Art exhibition inspired by SPS Migrant Essential Workers research project

Published: 6 September 2022

The fine art exhibition documents the intimate experiences of Polish migrant essential workers across the UK in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

A travelling fine art exhibition documents the intimate experiences of Polish migrant essential workers across the UK in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition is inspired by the SPS-led 'Migrant Essential Workers' UKRI/ESRC- funded research project which focuses on the health, social, economic & cultural impacts of Covid-19 on migrant essential workers in the UK. 

The Spaces of (dis)connection: Migrant essential workers exhibition documents and explores the turbulence of the past two years for migrant essential workers.

As one of the most prominent migrant groups in the UK, Polish essential workers served on the frontline of the pandemic, risking their lives to deliver critical, oftentimes lifesaving, services. Already a chronically insecure workforce in the post-Brexit political landscape, the increased personal and professional demands of the pandemic life left many in a state of uncertainty.

The exhibition combines newly commissioned photographic work by three critically-acclaimed visual artists - Małgorzata DawidekPaulina Korobkiewicz and Sylwia Kowalczyk - with anonymous testimonies given by Polish essential workers.

The exhibition seeks to preserve the legacy of Polish essential workers in the UK, celebrating their strength, diversity and heroism during one of the most devastating public health crises to date.

Professor Sharon Wright, the lead researcher on the study, said: “The contributions of migrant essential workers to British society and economy during the pandemic are tremendous but rarely acknowledged."

“Our study looks at many unique challenges they face as migrants - in places of work, private lives and through separation from family and support networks. The exhibition illustrates these challenges by focusing on the spaces of uncertainty and disconnection from the previous lives, family and friends in Poland and the wider society, which relies on their work.”

Dr Anna Gawlewicz, who leads the exhibition project, said: “We collected very powerful migrant stories and felt that more traditional forms of dissemination just wouldn’t do them justice. We wanted ordinary people to be able to engage with, relate to and be touched by these stories. We are privileged to be working with three award-winning artists of Polish origin, who each brought these stories to life."

The exhibition is currently in Birmingham and will then travel to London and Scotland. Once it completes its journey, it will be digitised and moved online.


Dates: Now-24 Sept 2022 

Location: Centrala, Unit 4, Minerva Works, 158 Fazeley Street, B5 5RT

Opening Hours: Available during regular opening times


Dates: 1-12 Oct 2022

Location: Clapham Library, Mary Seacole Centre, 91 Clapham High Street, SW4 7DB

Opening Hours: Available during regular opening times

London Launch: 30 September, 6-8pm


Second half of Oct 2022 (dates, venue and launch TBA)

Summary image credit: Sylwia Kowalczyk 


First published: 6 September 2022

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