28 Jun 2023

See the outcome of workshops centred around Refugee Week 2023's theme of Compassion, hosted by the National Maritime Museum in partnership with Lewisham College.

by Elma Curran - Adult Engagement Producer and Michelle Butcher -Leading Artist

Kites, maps and charts

For Refugee Week 2023, we held a three-part creative workshop for 16–19-year-old students of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), all of whom are refugees or have difficult migration stories. We looked at many of the maps and charts from the Royal Museums Greenwich collection as inspiration, led by artist Michelle Butcher.

kite made from a map
Kite made from a road map - Royal Museums Greenwich collection
a map with text
Map of Lesvos and the Aegean Sea - Royal Museums Greenwich collection 

In the workshops, students shared ideas, stories, and experiences through kite-making, plaster casting and an adapted ‘Photovoice’ technique.

These workshops were all skills-based, focusing on how to use craft and making to develop new ways of storytelling.



Students engaged in kite-making and flying, which is synonymous with freedom and joy for many around the world.

Kite-making holds a particularly strong cultural relevance for some in the group. We had the expertise of Ahmadzia Bakthyari, a London-based kite maker from Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, who led this part of the workshop.

5 people holding kites paper kite with face teacher and student with handmade kite


Plaster casting

The students, who are just beginning to learn English, were supported to explore the meaning of compassion. They spoke collectively about the possibility of starting again and realising the potential of love, peace, and hope.

They created plaster casts of their hands and gilded them, which held photos of themselves, as precious cargo.

2 students making a cast of their hand plaster cast of hand on mao gold hands with photos hand holding a polaroid


Photovoice technique

Some participants inscribed on their self-portraits as a way of sharing their hopes and aspirations, now they’ve arrived in the UK.

teenage boy holding his polaroid with text about himself artist and student hands of students writing on their photos

The workshop facilitated the telling of the individuals’ journeys, but also developed a playful and creative solidarity. The students worked together to build their kites, portraits and hands, just as they are trying to build their future here in the UK.

We hope that collectively their creations show that although individual stories are so important, we are not alone and can support one another.


Lead Artist: Michelle Butcher (pictured)

Michelle's role has been to make art accessible and meaningful for students who may have had little experience of it in the past. She has shared her skills and knowledge, to help them visually represent their stories and aspirations.