Stories on Critical Hope

Curated by Helene Rousseau and Inés Soria-Donlan

‘Hope Unite’ by Atanas Giew. This piece was commissioned in early 2020 as part of arts activist organisation Fine Acts ‘Spring of Hope’ series. You are free to print or share this work under a Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC-BY-NC-SA). See more artworks from the series here

Stories on Hope is an invitation to you all – young people and professional artists, but also and especially researchers, activists, community  workers, civil society partners, project administrators and facilitators who are part of the CTS network and wider community – to take some time out to create something that tells a story about hope that you’d like to share with the community.

The brief is open: you can use any artform, any stimulus, and spend as much or as little time on it as you like. You can collaborate with others, or create something on your own. The only thing we ask is that you approach the process with an open mind and see what comes out of the other side!

Read on to find out how to get involved or download the PDF version here.

The past 18 months has seen us all face additional challenges in our personal and professional lives, many of which we would never have anticipated. At a time where we are in some ways more united than ever through a common threat to our notion of what living is, the impact of the pandemic has also exacerbated existing inequalities and thrown ugly divisions into the unavoidable limelight. In some way or another, all of us have had to struggle, adapt, and find a way through the dark. And when we’ve been unable to find our way through alone, we have sought out the kindness, understanding and resilience of others.

We have been angry. We have grieved. We have been forgotten. We have worried. We have felt afraid. And we have never felt so alone.

But we have also learned. We have created. We have found unknown sources of strength. We have continued to live through the highs and lows of a human life. Many of us have found pleasure in small acts of making or observation. And, together, we have continued to search for alternative ways of moving forwards.

Queda (Fall) by Ariane Aparecida (2020). Ariane is part of Coletiva ocupação, a theatre group created in 2016 by performers, activists and artists who met during the uprising of the high school movement and the occupations of public schools in São Paulo, Brazil. They make projects that sit between art, activism and education and regularly present their work at festivals in Brazil and beyond. Queda forms part of their series of work entitled ‘Cartas Coletivas‘, a collection of videos, dances, photos, testimonies made in their bedroom-houses in May 2020: ‘Cartas Coletivas exist from the desire to find, cross, move in space, hacking virtuality. The pandemic starts, and we go alone to our bedroom – houses. We decided that our bodies study, the meetings continue in other ways and we try, above all, to stay alive and together. We need to know how to not disperse. ColetivA investigation, coletivA care. Oral – body – letter’. Watch the rest of the series here

In amongst all of these emotions and situations, what role does hope play? The role of hope is crucial and a necessity for us to keep on going, to imagine a new world, perhaps one that is fair and just for all its inhabitants. Freire (1997) suggested that the idea of hope can not transform the world alone, but to attempt to do it without hope is merely an illusion. As creators, thinkers and doers we should adopt critical hope. “Critical hope reflects the ability to realistically assess one’s environment through a lens of equity and justice while also envisioning the possibility of a better future.” (Dugan, 2017; Duncan-Andrade, 2009). Through Changing the Story we have seen how art and the use of imagination can be  a starting block for young people to engage in critical hope.

‘Kindness spread’ by Anne van den Boogaard (2020).
Commissioned as part of Fine Acts ‘Spring of Hope’ series. Available for free noncommercial use and adaptation, given the appropriate credit (Creative Commons license CC-BY-NC-SA).

At Changing the Story, much of our vision of hope is based on the promise of what the act of creation can bring. In our projects, we focus on the ways in which the arts might support young people to find new ways of understanding the world around them, their past experiences, their current value and the rights they wish to fight for in the future. As facilitators, managers and research leads of projects focused on producing this experience for others, we can often forget the feelings of slight trepidation, utter absorption and ultimate pleasure that creating something ourselves can bring. And whilst we know that the arts are not a replacement for other therapies, we firmly acknowledge the transformative experience that so often arises when anybody, at any age, picks up a pen, a paintbrush, an instrument or a camera.


We are all artists!


For the Fighters and the Lovers, by Inua Ellams (2021). This poem was commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre as part of an international series of digital artworks on the theme of Hope and Courage during the pandemic. Watch the full series here.

Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis and should be sent to by Friday 17th September 2021 (if your artwork is something three dimensional then please send us a picture or video of it!). Once submissions have been reviewed, they will be added to an online virtual exhibition space, which will be shared via Changing the Story’s social media and wider networks.

You might choose to use other artworks as inspiration for your own piece, or to create something entirely from your own imagination.

Good luck!


How to Apply


Please send your submission to by Friday 17th September 2021 (if your artwork is something three dimensional then please send us a picture or video of it!).  Please do not send images inside word documents etc. but instead ensure you send us the original file. The below is a guide to different formats, but please just share the highest quality version you can with us:

  • Images: JPG, PNG or
  • Videos: MP4
  • Audio: MP3
  • Written word : Microsoft Word or similar, or simply in the email itself (please avoid PDF unless the page layout is part of your piece).

In addition to your artwork we’ll ask you to include:

  1. A title
  2. A short description of the work (optional)
  3. If you would like your name to be included as artist or prefer to remain anonymous (both are fine!)
  4. Confirmation of any permissions required (eg. if your artwork features another identifiable person or includes other pieces of artwork that are not your own) and which Creative Commons license you would like to use (see below)
  5. A short reflection on how you found the process (optional)

Alongside the virtual exhibition, we’ll be writing a reflective piece about the insight Stories on Critical Hope has provided about the ways we work and hope together.

Copyright: What is a Creative Commons License?

We ask that all artworks submitted to the exhibition agree to have a Creative Commons, which means that other people can use your work in particular ways providing that credit is given. You can read more about the different types of Creative Commons licenses here:

We recommend the following two licenses, dependent on what you are comfortable with:


This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms. CC BY-NC-SA includes the following elements:</p> <p>BY  – Credit must be given to the creator</p> <p>NC  – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted</p> <p>SA  – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms


This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. CC BY-NC-ND includes the following elements:<br /> BY – Credit must be given to the creator<br /> NC – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted<br /> ND – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted<br />

Permissions, Safety and Support

You must ensure that you have gained permission for anyone’s work that you have included in your own, or from any people who are identifiable in your artwork. Anybody from the CTS network is welcome to submit an artwork, however we will need to ask for consent from caregivers of participants under the age of 18 as to whether we can show these works publicly. Participants can decide to showcase their artwork in their own name or anonymously.

We encourage you to create something within the means that you have; unfortunately we are unable to provide physical materials. Please also ensure you adhere to whatever Covid-19 restrictions are in place where you live at the time that you create your artwork. We can however cover data costs for those wishing to upload work (eg. videos) online where you are not able to do so otherwise; please contact us at if you would like some support with this, or have any other questions.