Loreto College have created and launched a media art installation in Manchester Central Library called ‘Safe Space’. This is part of Manchester City Council’s RADEQUAL Project which is Manchester’s campaign to build community resilience through empowering and enabling organisations and communities to come together to challenge hate, prejudice and extremism. It was created through a collaboration with ‘Peace Foundation’ and ‘Me and You Education’.
The purpose of the project was to create a ‘Safe Space’ for extreme views. To demonstrate this a media art installation of visual and audio stimulus was created by students, which allows people to air and consider extreme views on a range of controversial subjects by creating a safe space for challenging dialogues to take place.
To embody the three priorities of RADEQUAL – Building Community Resilience, Countering Extremism Building and Young People’s Resilience and Leadership – the project began in September 2017, when over 3000 Loreto students were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire, which asked them to share their own unfiltered opinions on a range of controversial topics. After the responses were collated, students were invited to take part in workshops (developed by ‘Peace Foundation’ and ‘Me and You Education’) and the future development of the project.
The Peace Foundation created two tailor made drama and discussion based workshops. The students involved explored the rationale behind extreme views and explored why people would hold them. They participated in role-plays and considered how to develop counter narratives to opposing viewpoints. The ‘Me and You Education’ workshop was held at Manchester Central mosque with Imam Muhammad Irfan Chishti and Ivan Humble, a former EDL regional organiser. As a group, they looked at defining what made a view extreme, debating and exploring the extreme opinions on each topic area asked in the questionnaire.
After all this groundwork, the students from all parts of the college, plus support from outside organisation, helped to make the Safe Space a reality. Creative writing students wrote poems on extremism; Art students created artwork displayed on the installation; and Media students helped to film, edit and produce the visual and audio stimulus shown inside the space. Many individuals worked hard and were dedicated to making sure this project was a success. To celebrate finishing the project, the students involved held a launch night at Manchester Central Library, to showcase and open the Safe Space, which was well attended and a great success.
Mr Gibbons one of the College’s Governors who attended the launch, commented on the amazing maturity and confidence that the students shown. He spoke to a couple of female students about censorship and “they took me on as an equal with politeness, but no deference. Brilliant!”
Mr Gibbons went on to pay testament to the students involved saying: “We have nothing to fear for the future with young women such as these, walking in Mary Ward’s footsteps”.
We are extremely proud of our hard work on this project and we hope that in encouraging the use of a safe space, we promote and deliver the RADEQUAL principles of challenge, connect and champion across the city of Manchester to other individuals. Our project ‘Safe Space’ will be open to the public in Manchester Central Library until early April.