Manchester city centre landscape

Unique exhibition gives disadvantaged people in Greater Manchester the chance to tell their story

A Greater Manchester exhibition brought together people who have experienced disadvantages such as homelessness, poverty and addiction to tell their stories to support others undergoing similar challenges.

Unseen Voices is the result of a year of work from the Changing Futures team at Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and not-for-profit video production company BADKAMRA. The teams worked with 12 people from the city-region who have experienced multiple disadvantages and barriers, ranging from people with disabilities to those who have been in the care system.

The project aimed to showcase their experiences and difficulties of navigating Greater Manchester services, with the findings to be used to transform services and make improvements for people who face disadvantages. Rather than displaying the results in a document or online, the team decided to host an exhibition at HOME, in Manchester city centre, where the participants told their stories through spoken word, poetry, film or other art forms.

Two sessions of Unseen Voices took place on Wednesday, 19th July, with live performances, a Q&A session and an open exhibition making up the show. The aim is to reach people in positions of power who can help influence how services and systems work when setting out to help people. The creators also wanted to help people currently going through hard times, who my find inspiration or solace in seeing how others have worked through difficult experiences.

Ushiku Crisafull

One of the Unseen Voices participants Ushiku Crisafulli, 34, from Tameside, has experienced homelessness and has written poetry to tell his story. He has struggled to find employment in an industry he enjoys, such as theatre, while complying with the restrictions set by the benefit system.

Ushiku said: “The experience of late-teenage homelessness and the benefit system has been a far bigger impediment to social mobility than what job my dad had at 14. Yet the metrics used to analyse multiple disadvantages often aren’t fit for purpose.

“Our lived experiences tell this story far better than spreadsheets ever could, and I was happy to lend my voice to this effort.”

Paul Hanson, from BADKAMRA said: “This project was participatory and collaborative in nature which was refreshing, more often than not, the interests and political interests of participants and least empowered can go unmet.

“The group learnt the basic skills of video production including camera operating, lighting, sound, editing and interviewing. We held workshops which provided opportunities for storytelling, meaning-making, self-expression, self-reflection, self and community awareness and as a catalyst for sharing experiences.

“Many of the participants struggles and experiences are heartbreaking, however creativity seemed to be how those struggles had been met. That’s inspiring - creativity in its purest form is the ability to change something, create something. They are a creative bunch with something to say. I feel very fortunate to have met everyone involved.”

Changing Futures is a national programme operating across 15 areas. It is funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DHLUC) and the National Lottery Community fund. It aims to create systems change at an individual, service, and system level to better support those experiencing multiple disadvantage (loosely defined as experience of two or more issues relating to homelessness, contact with criminal justice, addiction, domestic abuse, and mental health struggles). One of the key pillars of the programme is involvement of people who have lived experience of multiple disadvantage at every level, from frontline staff and team leaders to creative research projects such as this one.

A visitor views the Unseen Voices exhibition

The programme in Greater Manchester aims to improve the lives of individuals, as well as transform local services to provide a person-centred approach and test new approaches for funding, accountability and engagement.

Deputy Mayor Paul Dennett and GMCA lead for Healthy Lives and Homelessness, said: “We want Greater Manchester to be one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and get old. That means access to our city-region’s services should be the same for everyone, regardless of your background. Although progress is being made to make public services more accessible for everyone, Unseen Voices sheds light on the fact there are still many barriers for a number of people in our city-region.

“Through this programme we are working to transform services for the better while giving a voice to those who necessarily do not have a platform to tell their stories, I am looking forward to seeing how we improve services across Greater Manchester in response to this project.”

Find out more about the project here: Unseen Voices Exhibition - Greater Manchester Combined Authority (

Article Published: 20/07/2023 12:51 PM