National Museums Liverpool celebrates Sanctuary Award in honour of Refugee Week

National Museums Liverpool (NML) marked Refugee Week by holding an event to celebrate its recent Sanctuary Award, bestowed in recognition of its work with City of Sanctuary UK to foster supportive and welcoming spaces for people seeking sanctuary in our communities.

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The celebration event, which took place at Maritime Museum on Thursday 22 June, marks NMLs commitment as an organisation, to making sure its venues, which include Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Walker Art Gallery, Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley House – are inclusive and welcoming places to visit for people seeking sanctuary, for example as refugees or asylum seekers.  

The award was unanimously agreed upon and in recognition of NMLs ‘amazing efforts to support sanctuary seekers and raise awareness around the country about forced migration.’  

The event was timed to coincide with Refugee Week, which takes place annually between the 19 and 25 June to celebrate the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. 

The Sanctuary Award programme celebrates organisations who go above and beyond to welcome people seeking sanctuary. The appraisal panel includes someone with lived experience of seeking sanctuary, and an expert in the field. The formal awards process recognises good practice and progress within a sector, whilst encouraging other organisations to do the same. 

Claire Benjamin, Head of Learning and Participation said, 

“It is with huge pride that we receive the honour of a Sanctuary Award in recognition of our efforts at National Museums Liverpool to support sanctuary seekers and raise awareness around the country about forced migration. Liverpool is a city known for its warm welcome, and this includes our museums and galleries. The award follows two decades of community engagement, as we further explore new ways to include people with lived experience in our programmes, our museum redevelopments, and how we engage audiences.” 

A recent example was the Meet me at the River pop up exhibition in the Dr Martin Luther King Jnr Building on the waterfront. NML collaborated with sanctuary seekers and participants from Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa) to co produce the work. MaMa is a cross-national network of women, mothers, migrants, artists, academics and activists who work together to support members who are seeking sanctuary, and campaign for justice in the migration system.  

Collaborative work is also ongoing with partners such as Asylum Link and Savera UK, to create opportunities for people seeking asylum to contribute actively and feel valued and included in the museum experience, through performances, exhibitions, events and partnership working. 

The award event aligns to NML’s Waterfront Transformation Project as part of the Welcome to the Waterfront event series. The theme of the fourth Welcome to the Waterfront event in the series is Freedom; freedom to be safe, freedom to live as you wish, freedom to speak as you wish, freedom to be who you wish to be. The event is a chance to learn more about the redevelopment of International Slavery Museum, Maritime Museum, and to hear about opportunities to get involved.  

With this award, NML is part of City of Sanctuary UK that co-ordinates, supports and grows networks of welcome, to encourage inclusivity, solidarity, and compassion for people from forced displacement backgrounds. 

Laura Pye, Director of National Museums Liverpool, said,  

“I am extremely proud that National Museums Liverpool has earned a Sanctuary Award in recognition of the work that has gone on to make sure we embed inclusivity at the heart of all we do across our venues.  

Being displaced, for any reason, and finding yourself in an unfamiliar city can be extremely challenging and often traumatic. We want everyone to know that they are valued and welcome. All our museums and galleries are safe and inclusive spaces, which can be accessed without charge.” 

Liverpool City Council also attended the event, as they have been awarded Local Authority of Sanctuary.  

Councillor Liam Robinson, Leader of Liverpool City Council, said:  

“We take pride in being a city where people look out for each other and offer help to those who need it, and are proud of being a City of Sanctuary. 

“Liverpool is a place where people have come from all parts of the world for many reasons and rebuilt their lives, made families, and become part of the tapestry of the city, its history and its future.  

“From how people speak to the food they eat, the city’s richness is built on the influences of all those who have made it their home. It is hard to find a person in the city whose heritage does not lie elsewhere.   

“The next Our Liverpool strategy is aimed at ensuring that people who have lived here all their lives, or those who arrived yesterday, have the opportunity to live in a fair and inclusive city, get the opportunity to contribute their skills and thrive.” 

The Liverpool City of Sanctuary movement, started in 2012, seeks to unite those already working to support asylum seekers and refugees, and provide a simple platform for others to do the same. Individuals, businesses, and local organisations are invited to pledge their support to the movement and get involved in any way that would suit.  

Image credit: Amina Bihi. 
Pictured left to right: 
Zulfiqar Malak, Director of Housing, Liverpool City Council 
Julie Kashirahamwe, Council Resettlement and Migration Settlement Manager, Liverpool City Council 
Seana Roberts, representing Liverpool City of Sanctuary as well as Merseyside Refugee Support Network  
Claire Benjamin, Head of Learning and participation, National Museums Liverpool