The Swallow Project: quilts to raise awareness of migration & asylum issues

I’ve just read about artist Shaeron Caton-Rose‘s latest project in collaboration with Bradford City of Sanctuary. It caught my eye as it’s a textile project – Shaeron’s work has an emphasis on textiles. The Swallow Project will involve people sharing their experiences of migration and asylum by taking part in making a large quilt, or series of quilts, which will be exhibited in the Bradford Refugee Week Art Exhibition in June.

Even though this isn’t a disability arts project, or explicitly involving disabled people, I thought it was worth sharing here. Many people seeking asylum are disabled, perhaps through war, persecution or torture, or due to their difficult journeys. Many refugees and asylum seekers experience lasting psychological trauma as a result of their experiences. Yet disabled refugees and asylum seekers remain a hidden group, perhaps because disability is seen as a barrier to gaining protection, or because disabled asylum seekers are not eligible for support.

swallow stencilThe project aims to raise the profile of the refugee crisis and also enable refugee groups to discuss and share their experiences. Shaeron will be inviting people from community groups to contribute a 6” square of fabric which ideally has some significance for them. They will then use stencils of swallows in flight that Shaeron has designed to print onto the fabric. The idea is to sew these all together to make a giant patchwork quilt which will represent the many people who are affected or care about this issue and will also demonstrate the size of the problem.

The images will represent the migration of millions of people, in the same way that flocks of swallows make their journey every year.

Unlike other migratory birds, swallows travel with no preparation, feeding and resting along the way as and when they can. For this reason they have a higher death rate too. They travel between Western Europe and Africa.

swallow tattooThe swallow as a symbol stands for family love. In the past, sailors had a swallow tattoo to represent a journey of over 1000 nautical miles at sea, which in those days was a dangerous and uncertain voyage, rather like the many who have desperately jumped into dinghies to escape death and persecution.  A swallow tattoo also denotes time spent in prison, which perhaps is apt when we think of some of the conditions refugees are escaping from or even existing in now.

If you are within easy reach of Bradford and can offer Shaeron any help with sewing the squares together, contact her at


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