Our vision and objectives
Amal grows opportunities for our Muslim communities to realise and express their full creative potential and to share and celebrate this creativity with others.
We do so because we believe that engagement in arts and cultural activity broadens horizons and forges common ground within and between communities. Through creative endeavours, we work with many partners to increase understanding of Britain’s Muslim communities among others and foster a stronger sense of belonging in the UK among our Muslim communities.
Amal means “hope” in Arabic. We offer a radical kind of hope that the UK, despite the divisions of recent times, can build ever more harmonious relations between its communities.
Our vision is of a Britain in which Muslims are fully and fairly represented, equally valued, and celebrated for their rich and diverse contribution to British life. In our work, we are guided by the values of compassion, conviviality and social justice.
Our objectives matter because a multicultural society like the UK’s can’t be a just, harmonious and successful one without empathy between its multiple communities. Muslims represent a significant proportion of the British population. Many of them face socio-economic disadvantage. Pervasive, negative and monolithic stereotyping of them builds barriers, barriers to the understanding of Muslims, to their sense of belonging, to their full inclusion in society. We are proud to enable diverse Muslim voices to be heard and encounters within and across communities to take place.
Our story so far
Amal began life in 2017 as a grant-making pilot project of the Saïd Foundation, then evolving into a programme providing support, in addition to funding, to its partners. By 2020, it had supported 51 partners to deliver 63 projects. These encompassed a variety of art forms and over 1,200 events and engaged both mainstream and harder-to-reach audiences from Aberdeen to Brighton in arts venues, museums, theatres, schools, places of worship, at festivals and in the community.
Having built a community of partners, artists, advisers and friends, Amal embarked in 2020 on an ambitious new future as a Muslim-led, independent charity committed to bringing about wider-reaching change and to working sustainably over the long term.
Based on our learning to date and on continuing consultation, we have now launched a new cornerstone programme, Amal Connects. With existing and new Amal partners, we will work with Muslim communities through co-created projects for greater Muslim participation in arts and cultural activities, richer creative encounters between communities, more authentic representation of Muslim lived experience and stories, and more opportunities for the celebration of our Muslim communities and their contributions to British society.
Amal Connects is in a pre-project research, mapping, consultation and convening phase in its initial hub locations of Birmingham and Bradford, building our relationships with community groups, Muslim artists and arts organisations.
Our key aims
In working to create a narrative shift around Muslim representation in the UK – how others view Muslims and how Muslim’s perceive themselves – we want:
- Our Muslim communities to feel they are heard and valued. Our work at Amal Connects will be informed by what they tell us is important to them.
- To build capacity and engagement in arts and culture within Muslim community organisations by creating opportunities and overcoming barriers to access to cultural activities.
- To build capacity in the Muslim artistic community by creating opportunities and a platform for Muslim artists, helping them to develop and sustain successful careers and grow the presence and visibility of Muslims in the creative sectors.
- To enable arts organisations to better serve Muslim communities, by understanding the barriers they face to doing this work as well as helping them to understand the barriers and boundaries that exist within these communities.
- To create moments of encounter between individuals or groups of people who may not usually find themselves in a room together or engaging in dialogue.
- To provide opportunities to showcase and platform work made by Muslim communities to be seen and shared across different venues and locations.
- In all these ways, to draw more Muslims into creative engagement because it reflects their experiences, stories and aspirations.
The way we work
- Amal Connects follows a co-creation model. Our first priority is ensuring the work we support direct reflects the experience, concerns and priorities of communities in Bradford and Birmingham. We work closely with community groups to do this.
- We are an arts and culture organisation – all work we support must centre on a ‘creative act’.
- We are not a delivery organisation – we connect community groups with an appropriate delivery partner. We want to make sure that we are not replicating work but enabling groups and organisations to further the work they want to do.
- We are a sector support organisation. We offer funding for co-created projects but also build capacity, convene and connect to make this work possible.
Our long-term aims
- To build a community of practice in the arts and cultural sector which fully includes Muslims as audiences, participants, artists, workers and leaders.
- To shift the narrative around Muslims to one that encompasses a multitude of stories reflecting their diversity, celebrating their experiences and enabling us all to enjoy and respect our differences and our common ground.