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Dreams & Realities: welcome to an incredible exhibition

Learn the story of Dreams & Realities, and the stories behind it

A powerful new art exhibition has been launched, telling the stories and aspirations of people in poverty.

Dreams & Realities is on display at St Mary’s Church in Sheffield, and will then go on tour as part of the Let’s End Poverty campaign.

Dreams & Realities of people's lives

Stephen Martin, a local artist, has painted acrylic portraits of nine people living in poverty in Sheffield, including himself.

Each picture shows the person, something that depicts their economic reality, and something that represents the dreams and ambitions they would pursue if they were not held back by poverty and unjust systems.

The project has been coordinated by Yo Tozer-Loft, who runs a community choir at St Mary’s, with support from Church Action on Poverty.

Three of the portraits on the wall

Yo says:

“I really hope the paintings show the reality for a lot of people in this country. There are still a lot of people constrained to live on the front line of poverty and I really hope this project shows their humanity by their dreams. All humans have dreams and as humans together we should enable each other’s dreams, and Governments should enable the health and the dreams of the people they govern.”

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Stephen's story

Stephen’s self-portrait includes a wellbeing journal, which has helped him with his mental health.

The background is black, as the electrical circuits in Stephen’s home blew more than ten years ago, so he has lived without electricity ever since. His income is only £340 a month.

Stephen says:

“Just being on benefits, I feel the pinch come the end of the month. It’s a struggle just to get by day by day, so I hope the message we’re putting over in this exhibition about poverty does have an effect in the General Election campaign and it does become a major issue within the election.”

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Dreams & Realities: The launch

A shot from upstairs of the choir singing in St Mary's Bramall Lane

The exhibition was launched at St Mary’s in March, at a special celebratory concert, which also included the choir singing Disney songs.

The initial response to the paintings was incredible, with many people deeply moved by the stories, and encouraged to get involved in the Let’s End Poverty campaign.

The people behind the paintings

Wayne stands in front of his portrait
Wayne in front of his portrait at the Dreams & Realities launch.

The stories in the exhibition are deep and diverse.

For instance, Wayne, who is homeless and who supports people hit hard by the cost of living scandal, dreams of empowering others to overcome issues such as racial injustice and homeless.

Liudmyla moved to Sheffield as a refugee from Ukraine, and the school where she had taught was bombed in the war. Her dream is to gain English teaching qualifications so she can resume teaching, but the great uncertainty around the war and her right to stay in England are represented in the painting by a crystal ball.

  • More detail on all the individual stories is included in the exhibition.
  • Dreams & Realities will be on display at St Mary’s Church, Bramall Lane, Sheffield, until the end of April. See the church website for opening hours.
  • The exhibition will then tour nationally in support of the Let’s End Poverty campaign. 

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