Photographic collection charts lives of women of Leeds during Covid pandemic

A collection of photographs of women who create art together in Leeds pictured in their favourite places in the city during the Covid pandemic has been released in an online exhibition.

By Mark Lavery
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 11:45 am
Updated Saturday, 9th January 2021, 12:16 pm
Mafwa heatre company member Mary pictured at  Quarry Hill in Leeds.
Mafwa heatre company member Mary pictured at Quarry Hill in Leeds.

Arts Together commissioned photographer Lizzie Coombes to take pictures of women from Leeds-based Mafwa Theatre company.

Mafwa Theatre works with refugees, asylum seekers and women settled in Leeds communities to create theatre and performance art.

The women chose their favourite location in the city and Lizzie took their pictures there for the project, which was commissioned for Refugee Week 2020.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mafwa Theatre company member Anne is picured outside The Reginald Centre in Chapeltown

Now the photographs of the women in their favourite places in Leeds have been published on the Arts Together website (click here)

Mafwa Theatre group member Anne was photographed outside the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown.

She said: "It was such a welcoming space for me when I first arrived in Leeds in 2016. It was somewhere to get away from where I was living.

"I love singing – I’m a member of Asmarina Voices, Harmony Choir and the Holbeck Choir too.

Mafwa Theatre company member Trish is pictured outside the flats where she lives in Leeds

"I really miss it right now. I’ve always taken up every opportunity I can to get involved in the arts in Leeds, especially going to Leeds Playhouse and Opera North."

Group member Trish said the flats where she lives near Leeds city centre is her favourite place, adding: "We’ve lived round here for ten years. Being on the ground floor you get to know a lot of people, and being near this playground, you get lots of people and kids going past."

Mary Chose to have her photograph taken at Quarry Hill.

She said: "I don’t know why, but I just like Quarry Hill – when I see that aerial across the city, I think to myself ‘That’s my Quarry Hill’.

"I’ve occasionally had a pass to use the gym and the pool. To have a flat here in one of these new blocks would be my dream.

" I love going to Mafwa – it's the company, it’s a place where you can share your problems – we're like a big family.

"They’ve been so supportive during lockdown. I’ve had no kitchen now for a few months, only a microwave. And they’ve been sharing all these recipes but I can’t make them! Hopefully soon it will be fixed."

Alice Gilmour, community partnerships officer at Opera North, which administrates Arts Together, said: "We were really excited to support something that captured what the city means to a variety of women and which could be managed remotely.

"We are thrilled with the result – a vibrant series of pictures which bears witness to the amazing women of Leeds at this uncertain time and which also reminds us, particularly during lockdown, that all kinds of locations across the city hold special meanings for different people.”

Leeds-based photographer Lizzie Coombes said: “During these unprecedented times, human connections feel precious and important to me.

"I loved meeting, listening and talking to the participants, and collaborating with them to create the photographic portraits that they felt best represented them and their sense of place within our communities.”

Keziah, Co-artistic director of Mafwa Theatre, said: “This project is a brilliant opportunity to highlight the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers living in Leeds.

"We hope the resulting words and images will both enlighten and challenge, while also forming a great collection to share with others.”