Art Agents

As part of British Art Show 9 (BAS9) in Manchester, a group of local creative people worked to make change in their city. The Art Agents worked with BAS9 ’s art, people, spaces and resources to explore questions inspired by BAS9 ’s cultural framework: ‘Whose voice can be heard? Who is able to act? Who gains from such actions, and who bears the costs?’

The Art Agents were recruited in spring 2022 and developed their projects working closely with one of Manchester’s BAS9 venues – Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth, HOME and Castlefield Gallery. The Art Agents were also supported with design and consultancy work from Office of Craig.

Each Art Agent led a project that they proposed and developed, building skills and relationships to realise their ideas. The programme provided paid employment, with the ambition that they will be offered opportunities to work within the cultural sector beyond BAS9.

The key motivations behind the project:

Community led work to drive change both for the public and organisational change.
Learning together, drawing the strengths and expertise of all involved and becoming more interconnected.
Legacy of change and widening access to those who may not have accessed galleries or contemporary art before.

Manchester’s Art Agents are:

Rocha Dawkins and Cadija Cande, who have formed a collective of young Black creatives in Manchester and produced a film, Our Spaces, that shares their thoughts about community and creative spaces.

Instagram: @rochako.the.artist, @_ourspaces_

Watch the film
The image show the collective of young Black creatives in Manchester standing in front of a road, smiling at the camera and finger gesturing the number three.

Gemma Lees, who created an immersive installation in collaboration with participants from the Men’s Room that aims to break The Vagrancy Act in order to highlight its injustices and try to prevent it from reaching its 200th birthday in 2024.

Instagram: @gemisace

Read the Travellers' Time article
Photo by the artist Gemma inside a camping tent, open and positioned on the sidewalk. On the left a poster that says: Where do you feel safe? The artist wears a fuchsia sleeveless dress that recalls the colour of her hair.

Matt Needham connected with a group of Queer & Neurodivergent Individuals to explore the concept of Safe Space(s) as a tactic for Care & Togetherness.


Read Creating Safe / Brave Spaces
Black and White bust portrait picture the of artists with at the background a field and some trees.

Sumaira Naseem’s project considered artists and audiences with visual impairments in the exhibiting of visual art and explored processes, tools and knowledge to show that visual art is not ocular centric.

Image: Mancunian Sunset, Copywright 2023 by Sumaira Khalid Naseem

Download the booklet
A photograph of a sunset. The background is grey orange, yellow, light and dark grey. There is a silhouette of a building with a part sloping and part flat roof towards the bottom right corner.

Manchester Teachers Collective: This collective of 10 art leads from Manchester secondary schools and colleges worked in partnership to offer peer support and develop workshops with artists to introduce and unlock many of the themes explored in BAS9.


Bust of a person wearing a paper dress. Consisting of a Cuban flag with two black eyes and red pupils and shoulder pads with brown fringes.

Manchester School of Art’s Unit X Collective: 143 (I Love You) by The Circle Collective. This project saw Manchester School of Art 2nd year students produce and lead public workshops that presented and explored the idea of non-romantic love.

Photography by Theo Bowden-Mills

Two young women sitting at a table full of colourful cards. they are both writing a message. In the background is possible to see two corners of paintings.