Brighton and Hove has a rich and proud history of welcoming migrants. In living memory the city has provided home for Jews and other European refugees fleeing communist governments after the Second World War. More recently migrants have come from all corners of the world to settle in the city. They are a diverse group of individuals and communities and include those who have entered the UK via the asylum system, as international students, as economic migrants or to join family members already here. Since the early 1990s three of the largest communities to settle in the city have been Sudanese, Iranian and Chinese. Through their businesses, their work and culture these established communities have made a unique contribution to the development of the city.
In the first decade of this century we have seen arrivals from conflict affected areas such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Central Africa and Zimbabwe. The enlargement of the European Union in 2004 saw migrants from Eastern Europe coming to the city to work, many of whom have now settled here permanently. In 2006, under the Gateway Protection Programme, the city provided a safe home to seventy nine refugees from Ethiopia who had been living in Kenyan refugee camps. Alongside these more permanent communities, the city’s two universities between them have approximately six thousand students from outside of the UK coming to study each year. This extraordinary movement of people with their different histories, cultural backgrounds and values has enriched the city, and given it a reputation for being one of the most vibrant, cosmopolitan and tolerant in the UK.
Given such diversity it would be an impossible task to try to capture and represent the voices and experience of all the various groups who have come to live in Brighton and Hove. Instead, this project gives a flavour of some of the lives, of some of the migrants, who have come to settle here.
How the project worked
Uniquely, the stories presented here have been collected and chosen by migrants themselves. An open invitation was made to migrants living in the city to become involved and a total of twenty-two volunteered. One group of migrants were members of Brighton Voices in Exile, a local charity working with those seeking asylum. A second group was recruited through Brighton and Hove City Council’s Refugee Forum. Participants were trained in life history interviewing; they identified the questions, the people to interview and conducted the interviews. As the interviews were collected and transcribed, extracts were used as a prompt to encourage further storytelling and writing amongst migrant groups. The stories therefore reflect the interests and concerns of the migrants who became involved. Real names have not generally been used, instead, each interviewee was asked to select a pseudonym. Further information about developing a methodology for community involvement and participation in life history work and community learning, can be found under Working with Migrants to Collect Life Stories.
The project is part of a larger EU funded project involving partners based in Austria, Finland, Ireland and the UK. As well as migrant communities, the partners have worked with Deaf communities and rural communities, enabling these often socially excluded groups to explore their 'hidden histories' and to provide the opportunity, through exhibitions and websites, to share their stories with the wider communities of Europe. Please visit our website to find out more about the project and the other exhibitions.
First and foremost our thanks to all of the participants who shared their experiences so generously. Thanks to Lucy Bryson at Brighton and Hove City Council, to Mary-Jane Burkett and all the group members at Brighton Voices in Exile who embraced the project so enthusiastically. The project would not have been possible without the twenty-two volunteers who gave their time so freely to shape and guide it over the last eighteen months.
Mujtaba Ahmadani, Yared Asfaw Teferi, Jannie Asinobi, Leonie Barua, Abdulhakim Bekri, Raymond Direko, Anke Harnisch, Szu-Yu Huang, Petra Kasparkova, Elena Kudelya, Elahe Mirzadeh, Mahmood Mirzadeh, Sarah Mirzadeh, Chipo Musadza, David Parduhn, Joyce Raanhuis, Sanad Rofael Takla, Domenico Sapuppo, Maryam Tafti, Nozuko The Tho, Philippa Vafadari, Hanna Wohlfarth.
Thanks to Sam Carroll for her editing, proof reading and photography skills. Mr Framrose’s photograph was taken by David Churchill. Other photographs were provided by the participants or were taken by Linda Morrice and Domenico Sapuppo. One or two are from iStock.
Dr Linda Morrice
University of Sussex