Seeing the City Anew was a collaborative research project involving Dr Ruth Healey (University of Chester), Dr Jonathan Darling (University of Manchester), and artist Lauren Healey, together with Sofia Kalu, Khalid Rashid and Irfan Syed. The aim of the project was to examine the experiences of refugees living in the Greater Manchester area through participant produced photographic imagery and their accompanying narratives exploring the themes of belonging, community and place.

This small-scale pilot study seeked to develop a participatory and creative methodological resource for research with refugees, whilst enabling the participants to share their experiences of the city through photography and oral narratives.

This project had two central research objectives.

1. To explore the possibilities of using participant-led walking tours of the city, together with a mixture of interview, focus group and photography exercises, to create a mosaic of refugee experiences of the city, through which key points of importance, emotional resonance and political significance might be located.
2. To explore how refugees experience Manchester through visualising a series of key spaces, concepts and environments whilst working with an artist to offer participants photographic and creative skills training.

The field of refugee studies has often been noted for its methodological conservativeness. Drawing on recent work within cultural and social geography, this pilot project utilised approaches to participatory photography and walking interview methods to examine the emotional, practical and social aspects of everyday life in the city of Manchester for a small number of refugees. This enabled us to explore with the participants their relationship to the city and the ways in which the city frames their position as refugees.

The methodology for the research centres around a series of three research meetings and tasks undertaken during a one month period. At each meeting different tasks were set in order to produce a series of different forms of data for analysis. The first meeting introduced the main aims, methods and outcomes of the proposed research, along with opening these methods up for discussion and question. Following this, participants designed a walking route around the Manchester and Salford areas based on key themes around their experience of the city as refugees. The participants then took the researchers on their tour and discussed and explained their choices of images in relation to their experiences. At the final meeting the participants and researchers discussed the images and their significance.

The project was supported by the Manchester Geographic Society.