Journey to Justice

Sunderland, Phase Two

What happens when the travelling exhibition leaves town? 

In November 2016, the JtoJ travelling exhibition left Sunderland for Tower Hamlets , but the Journey to Justice legacy and spirit  lives on. Lindsey Mullan,  JtoJ Sunderland co-ordinator, says the exhibition “served as a reminder that although Sunderland lies in a small corner of the world, it is a city with a wealth of experience relating to social justice issues.”

JtoJ Sunderland ran a number of projects with the local community during the time of the travelling exhibition including the production of wonderful art installations: ‘Hidden Histories’,  ‘Ship of Souls’ and ‘Hidden Stories’ all of which embody the JtoJ aim of “learning about human rights movements past and present through history, storytelling and the arts,” and continue to convey this message to everyone  who see them.

‘Hidden Histories’ started life in Sunderland Museum& Winter Gardens as part of  the travelling exhibition and has since gone on a journey of its own. The project involved MBC Ceramics’ Emily Nolan telling stories to participants  about Sunderland’s history of human rights and social justice (see examples here). The aim was  to inspire them to think and write about their own experiences. Their stories were placed inside a clay sphere which they handmade and each sphere was uniquely decorated to reflect the story inside. The  spheres were then fired to look like cannonballs, a reference to the cannonball rocks found on Sunderland’s beaches and maritime history.


The exhibition has been kindly hosted across the City of Sunderland College campuses, and it will soon go to Sunderland University’s Interfaith Centre.

“The aim of this exhibition was to a give a platform to people who feel  voiceless in the city. It was a way for them to tell their stories and capture their struggles, so it is important we bring them to a wide audience. In Sunderland, we have connectivity issues where outlying areas often feel detached from the hubbub of the city centre. A touring exhibition  is an excellent way of bringing together the narratives of people from across Sunderland,  highlighting  how we are more connected than we might otherwise think. The cannonballs represent individual journeys to justice and when they are brought together they have a great power to drive positivity and change.”
Lindsey Mullan, JtoJ Sunderland Coordinator

Journey to Justice Sunderland and  MBC Ceramics partnered with pupils from Red House Academy to create the ‘Ship of Souls’ installation, with thanks to a grant from the Arts Council.

The project involved teaching pupils about the links between Sunderland, the slave trade, and its abolition. The students made ship planks out of clay, which they wrote on to express their response to learning about the city’s history of slavery. They chose words like “freedom,” “humanity,” “equality,” “no to racism,” and MBC Ceramics’ Mark Burns Cassell put the planks together and fired them, to create a magnificent ship. Visitors are encouraged to reflect on how far we’ve come in achieving equality, and how much still needs to be done.

We’ve come a long way, so everyone is mixed now…We study this history so we can understand more about it and people don’t make the same mistake and can make changes.”
Vincent Hessel, Student

“The project has been brilliant for raising the students’ self-esteem. They were really pleased when they saw it installed and could identify which planks they’d done. On the back of the project we’ve continued doing work around slavery and we’ll move to the Civil Rights next, so it has really been the pivotal event of Year 8, well organised and well delivered.”
Steve Newman, former Curriculum Lead for History, Red House Academy

The ‘Ship of Souls’ installation is housed at the Red House Academy, Sunderland, where it creates a lasting impression on all the students and staff who see it. For anyone interested in a viewing, please call Red House Academy Tel. 0191 511 1930 and ask to speak to the Principal’s PA.

The ‘Hidden Stories’ project by Hollie Dearing is a photography exhibition  created as part of  JtoJ Sunderland’s programme. It features stunning portrait photos of and moving interviews with 10 people working in Sunderland to promote justice, equality and wellbeing. Happily,  the project is still touring  the city of Sunderland. It started in The Bridges Shopping Centre and moved to the Civic Centre:

“The JtoJ exhibition was up in Sunderland Civic Centre over the summer holidays. The exhibition has shown the diversity of our city and the passion people we have living and working on social justice every day! We thank the legacy of Journey to Justice in our city to continue the work as we continue to educate local people.”

Jackie Nixon, Former Journey to Justice Sunderland Chair


Ceramicist Mark Burns Cassell with pupils of Red House Academy