Our vision and objectives
Amal exists to help change the narrative around Muslims in the UK to one that is confident, diverse and just. We do so by growing opportunities for Muslim communities to realise and express their full creative potential and to share and celebrate this creativity with others.
Our objectives are to increase understanding of Britain’s Muslim communities among those of other faiths and who are secular, and to foster a stronger sense of belonging in the UK among Muslim communities. We believe that engagement in arts and cultural activity broadens horizons and forges common ground within and between communities. We work with many partners to advance our objectives through creative endeavours and encounters. 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 stands as a barrier to the understanding of Muslims and to their sense of belonging. We work 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 programme of the Saïd Foundation. 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 our new cornerstone programme, Amal Connects. This works with and through a wide range of community and arts organisation partners to grow the creative potential of the UK’s Muslim communities. It follows a co-creation, place-based model, ensuring that the work we support directly reflects the experience, concerns and priorities of Muslim communities. Our initial hub locations are Bradford and Birmingham and we plan to add London and Manchester over the next two to three years. Amal Connects:
- Consults and connects our three interlinked sets of stakeholders (artists, arts and cultural organisations and Muslim communities).
- Gives these communities a better sense of the range of possibilities that is open to them by providing opportunities to engage in creative activities such as participatory workshops.
- Provides funding for co-created arts projects.
- Convenes our stakeholders to share learning and best practice.
- Provides capacity-building advice to support the sustainability of community organisations with which Amal works and the capacity of arts organisations to work with Muslims.
Amal Connects is now open for community, arts/cultural and other organisations to apply for funding for projects co-created with Muslim communities in the Birmingham and Bradford area. See the Apply and Connect section of this website for guidance and our online Expression of Interest form.
We would also like to hear from community groups, artists and arts and culture organisations who would like to connect with each other to develop co-created projects and to deliver, participate in or host the creative activities Amal arranges to enable groups to visualise their creative potential (such as participatory workshops).
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:
- 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.
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.