Amir is a familiar face at our InterAction Drop-in where he’s one of our brilliant volunteers. He got involved with Action Foundation after moving to Newcastle in December 2018 as an asylum seeker who had fled persecution in Iran. Two years ago this month he talked to us here after receiving the fantastic news that he’d been granted refugee status and today he’s still doing all he can to help others struggling to navigate a new life in the UK.

Amir is a talented artist and was studying Interior Design back in Iran before events forced him to leave. He now hopes to forge a career in graphic design and so he was our ‘go-to’ person when we were looking to have some bookmarks designed to promote our new Legacy Giving campaign, which aims to get more people thinking about leaving a gift to Action Foundation in their will.

We caught up with Amir to find out more about the amazing design he came up with, inspired by his experience seeking asylum.


Amir, your design features a barren desert landscape, with an inflatable dinghy, marooned on a sand dune, carrying people seemingly fleeing a bombed-out city. What were you hoping to convey in this arresting image?

The story behind that piece was mainly about the new rules of the UK for asylum seekers. Under the government’s new anti-refugee Nationality and Borders Bill, they will be unable to come to the UK by boat, that’s why I chose to paint the inflatable boat in a desert (the government took the sea from them). There is also a broken boat there which is about those who died on their way to here. The city in the background is a simple look of my hometown Tehran and the Ukrainian airplane that the Iranian authorities shot by a missile last year and 176 innocent people were killed.

The overall meaning of the painting is about the difficulties people have in their own countries that makes them risk their lives to get to a safe place. It’s not what they choose but they will find a way to keep their families safe no matter how hard or dangerous it is.

How long have you been interested in art Amir?

I started drawing and painting since I was about four years old. I always loved art and because of that I learnt many types of arts until now. I took courses for some of them like oil painting, drawing and music but I learnt the rest by myself and digital art is one of them, which I recently started learning and practising. I started learning graphic design and digital art four months ago and that bookmark was my second digital paint experience. I’m willing to go to university to study art but unfortunately I couldn’t find a way in yet.

How did you find working with Action Foundation on this project?

It was a great experience working with Kate (Action Foundation’s Communications and Events Executive at the time) and Abi (our Fundraising and Grants Officer). I really loved it! I really appreciate their patience, I was a little bit lost at that time, they trusted in me and gave me the confidence and motivation which helped me a lot.

What do you most enjoy about art?

There’s a lot about designing and painting that I love. Painting is like a sign language that everyone from any background can understand so I can use it to tell them stories. I love to think a lot and this is the best way I could find to transfer my thoughts to others.

I also like graphic design because it’s the opposite of painting and I have to give other people’s thoughts a shape, it’s challenging but lovely.

Abi Walker, who, worked closely with Amir and the Newcastle design agency, Everything, to produce the bookmarks, said it had been a privilege to work with Amir on this project.

We love these bookmarks because they celebrate the contributions made by refugees, as well as telling a story. They’re a wonderful way to promote our new legacy giving campaign and we hope to get them into local bookshops and libraries amongst other venues. Leaving a Legacy Gift will help us to secure a future for and continue to empower refugees like Amir.”

Amir’s bookmarks are already proving a big hit with customers at Whitley Bay’s newest bookshop, the bound. Bookseller, Sophie Pitches, who is also a fundraising volunteer for Action Foundation, said:

“Amir’s bookmarks flew off the counter so fast! People have loved his thoughtful design and were so interested to hear about Action Foundation’s work here in the North East. It’s been great to be a part of getting word out in Whitley Bay!”

  • If any businesses, community groups or individuals would like to know more about how to get hold of Amir’s bookmarks, please contact [email protected]