In February Laura Dicken was selected as the successful recipient of an International Bursary offered jointly by New Art West Midlands and GRAIN Projects and developed in partnership with Aarhus Billedkunstcenter / Aarhus Center for Visual Art (AaBKC) and Galleri Image.

Due to the pandemic, Laura was unfortunately unable to travel to Aarhus, Denmark to undertake the period of research supported by the bursary. However, we are pleased to be able to share an update on the opportunity:

You Are Another Me is an inclusive, socially engaged arts project which explores the experiences of women (and female identifying individuals) from a variety of backgrounds who have, for different reasons, migrated alone. Laura has developed this project with the support of the bursary award. She took an extended amount of time for research and development over the Summer to radically adjust her practice so that she can still co-author and co-create with participants in a meaningful way under the new remote circumstances brought on by Covid restrictions. This has been achieved by embracing platforms such as Zoom, Skype, email and WhatsApp. Working closely with the Aarhus Billedkunstcenter Project Manager, the artist has made connections with local organisations in Aarhus who support migrant women and has invited potential participants to take part in the project. Laura will still collaborate with participants through conversations, shared images and storytelling, but will now do so digitally rather than through in person workshops.

Laura was awarded the International Bursary 2020, to make work in collaboration with women in Aarhus, Denmark, to undertake a period of research supported by the bursary and to travel and meet with participants. Instead of being able to travel this year she has found creative solutions to continue working on her proposal remotely. As an artist who works almost exclusively with analogue techniques the digital shifts will significantly affect Laura’s output; instead of a series of analogue social documentary portraits, a multi-disciplinary approach has been adopted to create a series of digital portraits, allowing her to experiment with sound, moving image and photo montage animation.

Laura will be delivering an artists talk at Galleri Image and Aarhus Billedkunstcenter remotely in the new year.

An update on the International Bursary awarded to Laura Dicken earlier in the year. The bursary has been offered jointly by New Art West Midlands and GRAIN Projects and developed in partnership with Aarhus Billedkunstcenter / Aarhus Center for Visual Art (AaBKC) and Galleri Image.

Work by Laura Dicken

New Art West Midlands, Grain Projects, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter and Galleri Image are delighted to announce that Laura Dicken has been selected as the successful recipient of the International Bursary 2020. Laura will now undertake a period of research in Aarhus, Denmark, in March 2020.


Work by Laura Dicken

Laura’s research proposal was selected by representatives from each of the four organisations from a batch of very strong and exciting proposals. The panel were particularly impressed by the focused, specific approach Laura took to her proposal and by the clear case she made for the impact of the bursary upon the development of her practice.

Laura’s work ‘You Are Another Me’ explores migration through the lens of the female (and female identifying) experience. The project includes portraits and stories of women from a broad spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities who have, for various reasons, migrated alone. By facilitating the telling of these disparate stories she hopes to bring new voices to the migration narrative and to highlight not only the vast differences but to celebrate and illuminate the many similarities. Having worked with participants in Copenhagen, in a pilot of this project, Laura is now able to use her research methodologies to connect with communities in Aarhus, to promote understanding, compassion, international cooperation and collaboration.

Laura’s ongoing body of work is a series of projects which are collaborations with individuals, communities and arts organisations. Through her work Laura hopes to create opportunities for previously untold stories to be shared authentically and with agency. Her process is built around meaningful connection, conversation, workshops and photography. Laura is interested in illuminating the shared human experience and celebrating the extraordinary ordinary.


New Art West Midlands, Grain Projects, Aarhus Billedkunstcenter and Galleri Image are delighted to announce that Laura Dicken has been selected as the successful recipient of the International Bursary 2020.

Two new publications launched in the region last week, at events at BLAST! Festival in Sandwell and at Birmingham School of Art respectively, aiming to forefront some of the best photography, art and writing happening in the West Midlands.

Photography for Whom? is edited by Anthony Luvera, with support from Grain and Multistory. Published bi-annually, its focus is upon socially engaged photographic practice. Bringing together past projects with contemporary practice, the publication aims to connect themes and concerns that continue to resonate within the field.

Issue 1 of Photography for Whom?, available to buy online, and in bookshops around the country, features a text by Luvera that situates community photography in grass roots political activism while considering its lack of profile in contemporary accounts of the medium. Heinz Nigg’s article explores the WELD Photography Project (the Westminster Endeavour for Liaison and Development) in Birmingham in the 1970s, while Kieran Connell considers the political nature of community photography. Photographs by Trevor Appleson, John Reardon, Derek Bishton, Brian Homer, many of which have been recently on display at MAC Birmingham, are interspersed throughout the publication.

Forward, a free publication edited by Dion Kitson and Tom Glover, locates critical writing, interviews, poetry and artworks at its core, and is available to buy online or free to pick up in galleries across Birmingham. The editors describe Forward as “your principal port of call for art in the West Midlands: what’s good, who’s good, where’s good … It is the beating heart of art in Birmingham and the West Midlands, celebrating the connection between the region and its cultural output.”

Forward’s inaugural issue features contributions from artists Fred Hubble, Foka Wolf, Abi Mardell and others, and interviews with Ikon Director Jonathan Watkins and drag queen Twiggy. A feature on the elitism of the art world by Charlotte Russell, the painting practice of Annette Pugh written by Ruth Millington, and a playful feature by Kitson that connects a historic Halesowen park and a bench proposed by artist Ian Hamilton Finlay to Saddam Hussain and the ‘Iraqi Super Gun’ are all included in this wide-ranging issue.

Two new publications launched in the region last week – Photography for Whom? and Forward, which aim to forefront some of the best photography, art and writing happening in the West Midlands.

Hyacinth Stone by Sam Ivin

We speak to photographer Sam Ivin about Settling: Exploring Human Migration, a new exhibition with individuals and communities of Stoke-on-Trent. The exhibition is now open at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Noor-al-ain Waheed, Maryam Waheed and Amara Waheed, Libya early 1987 by Sam Ivin

Can you tell us more about the origins of your project ‘Settling’ and your interest in working with migrants and asylum seekers?

The project began in 2017 when I was selected for a residency with Appetite, a local arts organisation in Stoke-on-Trent and GRAIN Projects, a Midlands organisation that commissions and curates photography. A local resident Val ‘Nicky’ Basnal had approached Appetite with an idea to create a collection of images focusing on the Sikh community in Stoke. This inspired Appetite and GRAIN to launch a national call-out for artists and photographers to create work on migration to Stoke, which would be shown at Appetite’s Big Feast Festival 2017.

When I applied for the opportunity I had finished my Lingering Ghosts work the year before, that project explored how long periods of waiting effected those applying for asylum in the UK. The work began after visiting a refugee centre in Cardiff in my second year at University. I was shocked to learn how long some people were waiting whilst seeking asylum in the UK, without the right to work or travel: 4 years, 7 years, 12 years. I’ve recently met someone who’s been waiting 18 years. The injustice of this is what got me interested in human migration and refugee rights.

The residency seemed like a very organic and fitting progression for Lingering Ghosts, from a more positive standpoint. The stories and images I came across were so fascinating and poignant I decided to expand the work with an Arts Council England grant in 2018.

Walerian Val Tyminski by Sam Ivin

How have you identified and worked with the individuals and communities in the development of the project? Has this been targeted or more organic?

Appetite were very helpful at linking me with community groups in the initial residency. There’s a group called the Burslem Jubilee Group for example, (who meet once a week to socialise with and assist asylum seekers and refugees) they’ve been great and really involved right from the beginning.

I contacted local groups and try to visit them as much as I can. Sometimes you may be at a community group and someone says they’re interested on the spot or knows someone who might be appropriate to contact. Other times people email you to say they’re willing to help. It’s targeted but I allow room for the organic individual meet-ups to happen too.

Can you tell me more about the works themselves? Hyacinth Stone, for instance, looks to be overlaid with painted marks?

The pieces are designed for exhibiting and are made up of two frames. One on the left is a manipulated portrait, on the right is a large square frame filled with each person’s own photographs, filled with their own images at different sizes. Reflecting on their story of migration and finding home in Stoke-on-Trent.

The 12 photographic portraits are manipulated using paint to emphasise a person’s story, situation or feelings. Hyacinth loves gardening for example, so I decided to create a wall of foliage that almost envelops her.

Hyacinth Stone by Sam Ivin

What can visitors expect from the exhibition?

A place to discover fascinating stories and photographs of human migration. There’s the series of 12 works, a projection, a wall of Polaroids and display cabinets with original photographs and test artwork. Visitors are also encouraged to share their own story of migration.

What are your ambitions and hopes for the project?

I hope that someone can read the stories, look at the pictures and understand more about why people make these journeys to live in foreign places. I believe it’s important to record these images and stories for future generations too. I’d also love to show the exhibition in other places around the UK.

We speak to photographer Sam Ivin about Settling: Exploring Human Migration, an exhibition at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in partnership with Appetite and Grain Projects.

Helen Marshall: The Face of Suffrage

Miranda Gavin reflects on Helen Marshall: The Face of Suffrage, produced by Grain Projects, taking place at Birmingham New Street Station – via Photomonitor

From November to December, Birmingham New Street is to host a unique art installation which celebrates 100 years since women were first allowed to vote. The Face of Suffrage will be a floor-based, 200 metre square photo mosaic consisting of more than 3,500 images of women from across the West Midlands and beyond.

The artwork will be made up of historical images, women involved in the Suffrage movement from the early 1900s, as well as contemporary photographs of women who wish to join in to commemorate and celebrate their stories.

When viewed from above, the photo mosaic will show a portrait of a woman (still to be decided) from the Suffrage movement in the West Midlands. The mosaic will be created by artist Helen Marshall of The People’s Picture, who has installed similar projects across Britain marking other historic and significant occasions, most notably at the entrance to the BBC on Regent Street, London, to commemorate the WW1 Centenary.

People from across the West Midlands and beyond are invited to submit their own pictures of women – their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, friends, work colleagues and heroines, to be part of the photo mosaic and to celebrate and commemorate women.

There will also be opportunities at the station to have photographs taken and included.

Artist Helen Marshall said:

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to show a huge artwork in such an exciting public space. The idea came from my personal experience as a female achieving my dream to be an artist and the wish for women to become more visible, as they have been so invisible throughout art history, both in the representation in portraiture and as artists in their own right. My work is about breaking down barriers between professional and amateur photography and amongst people. I truly hope everybody will feel compelled to send in a photo and to become part of this celebration.”

The artwork will be on display between Thursday 15 November to Friday 14 December – the day which marks the 100th anniversary of women voting for the first time.

An exhibition accompanying the artwork will be at Birmingham Hippodrome from 16 October 2018 – 31 January 2019.

To find out more and upload photographs visit

This project is supported by Network Rail, Cross Country Trains, GRAIN Photography Hub, Arts Council England, LSE Women’s Library, Birmingham City University and Birmingham Hippodrome.

Image: Emmeline Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick Lawrence and others, c.1911. Photograph, printed, paper, monochrome, a group of seven women on a station platform, among them Emmeline Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence.

From November to December a new large scale art installation to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage will be in Birmingham New Street Station. People from across the West Midlands and beyond are invited to submit photographs of the women in their lives to become part of the piece.

East Meets West is a collaborative project devised by FORMAT International Photography Festival/QUAD and GRAIN Projects that will provide twenty emerging artists and photographers with a professional development opportunity as well as the chance to exhibit their work at FORMAT19 as a digital showcase.

At the Masterclasses artists and photographers will learn from industry leaders about portfolio development and receive advice regarding topics such as competitions, commissions, exhibitions, funding, making approaches, distribution and editing. Subjects will also include socially engaged, editorial and fine art photography, the photobook and responding to and working to commission. The Masterclasses will offer immersion in the subject matter and a unique opportunity for emerging photographers to develop their practice and showcase their work.

Masterclass speakers and portfolio reviewers include Natasha Caruana, Harry Hardie, Andrew Jackson, Anthony Luvera, Matthew Murray, Kate Peters and Michael Sargeant.

The opportunity is aimed at photographers wishing to broaden their perspectives and push the boundaries of their personal development.

Please note: Those successfully selected will be required to pay a fee of £100.

Deadline: Sunday 7 October 2018.

Full information about the opportunity can be found here.

Thursday 6 September 2018 is also the deadline for photographers, curators, artists and collectives to submit proposals to FORMAT International Photography Festival 2019 in response to the concept FOREVER//NOW.

East Meets West is a collaborative project devised by FORMAT International Photography Festival/QUAD and GRAIN Projects that will provide twenty emerging artists and photographers with a professional development opportunity as well as the chance to exhibit their work at FORMAT19 as a digital showcase.

David Bethell: Inverted Landscapes

Selina Oakes reviews David Bethell: Inverted Landscapes at the National Trust’s Ilam Park in Staffordshire.

Lily Wales - Operation Plumbob, 2017. Work in progress.

Engine and GRAIN are delighted to announce that Lily Wales has been awarded our £1000 bursary. The bursary was for an artist living and working in the West Midlands region who uses photography as an integral element of their practice.

Specialising in handmade photomontage, Lily is currently exploring themes around nuclear warfare with an interest in its language and how it anesthetises the audiences’ perception of the subject (i.e. atomic bombs personified by being given human names, and the absurd language used in films demonstrating how to survive a nuclear attack). She will use the bursary to undertake a research trip to the Nevada Testing Site and Atomic Testing Museum near Las Vegas.

The trip will offer her an opportunity to make new work, take first hand images in Nevada, and gather resources from the Atomic Testing Museum archive that she would not have otherwise had access to.

Lily said:

‘The trip undertaken through the bursary will provide an authentic insight into the colossal scale of the iconic mushroom, allowing me to expand on my photographic archive and consider new notions of scale within my own practice.’

We will report back later in the year on her progress.




Engine and GRAIN are delighted to announce that Lily Wales has been awarded our £1000 bursary. The bursary was for an artist living and working in the West Midlands region who uses photography as an integral element of their practice.

Sam Ivin. Zimbabwe from Lingering Ghosts, 2015. Fabrica, Treviso, Italy.

Following an open call, photographer Sam Ivin has been awarded a new residency commission in Stoke-on-Trent, a collaboration between GRAIN Projects and Appetite. The residency will see Ivin engaging with individuals and communities that moved to or migrated to Stoke from within the UK or internationally. Those who have made their home in the city and work in the city have made Stoke the diverse community it is today.

Ivin will create an archive of photographs during his residency between June and September for a subsequent exhibition. The archive will tell the participant’s stories of arriving in the city and where their journey started from.  A positive project, Ivin will celebrate commonalities using images from local people’s own photography collections, having them work with these images to present a contemporary archive and a work for exhibition.

We found out what he has planned over the next few months:


Can you tell me more about your proposed approach to the project?
The idea is for participants to take part in two workshops. In the first session people will share their stories of moving to Stoke and give their contributions to the archive to be donated or scanned/photographed, with some creativity involved of course. In the second workshop we’ll create artwork from the images given in the first workshop. If people prefer just to contribute to the archive there’s no obligation to attend the second workshop.

Which aspects of the process are you looking forward to?
Hearing people’s stories, discovering images and creating some new pictures! Already the range of people involved in the project is extraordinary – and we are only just beginning the work. Participants have migrated for asylum, love, work, study, the reasons are vast. As the stories are from people’s personal perspectives they are often relatable or at least help further understanding.

Sam Ivin. Palestine from Lingering Ghosts, 2015. Fabrica, Treviso, Italy.

What challenges do you envisage?
The main challenge will be finding enough participants to create a substantial archive of quality, we’ve had an encouraging response already though. The more participants, the better the archive in theory. And scanning, there will be a lot of scanning!

How can the residents of Stoke-on-Trent get involved?
If people have any pictures, other media, documents or even objects that relate to migrating to Stoke-on-Trent then please get in touch with me! These can be images of your ancestors, older family members or from your own experiences of moving and settling into Stoke-on-Trent.

What potential outputs do you hope for?
There will be an exhibition of the archive, artwork and stories at the Big Feast Festival, 25th – 26th August at the Hanley Argos building. This will showcase the project so far with the hope to grow it in the future. I’m hoping for a series of artwork, most likely portraits, from participants connected to each of their individual stories. Alongside this I’d like to create a larger piece connected with everyparticipant in the project but this is dependent on the contributions we receive.

What legacy do you hope might be achieved through the project?
Right now I’m focusing on the next couple of months and exhibition at The Big Feast Festival. I’m hoping the project will leave behind a high quality archive of pictures and exciting artwork that captures the stories of those who have chosen Stoke-on-Trent as their home. If this is achieved in the next couple of months the project can grow in 2018 to create a more extensive archive with some really special artwork.

If you have any pictures, documents, objects or stories you would like to contribute to the project, please contact Sam Ivin via –

Following an open call, photographer Sam Ivin has been awarded a new residency commission in Stoke-on-Trent, a collaboration between GRAIN Projects and Appetite. We found out what he has planned over the next few months.

Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.

Evolution Explored was an ambitious outdoor exhibition of work from the Magnum Photos archive that took place in Shrewsbury town centre and closed just last month. Anneka French caught up with one of the exhibition’s partners, Salla Virman, former CEO of The Hive Arts Centre, to find out more about her motivations for this project.


Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.

Passionate about presenting great art to those outside of large cities, Salla Virman was determined to bring a high-quality project to Shrewsbury in Shropshire. “Just because you’re rural doesn’t mean quality should suffer” she notes.

Evolution Explored, an exhibition of Magnum Photos including pioneering practitioners such as Robert Capa and the much-loved British artist Martin Parr, took inspiration from both Shrewsbury’s association with evolution as the town of Charles Darwin’s birth and from the 70th Anniversary of the photographic archive. Shown outdoors in both St. Mary’s Square and The Square, the project was a collaboration with Grain Projects, Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID) and The Hive Arts Centre, and was supported by contributions from Arts Council EnglandRedrow HomesShrewsbury Shopping and Shrewsbury Colleges Group.

On the exhibition’s theme, Virman explains “Magnum Photos recorded some of the most amazing and heart breaking moments of our time. This is not just about the evolution of species but about the evolution of everything within the world around us. The exhibition has a key link with its locality and a much wider relevance too.”

“I hope that the photographs within the exhibition have challenged viewers emotionally and intellectually, allowing new discoveries on art, the natural environment, technology and the changes we are experiencing within society. There is, of course, also something about the evolution of the medium of photography that has been explored through this special presentation.”

Installation view of Evolution Explored, Shrewsbury.


Accompanied by a programme of engagement activities for schools and families delivered by Grain Photography Hub  in collaboration with The Hive, the exhibition offered opportunities to find out more about the photographs and photographers shown as well as offering chances for the general public to get into photography themselves. Partnerships with a variety of organisations have, for Virman, enabled new mutual relationships, perhaps most importantly attracting visitors to the town, improving connections with business, as well as enriching the lives of local people within Shrewsbury.

“The exhibition has been cohesive and visually stunning. I want Shrewsbury to have more events like this. It has really brought the community together.”

Evolution Explored ran from 9 February to 20 April 2017.

We speak to Salla Virman, former CEO of The Hive Arts Centre in Shrewsbury, about her motivations for the Magnum Photos public realm exhibition Evolution Explored.