REFUGEES living in Bradford are sharing their experiences in a series of images they have created on smartphones.

Shipley-based photographer Shy Burhan is working with the group in an Arts Council-funded project called Local Focal involving workshops at the Millside Centre in Bradford. The group's work will be streamed during Refugee Week.

"Lockdown inspired me to conceive a project enabling a community of refugees to tell their stories in their way, using their own smartphones," said Shy. "The photography workshops offer a safe space for participants to record and reflect on their lives and identities. These shared experiences can play a powerful advocacy role in countering stereotypes and de/re-constructing their narratives. We hope it may even reach policy-makers. As the weeks progress, the group have been confiding how lucky they feel to live here in Bradford, the City of Sanctuary. They feel a real sense of belonging.

@I believe photography to be the most democratic of arts. It offers a level playing field for everyone, it does not discriminate on one's colour, gender, age, sexual orientation, education or wealth. It should be and can be, all inclusive."

Added Shy: "Our project partner, The Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research, will achieve a fresh, human perspective for their academic research into creativity and mental wellbeing also.

Millside Centre manager Furaha Mussanzi said: "There are so many people who have experienced persecution, trauma or violence in their countries. Coming to the UK and finding safe spaces that could foster creativity in them was really exciting. Shy has done a brilliant job in getting to know the participants, not just their names or where they come from, but their cultures and traditions, things that bring them joy and a sense of purpose. Asylum-seekers and refugees don't have a lot of access to learning and development, so anything that builds confidence makes a huge impact. The fantastic feedback and the fact that the participants are coming every week for workshops, and the effort they put in, they want to be here."

Said Shy: "It has been a privilege to work with these remarkable individuals. Seeing the friendships that have forged and feed into their overall sense of well being has made this my most rewarding project yet. They have emerged like butterflies from cocoons. Whereas once they were people who just took photos, now they are photographers. Using their smartphones, they've created thought-provoking, inspiring images that relay their stories. I'm so proud of them. The feedback has been incredible; they ask every week if we could do a part two to the course."

* The Millside Centre hosts the live-stream on June 17. Go to