Kay Rufai: Barriers to Bridges

Barriers to Bridges is the first ever police ‘creative changemaker residency’ in the UK. It came about thanks to the opportunity provided by Coventry City of Culture 2021, and presented a chance to do things differently in the form of new partnerships, and new ways and opportunities to listen and learn from communities who have historically been excluded from conversations about policing. West Midlands Police were especially interested in how can art and culture could play a role in developing a new dialogue with and for young people, the local community and the police, and help to develop a mutual understanding and build bridges.

We asked artist Kay Rufai to help to understand the experiences of young Black and Asian people in the city and to create pieces of art to tell those stories. We also asked him to understand the reality for officers and staff so he spent time with individuals and teams within WMP to understand our experiences.

As a result of his time spent on the residency, Kay produced a series of photo storyboards and films that explored the experiences, thoughts and feelings of both police and young people. He especially asked police how they would respond to what the young people involved in the project were saying.

He found experiences based deeply in feelings of bias and stereotyping. These challenging truths can be difficult to hear but the art has begun to build insight and empathy for all parties. WMP will use the views of those who took part to ask themselves tough questions about how we police communities in a way that minimises trauma and demonstrates thoughtfulness and empathy, the impact our actions have, and how we speak to people.