X Close

UCL Public Engagement Blog



We Are Movers: collaboration with women on migration, mobility and settlement

By Briony Fleming and louisedredge, on 12 March 2019

This blog has been written by Louise Dredge, Public Engagement Manager (SLASH & IoE)

In our work to support staff and students at UCL to make public engagement in research and teaching a normal and valued part of their work, it is always a joy to experience the impact of those engagement activities and what our support can enable.

In early February, I found myself at London’s Migration Museum (whose current home is The Workshop on Lambeth High Street) for an exhibition launch and a celebration of a public engagement project supported by a public engagement bursary from UCL Culture.

introduction board that explains the We are Movers exhibtion

Exhibition board from ‘We are Movers’ Exhibition

The Migration Museum is dedicated to telling the story of movement to and from Britain and as I walked through corridors and doors marked ‘Departures’ and ‘Arrivals’, I was reminded of my own migration journey, from Ireland to London, and those feelings of trepidation, fear and hope for all that was yet to be in my new home. The museum was a befitting venue to celebrate and share the outcomes and outputs of this collaborative project, which aimed to bring together academic research and the lived experience of migration and through that to co-construct knowledge about migration, mobility and settlement. The project was initiated by Dr Rachel Rosen, Associate Professor at the Department of Social Science in the Institute of Education (IOE), with IOE staff and students, the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network and the Helen Bamber Foundation.

As Rachel admitted to attendees, this collaboration was “a bit like cooking something you haven’t cooked before”, drawing together new collaborators and approaches, not knowing exactly what would emerge. With women from the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, the Helen Bamber Foundation, artists, students and researchers, they undertook a series of art-based conversations, creative activities to facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge of migration. Participants explored their experiences at the point of entry to the UK, of settling into new neighbourhoods and accessing public services.

small wooden pestle and mortars with words exploring 'belonging' written on them

Artwork produced as part of the ‘we are movers’ project exploring the concept of belonging

Three key themes emerged in the project and these were expressed through artworks, poetry and performance. Exploring the theme of belonging, one participants spoke of her delight at access to clean water and of friendly and supportive police officers who were there to help rather than brutalise. Through a silent performance, we saw the importance of relationships in nurturing a sense of belonging and overcoming many legal and social barriers faced in settling in a new country.

One of the artworks co-created by the group challenges the narrative of refugees and migrants that dominated the headlines in the Brexit referendum; newspaper clippings take the form of butterflies clustered to form stars, celebrating the diversity and beauty of our society against a backdrop of stereotyping and misrepresentation. Another of masked figures holding signs with ‘Border Control’ and ‘Speak English’ questioned the concept of integration as a one-way process, and explores the barriers that some participants experienced as they sought to ‘integrate’ due to their insecure immigration status. You can learn about these themes and the background to the project, on the IOE London blog.

Newspaper cuttings create stars which challenge the image of migrants as portrayed in the news through Brexit coverage

Newspaper cuttings create stars which challenge the image of migrants as portrayed in the news through Brexit coverage

At the culmination of the event, every participant received a certificate to mark their participation in the project, and women from Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network told us how important it was to have their voices included, recognised and celebrated in academic research on migration and settlement.

The event, and the project overall, served to highlight the role that UCL can play as a refugee-friendly space and in serving the public good.

Art work created from brightcolours and images of people holding signs saying 'speak english'

Image from the We are Movers Exhibition using photographs of people holding signs saying ‘speak English’

The ‘We are Movers: We Are Towers of Strength’ exhibition  will be on display in UCL’s Cloisters from 17 June to 12 July 2019.

3 Responses to “We Are Movers: collaboration with women on migration, mobility and settlement”

  • 1
    Elsa wrote on 11 July 2019:

    This is really a wonderful and exciting project which provide me with a great opportunity to know different culture and do some volunteer activities with migrant children and women.I am very enjoy it and I feel that these women are full of confidence. I believe they will have a positive life in UK and these children are so cute,they deserve to be treated amicably by the world. I love this project and exhibition.

  • 2
    Briony Fleming wrote on 15 July 2019:

    Thanks for your comment Elsa, and lovely to hear about your positive experiences working on the project.

  • 3
    Fiona Manonn wrote on 9 October 2021:

    Really wonderful and great one from you again. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful article. Hope this will help many people while relocation process. Before hiring packers and movers, you should maintain a clear checklist and monitor that. That’s very essential.

Leave a Reply