USW gallery re-opens with powerful new exhibition

Speak to Me launch 1.jpg

A project bringing support to resettled refugees is being celebrated at the University of South Wales with the first on-campus exhibition since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Oriel y Bont, the gallery at USW’s Treforest Campus, re-opened on Friday 24 September with the launch of Speak to Me – an exhibition of sound and pictures which celebrates a successful storytelling project, facilitated by researcher and Creative Writing lecturer, Barrie Llewelyn.

Speak to Me launch 5.jpgResettled Syrian and Sudanese refugees were paired with volunteers from the USW community in a series of Creative Writing Workshops, which took place at the start of 2020.

The workshops encouraged the partners to share their stories of celebration, food and friendship.

The partnership approach created an atmosphere of collaboration and confidence, as the refugees were encouraged to use English in a creative and expressive way.

The aim of the Speak to Me project was that creative conversations between people would enhance work being done in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes at USW to aid the acquisition of language skills. It also helped promote greater understanding between communities.

Artists and USW graduates, Marina Iodice and Robert Oros, were commissioned to create the exhibition, which was due to be shown in spring 2020, before the pandemic forced the closure of Oriel y Bont.

12.jpgThe exhibition was officially opened by Beverley Humphreys – a BBC Radio Wales presenter and opera singer from Pontypridd, who has been working with refugees for several years and helped connect local families with the Speak to Me project.

The event also heard from two refugees who have resettled in the Treforest area and benefited from being partnered with local English speakers, to improve their language skills and get to know more people in the community.

Sponsored by USW and Literature Wales, Speak to Me is at Oriel y Bont until 22 October, and includes a collection of photographs and postcards written during the workshops, as well as video and audio of the refugees and partners in conversation. For more information, go to

Projects such as Speak to Me form part of USW’s work as a University of Sanctuary, which recognises its commitment to creating a culture of welcome for people seeking sanctuary within, and beyond, its campuses. Find out more about this work on our website.

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