Coronavirus: Fashion Institute academic raises over £70,000 for domestic violence and homelessness charities

23 June 2020

Artist Sian Bonnell’s collective sold prints from 70 leading artists to aid COVID-19 response

A charity art sale initiated by a Manchester Fashion Institute academic has raised over £70,000 to support vulnerable people affected by the Coronavirus crisis.

Academic Sian Bonnell launched ‘The COVID-19 Portfolio’ with her arts collective TRACE, harnessing the goodwill of their photography friends and colleagues to donate their work to the good cause.

Over 50 international photographers contributed, and prints were sold for £50 each – many of which were iconic works long out of edition.

A total of £72,400 was raised for Refuge and Crisis, helping to support those affected by domestic violence and homelessness, often exacerbated by the COVID-19 restrictions.

Image: Julia Fullerton-Batten's Ophelia after Millais

High-profile participating artists included Martin Parr, Hannah Starkey and Julia Fullerton-Batten, alongside work of Manchester Metropolitan University academics Bonnell, John Earnshaw and Richard Page. Eleven University alumni donated their work.

Pieces included a portrait of Sir Ian McKellen, captured by Frederic Aranda. The legendary star of stage and screen endorsed the initiative during an Instagram interview with the artist.

It is only because of amazing people like Sian that we’re able to continue to support thousands of people by providing services and running classes to help them leave homelessness behind for good, and for that we’re extremely thankful.”

Sian Bonnell, Reader at Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “I wanted to do this project because nobody was considering the impact the lockdown would have on the most vulnerable people; the homeless and victims of domestic abuse. In making a time-limited sale of prints at a very low price, the idea was to raise some funds to help two charities Crisis and Refuge who actively support these people.

“I got together with a few friends and we invited our photography friends and colleagues to donate a print each for us to sell. We ran everything from our studio in Todmorden - master printer and Manchester Metropolitan alumnus Charlie Meecham bespoke printed all the photographs and we packed and shipped over 2000 photographs in a cottage industry situation, literally to the four corners of the globe.

Image: Untitled, October 1998 (Arsenal shirt:Coke bottle) by Hannah Starkey

“We were completely overwhelmed by the incredible kindness and generosity of everyone who was involved with this project, not only all the artists who donated their work but all the people who purchased the prints.

“An added bonus was the knowledge that people had access to great work at the most affordable price – just £50, so it was an incredibly democratic event that brought great art to people who might not have accessed it before whilst helping the most vulnerable people in our society at the same time. The whole experience was quite humbling.”

Prints were sold and shipped to over 30 countries, including USA, Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, France, Slovenia, Malta, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil and Portugal.

The full list of Manchester Metropolitan alumni to take part was: Sarah Eyre, Joy Gregory, Brian Griffin, Judy Harrison, Daniel Meadows, Charlie Meecham, Kate Mellor, Richard Mulhearn, Martin Parr, Layla Sailor, and Bonnell. 

Image: John Earnshaw

Sandra Horley, CBE, Chief Executive of Refuge said:"Refuge is enormously thankful to Sian and all of the artists who generously contributed works to The COVID-19 Portfolio. We have been overwhelmed by this show of public support, which comes at a critical time for survivors of domestic abuse.

"During the lockdown, demand for Refuge's National Domestic Abuse Helpline has increased on average by over 60%, as women have endured long-term isolation with their abusers. We rely on public donations, and the funds raised from the COVID-19 portfolio will allow us to continue providing women and children the urgent support they need, both during and beyond the lockdown."

Richard Lee, Director of Fundraising at Crisis, said: “At Crisis we know how crucial photography and arts classes are to our clients, helping them build new skills and improve their wellbeing. So we’re incredibly grateful to Sian and her friends and colleagues for choosing to fundraise for Crisis, in such a creative and collaborative way. 

Image: Sian Bonnell

“The last few months has further exposed the many reasons why everyone should have somewhere safe to call home – and why we must work together to make homelessness a thing of the past. 

“It is only because of amazing people like Sian that we’re able to continue to support thousands of people by providing services and running classes to help them leave homelessness behind for good, and for that we’re extremely thankful.”

More about TRACE can be found via their Instagram page

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