.
And finally to my partner Gabi Witthaus, whose academic work on refugee education and her determination to make this world more just and kind are constant sources of inspiration. I can think of no other companion that could add so much to this temporal journey.
George Sfougaras August 2019