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Modern slavery exhibition in Somerset cafés

28th June 2022

The Clewer Initiative

The Art of Slavery Exhibition ran for five weeks in June and July

The Art of Slavery Exhibition displayed evocative art in more than 35 cafes, hotels and restaurants across Somerset. Organised by the Sparrows Project in Minehead, it aimed to bring the subject of modern slavery into the public discourse.

John Dickinson, a trustee for the Sparrows Project and one of the organisers of the exhibition explains: “We felt that if we used an art gallery for the exhibition, only a small number of people would see it. Instead, by displaying it in cafes, restaurants and hotels across the West Somerset and Sedgemoor area, we believe many more people encountered and consequently were forced to reflect on the presence of modern slavery in Somerset. We wanted people to understand that, despite looking like a picturesque county with lots of rolling hills and countryside, Somerset does in fact harbour many victims of modern slavery.”

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In January, John approached several artists and a local college to see if they were interested in creating art focused on the theme of modern slavery. John was humbled by the positive response he received and the impression the project has made on people. In particular, the teachers at the local college observed that many of the students made profound comments as they learnt more about modern slavery and some, who were at risk of being drawn into county lines gangs, were significantly affected.

John comments: “The college students made about 20 pieces of incredible work. However, more than the art, we are thrilled that the project provided students and teachers with the opportunity to discuss the very real threat of modern slavery and county lines and its presence in Somerset.”

For five weeks, the exhibition ran in venues across the Somerset coastline. Many locals and visitors followed the trail and were challenged and moved by the art.

John concludes: “In just a few weeks, we have received many positive comments, particularly from the café and restaurant owners who are involved. The exhibition has been a wonderful awareness raising project. Also, this month, we have taken the opportunity to give talks in various churches across the area, to inform people about modern slavery and the local awareness raising and victim support work that is going on.”

The exhibition is available to tour other parts of the country. To find out more, email

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Restore Hope West Somerset / the Sparrows Project was begun in 2008 by Christians in West Somerset. It exists to raise awareness of the existence of modern day slavery in the area, to seek to counter it and to provide individually tailored support to survivors by assisting them to recover from their past experiences and to move on establishing themselves in society. It works closely with Hidden Voices Bridgwater.

To find out more, visit

Rolling hills photo by John-Mark Strange on Unsplash

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