The Chester story

Key Contact: Vanessa Layfield


The Diocese of Chester has been involved in addressing modern slavery for several years, and exciting cathedral events are ongoing.

The Diocese of Chester was one of The Clewer Initiative’s original pilot dioceses, and has been involved in the fight against modern slavery for many years. Chester Cathedral is leading the way with a series of ongoing high-profile events, aimed at raising awareness and starting conversations about modern slavery in local communities.

The diocese has been a part of the Cheshire Anti-Slavery Network, and has worked closely with a number of partners beyond the church, including the police and other faith groups.

Chester Cathedral service

A mesmerising modern slavery art exhibition

In 2020, Chester Cathedral hosted a deeply moving art exhibition by Sara Shamma, a London-based Syrian artist. Sara displayed her incredible modern slavery art exhibition in the cathedral’s Chapter House. Sara’s work stems from her King’s Artist residency: through a series of interviews with modern slavery survivors and professionals in the field, Sara came to understand the impact of modern slavery. She has created works which consider the psychological impact of the survivors’ experiences, as well as her personal response to the issue. Many survivors suffer depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and damage to their lives, self-esteem, and relationships. Sara’s work explores these challenges in a sensitive and impactful way.

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Engaging events in Chester Cathedral and beyond

Over several years, Chester Cathedral has hosted a number of impactful modern slavery events, including:

  • A prayer event for those caught up in
    modern slavery and human trafficking. The Mayors of Cheshire East and West, local councillors, High Sheriff, Bishop of Chester, and Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative, were all present. The congregation heard from groups working against slavery including the Salvation Army, local anti-slavery hubs, Fifty Eight, and Cheshire Anti-Slavery Network. During the event, the Bishop of Chester signed a declaration against modern slavery on behalf of all Churches in Cheshire.
  • An evening business reception at the Cathedral, hosted by the Bishop of Chester. Representatives from the police attended the event, and discussion points included supporting ethical supply chains, identifying victims of modern slavery, and ensuring compliance with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
  • An ecumenical meeting attended by representatives from Anglican and Methodist churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army. Attendees discussed issues surrounding human trafficking and slavery, and heard an overview of the crime of human trafficking and the signs of modern slavery.
  • For Anti-Slavery Day 2021, Vice Dean Canon Jane Brooke worked in partnership with the Mothers’ Union to create 47 knitted links for two crochet chains. 47 is the number of NRM referrals from Cheshire in 2020. The chain links were placed down the centre of the aisle, and Canon Jane Brooke wore a knitted chain of small green links to represent the thousands of unseen victims of modern slavery.

Innovative ongoing projects in the diocese.

In addition to the cathedrals’ work against modern slavery, there is a range of other ongoing projects in the area, including:

  • Frodsham Churches Together, a Methodist organisation who run an anti-human trafficking local action group.
  • Medaille Trust, a modern slavery charity, is active in the diocese, and is involved in providing accommodation for victims of modern slavery in safe houses.
  • Just-Ice Poynton, a social enterprise project which provides employment for victims of modern slavery. It aims to employ four victims of modern slavery on a two-year training and development programme.

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