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“The whole world is here . . . ”

The New Londoners, an exhibition featuring portraits of families from all over the world who call London home, is on display in the Breathing Space café section of the Migration Museum until 27 May. This blog profiles the exhibition, which features the photographs of Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins, a long-term supporter of the Migration Museum. It includes a ‘behind-the-scenes’ section written by Patrick Dowse, one of Chris’s photographic assistants, about the process of securing the photographs.


Within the UK there is nothing new about the perceived difference between London and the rest of the country – historically, there has always been resentment of the capital, for its wealth, its perceived low morals, its mix of people – but a recent survey of these differences showed the contrasts to sharp effect. One of the strange omissions from that survey, however, was the ethnic make-up of London in comparison with the rest of the country – strange, because London is known for its multi-ethnicity and is seen now to be probably the most ethnically diverse city in the world.

Haroon (left, seated) with his wife, Amina (right, seated), with their sons Milad and Manni (behind Haroon) and nephews Abdullah, Owain and Hamza. His niece Homaira (centre), with her son Imaan and daughter Negeen, and family friend Live (far right).

This multi-ethnicity lies at the heart of Chris Steele-Perkins’ The New Londoners project: ‘The whole world is here in London, and it is the most multi-cultural, most ethnic city in the world,’ he says. And, as a migrant himself and someone of mixed parentage (he was born in Myanmar when it was still called Burma, and identifies as half-Burmese), he was aware of the complexity of identity, both for individuals and for people constantly questioning individuals about it. ‘The question I still continue to be asked is “Where are you from?”,’ Chris says, ‘which has often got the subtext that you don’t really belong here.’ And yet, quiet evidently, people increasingly do feel they belong here, and one of the distinctive characteristics of the capital is the apparent ease with which cultures and ethnicities exist alongside each other. A new kind of identity seemed to be emerging, a new kind of Londoner, and Chris set out to document it, attempting to take photographs in London of people from all the 195 countries recognised by the United Nations (UN).

He set out to do so with a number of common principles: the photographs would all be taken in the subjects’ households; they would be of families, however they interpreted the meaning of family; they would be formal photos; and they would be accompanied by the transcript of an interview between Chris and the subjects of the photos. The result is The New Londoners, which exists as a website, as a photobook (published by Dewi Lewis and on sale in our bookshop) and as an exhibition, in the Migration Museum until 27 May and at the British Library until 7 July. The book, which documents 164 families (collectively hailing from 187 countries) was to be published on the day that the UK was due to leave Europe (Friday 29 March); its launch took place instead on Thursday 4 April at the Migration Museum.

‘My own family is a pretty decent fit for the family profile – with my wife [Miyako Yamada, foreground] being Japanese, my half-brother [Thein Mynt, left] half-Australian and me [in the door-frame] half-Burmese – so fairly early on I thought I would include myself, but built around my brother rather than me: I’m tucked away at the back. My mum’s in the picture as well, a small tiny framed print in the foreground.’ Also in the photo are Chris’s son, Cedric, by the mirror; Thein’s wife, Jean Miller, on the sofa; their son, Lewin, behind the sofa, and his partner, Francis, kneeling beside it.

Chris put feelers out through various contacts, but he was introduced to many of the people he photographed by subjects of earlier photographs, or he stumbled across them by chance, for example meeting a colleague of somebody from the Marshall Islands at a Magnum book-signing event. Some of the stories he heard from families, particularly those who had fled war, were harrowing: the matriarch of the Congolese family was tearful remembering the situation that led to her leaving her home country, the father of the Afghan family explained how the rise of militant Islamist rule meant his job as a satirical comedy writer was not only untenable but put his life in danger, and his wife spoke longingly of an era when women worked and wore skirts – painting a now unrecognisable picture in light of contemporary, conservative Afghanistan.

Having set himself the challenge of photographing people from every country in the world residing within the capital, Chris found that the concept of categorisation of countries presented some interesting questions. For one thing, some of the people he photographed identified themselves with countries – Kurdistan or Somaliland, for example – that have not been recognised by the UN. But there were other issues, too.

‘The idea had originally been to try to put together families from all the UN-recognised states, but I kind of gave that up as an idea because it seemed to be artificial,’ Chris explains. ‘I was intrigued to discover people from places like the Chagos Islands. They didn’t particularly want to be here. They hadn’t come of their own free will, as most migrants to Britain do. It’s a sad irony that they’re here, not because they’re trying to escape tyranny; it’s the opposite, they’re trying to get back to their homeland.’

Vanessa Calou (behind sofa), her brother, Misley Mandarin (right), their father, Michel Mandarin (left) and Vanessa’s daughter (perched on the sofa), Kaysea Calou. Michel was born in the Chagos Islands and lived there until he was expelled in the 1960s. Vanessa and Misley were born in Mauritius.

The islands of the Chagos archipelago were uninhabited until the French, using slave labour, established copra plantations on them in 1793. The islands were ceded to Britain in 1814 and have been British territory since. A 1966 agreement between the British and American governments led to the UK forcibly expelling the archipelago’s inhabitants between 1968 and 1973, in order to provide an unpopulated island for a US military base.

Some Chagossians and human rights advocates have said that the Chagossian right of occupation was violated by the British Foreign Office as a result of that agreement and have asked for additional compensation and a right of return. In February 2019, the UN’s highest court advised that the UK should end its control of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean ‘as rapidly as possible’.

Patrick Dowse, one of Chris’s assistants on The New Londoners, writes about his experience:

In the summer of 2015, as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed student photographer, I found out that Chris Steele-Perkins was looking for an assistant for a project. I leapt at the rare opportunity to work with someone with such a rich photographic history. 

Coming from a relatively small town in the North-East of England, London was a huge culture shock, which was partly why I had wanted to study in this city; to be part of a team working on this project with Chris only added to the excitement – and working on this project was a brilliant way-in to learning about and meeting people from a huge range of cultures and countries.

By the time I started working with Chris the project had been underway for over a year, but there were still about 160 countries left to cover – a lot of work still to do. 

I worked alongside a team of other assistants and researchers, tracking down the remaining families, often contacting embassies, local community groups, blogs and online groups, such as Facebook groups set up for those living in London from different countries. 

Social media such as Facebook were invaluable to me – I could use them to connect with those we had still yet to cover in the book: for example, I was able to contact someone from Tajikistan through a Facebook group set up to connect people from Tajikistan living in London and the UK. 

We were welcomed into the homes of the families we photographed with open arms. As well as talking about that very British topic of the weather, we often had extensive conversations about their journey to the UK. And one thing I noticed was that, no matter which country we were photographing, no matter which part of the world they were from, we were always offered a cup of tea. That’s one thing that I noticed we all do in the UK when welcoming someone into our home. 

Being given the rare chance to work on a project like this has taught us that we’re all the same as each other, no matter which country we’re from. Someone from every corner of the world has found London and now calls it their home. We all want the same thing: happiness, love and community. That’s all we’re after, whether we’re from the UK or Uganda, Venezuela or Vanuatu. 

The impact on the project of the 2016 referendum

Chris began the project two years before Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016. As the project widened, Chris came across people who had moved to London from all over the world for reasons as wide ranging as their countries of origins: work, study, love, curiosity. Some were asylum seekers and refugees, others students or people who had moved for their business. ‘These are the kind of ordinary, decent people who are getting by and doing stuff; [they represent] the exact opposite of the rhetoric that came out of the Leave campaigns,’ says Chris. ‘They are in all kinds of jobs, and in all kinds of work, and have all kinds of histories; not one of them strikes me as someone who’s just kind of sitting back and abusing benefits.’

Since that vote, many foreign nationals in the UK have spoken about a change in feeling, and now wonder what their futures hold, and whether they are still welcome. After the referendum, Chris says, there was a sense that people felt more vulnerable: most of the potential participants in the project who subsequently changed their minds about being involved did so in that ‘post-referendum era’.

Unlike the majority of England and Wales, London voted to remain part of the European Union in the 2016 referendum. Later in the summer of 2016 the newly elected mayor, Sadiq Khan, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, launched the #LondonIsOpen campaign, proclaiming: ‘London is the best city in the world. We are entrepreneurial, international and outward looking. London is known as a city full of creativity, a place where anything is possible. The key ingredient of our city’s success has been the flow of brilliant ideas and talent from across the globe. Our city is comfortable in its diversity, proud of its history and optimistic about its future. London is open.’

Gert Van de Meersch (left), from Belgium, with his wife, Atija Sulubito Puma (right), from Mozambique, with their daughter, Marcia, and son, Sander. Marcia was born in Mozambique and came to London when she was two.

‘All these things go against the rhetoric of the Brexiteers,’ says Steele-Perkins, who moved to the UK from Burma (now Myanmar) aged two. ‘I think it’s kind of pathetic sometimes, hearing this notion of British values and things like that, as if we’ve had some kind of static system, which is unchanged and suddenly it’s been threatened by people coming in. The whole history of this island has been people coming here due to wars, colonial movements, European movements and so on; what we’ve got now is a product of a process of continuous evolution, which will continue.’

At a time of renewed racism and xenophobia, Chris considers The New Londoners a historical document. That the British Library has taken it into its collection is significant for him, adding to ‘the sense of it belonging to the tradition of recording’ – recording what Chris feels is the ‘greatest political issue of our time: migration’.

 


 

The New Londoners exhibition is on in the Breathing Space café at the Migration Museum until Sunday 26 May and at the British Library until Sunday 7 July. From 12 June to 8 September, it will be on display at Somerset House, London, as part of the exhibition Kaleidoscope: Immigration and Modern Britain.

The photobook, The New Londoners, costs £35 and is published by Dewi Lewis and available in the Migration Museum’s bookshop. 

Winning the argument or listening?

The festive season is upon us. According to experts commenting on the subject in magazines and newspapers, it could equally be called the arguing season. A friend in an early Christmas party bemoaned the arrival of her in-laws, bringing with them different opinions on Brexit and other political issues that, sooner or later, led to uncomfortably heated confrontations.

And just two days ago, what started as a really interesting discussion in our house – on why so many men failed to recognise that rape and wolf-whistling were on the same continuum, on the way in which power relationships skewed jokes and banter, on whether it was ever acceptable to use racial identity to comic effect – morphed into one of those confrontational exchanges from which at times it feels there’s no coming back.

© Scott and Borgman

And it got me thinking, in an end-of-year valedictory fashion, why it was that discussions, arguments and debates these days so quickly became polarised, and the position taken by the opposing individuals so firmly entrenched. (And is it just ‘these days’? Was it always like this?) What starts out as an exchange of views transmutes into an exchange of fire, and people’s positions end up ludicrously exaggerated – as Hella Eckardt’s recent blog illustrated, in relation to Roman Britain. People at either end of the spectrum insist on the absolute truth of their position with a strident vehemence that doesn’t represent the reality – which is that all of us, bar the most extreme fanatics, recognise the possibility of alternative positions even when firmly convinced of our own. But rather than examine the evidence, listen to whether the other speaker brings something new to the debate that might cause us to reconsider, it suddenly seems more important at any cost to win this argument, to prove that our position is right and the other’s wrong.

Is this failure to discuss and the associated need to win spawned by the structure of our institutions? The adversarial position is hard-wired into our legal system, for example, and also into Parliament (at least, certainly the House of Commons); it used to, and may still, be at the heart of university research and debate; and it’s of course the basis of all sporting activity. It’s clearly not unique to the UK (the US displays it in spades) but is it uniquely Anglo-Saxon, or European, or Western? Are there countries and cultures where winning an argument is less important than hearing what everyone has to say?

These questions lie at the heart of what we are attempting with the Migration Museum. If our concern was to win the argument (whatever that might be) or show other people the error of their ways, we would, rightly, be doomed to failure and unworthy of support. But what we are wanting to do is to create a space where people can debate issues of paramount importance without automatically taking up tired and predictable positions and seeing who can shout the loudest. Our strapline – all our stories – was chosen to reflect both the fact that if you scratch the surface of anyone’s family history in Britain, you will find a migration story, but also, crucially, the recognition that everyone has a say in this matter and all have a right to be listened to, even if some might find their views unacceptable.

It’s not a new year’s resolution, because it’s been the nub of what we’ve been doing since the beginning, but listening and allowing the spectrum of opinions to be heard without it all descending into the weary Twitterati scrimmage of rancour and animosity – that’s what we’ll continue to do in 2018. With Brexit, Trump and other factors casting their divisive, polarising shadow, it seems more important than ever. So, if you’re raising a glass over this festive period, here’s to listening, not fighting.

To all our readers and followers, have a really good break over the festive period, and see you again in the New Year.

Hands-on multiculturalism: learning about everyday diversity in urban England

As Britain’s cities, towns and countryside become more ethnically diverse, it is important that issues of diversity and multiculture are taught in relevant and sensitive ways. In this blog, Katy Bennett and Giles Mohan reflect on their teaching workshop at the Migration Museum Project’s Call Me By My Name exhibition last year and on the research that underpinned it. We will be publishing two further blogs about their workshops with school groups over the next week.


As Britain’s towns and cities become increasingly diverse, teaching about multicultural becomes more and more important. ‘Minority’ groups are found no longer only in large (post-) industrial cities like Manchester or Birmingham but also in smaller urban centres like Boston and Peterborough. The maps show census data which reflects these changes, with the green and blue shadings indicating more diverse areas. The changes from the 1991 map to the 2011 map reveal more areas becoming diverse, and already diverse areas – such as parts of London – becoming even more diverse.

Source: Gemma Catney (2016) ‘The Changing Geographies of Ethnic Diversity in England and Wales, 1991–2011’, Population, Space and Place, Volume 22, Issue 8, 750–65.

The geographies of multiculture have changed and are continually changing, so that all areas, and the schools they contain, need to think about how people engage with cultural diversity and difference. As part of the Migration Museum Project’s Call Me By My Name exhibition in 2016, we ran a teaching workshop to help students think about their own identity and how they identify and relate to others in their daily lives. Our workshop took place in the space of the exhibition, surrounded by photographs, artwork and artefacts that brought into the room personal experiences of migration, refugee camps, loss of home and loved ones and experiences of moving to the UK. Haunting the space were the fake ‘life’ jackets used by migrants and found on beaches, exhibits counting relatives lost in perilous sea crossings and the vulnerability of lives lived in camps, at borders and on the margins of societies.

We began the workshop with Year 8 students by asking them to walk around the room. When we clapped, they had to form into self-selecting groups of four or five (i.e with no intervention from ourselves) and we asked them to draw around both their hands on A4 sheets of plain paper. They then wrote on their left-hand outline words that describe how they see themselves and on their right-hand outline words that they think other people would use to describe them. Next, they were asked to talk in their groups about the words they had used to describe each hand, and how they felt about the words others might use to describe them. After a few minutes of these group discussions, in the course of which we mingled and chatted, a few students stood up to talk about their hand drawings and labelling.

The aim was to open up questions of cultural identity and to think how inadequate words and categories are for capturing complex and shifting identities. One person, for example, labelled themselves as Somalian, from Milton Keynes, and moving from Sweden – and even then they were aware that these labels didn’t really capture who they were but were ways they used to help others position them. When it came to how others might label them, however, they replied ‘African’ or ‘black’. In most cases, there were differences between how people identified themselves and how they thought others would identify them.

We asked the students why they sat with whom they did, because we were also interested in the ways in which groups form. One group of young men were largely of Ghanaian origin and were vocal and confident; other groups were a bit more mixed ethnically and nationally, with only one or two putting themselves forward as spokespeople.

The dynamics of the room were used as a way of thinking about the small-scale geographies of multiculture. While the school body was very mixed ethnically, like many classrooms across the UK, groups sometimes followed particular ethnic and national lines. Most students were used to using ethnic and racial labels like ‘white’ or ‘African’, but were equally aware that these were quite blunt categories which concealed lots of complexity and contradictions.

It is these same everyday ‘micro’-geographies that we explored in a research project called Living Multiculture: the new geographies of ethnic diversity and the changing formations of multiculture in England, which we conducted as part of a team led by Professor Sarah Neal.

Mural in Hackney, east London. ©Author’s own

The Living Multiculture project started from the reality of the changing geography of ethnic diversity in contemporary Britain – the patterns shown in the maps above. Places are changing, and we wanted to understand how people understand and live through these changes. We also wanted to examine ‘everyday’ encounters across ethnic difference against the background of the popular image, in the media and among many politicians, that multiculturalism in Britain had ‘failed’ – particularly post-BREXIT – and that cities are riven with segregated neighbourhoods and ethnic and racial tension. It was not that we wanted to turn a blind eye to very real conflicts, but to argue that, for many people, most of the time they rub along. Our main question was ‘How do people live and experience multiculture as part of their everyday lives?’

 

We studied this question through fieldwork in three areas, each of which represented a different aspect of Britain’s changing ethnic geography.

  1. Some cities that were already diverse are becoming ‘superdiverse’ with the arrival of new migrant groups. For this group, we chose the Borough of Hackney in London.
  2. Some ethnic groups that first settled in inner cities are now moving outwards, as their social and economic status improves. For this group, we studied the newly diverse suburb of Oadby in Leicestershire.
  3. As noted, some large towns and small cities are becoming diverse for the first time – for this, we chose Milton Keynes as an example.

You can find out more on our website and in a new book we have co-authored with the rest of the team, but some of the key findings are:

  1. We studied the places where people gather and mingle – cafes, parks, libraries and colleges. We found that these are important sites for people to be together in quite relaxed and informal ways, even though a lot of thinking and design goes into making them seem informal. For example, in the chain restaurants we studied, it was the informality of the fast-food model that enabled people to rub shoulders in easy ways.
  2. We also found that ‘things’ and places matter to these relationships. The design of internal college spaces or shopping malls all aided flows of people or encouraged mingling. Mundane things like park benches or car parks were all crucial for allowing people to encounter one another.
  3. But social skills were also important for living cultural difference. Managing the un/easiness of being thrown together in a room with us and being asked questions about identity involves considerable skills. One such skill students used was knowing how and when to joke with whom. Like some of our respondents, they knew that ethnic labels concealed as much as they revealed, and they could push the boundaries of these labels without generally causing offence. It was this knowing-ness about how to get along with diversity that came through in our workshop and which we explored in our various research contexts.

Drawing around your hands might seem playful, but it opens up a whole series of questions about the micro-geographies of multiculture.

 


Dr Katy Bennett is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester, where she works on questions of social and cultural geography, especially identity, emotion, home, community and multiculture. Professor Giles Mohan is at the Open University and works on international development and migration. Together they were part of a team headed by Professor Sarah Neal called Living Multiculture. Out of this project the team has just published a new book called Lived Experiences of Multiculture: The New Social and Spatial Relations of Diversity, details of which can be found here.

Home, 2010 and 2017

In 2010, Simon James took a series of photographs for an exhibition which he called Home, 2010. This was a series of portraits with handwritten answers to a questionnaire alongside the photos. The questionnaire asked the subjects of their photos a series of factual questions –name, home town, nationality, part of London they lived in, occupation, time of arrival in the UK, mode of transport to the UK – together with some that were more opinion-based: what did they find the strangest thing about England, what was their favourite British food, did they every plan to go back home to live (and, if so, when), what they did in London that they never did back home, and what they most missed about home. The portraits and the questionnaires can be viewed on Simon’s website.

Simon James‘s ‘Home, 2010’ exhibition, first shown as part of ‘Alien Nation: the art of blending in’, Great Western Studios, London. March–April, 2011.

In his notes to the exhibition, Simon framed the collection in this way:

‘One should not be an alien at all.’
George Mikes, How To Be An Alien (1946)

Mikes’s book highlights the absurd cultural contradictions between England and continental Europe. England is a nation of immigrants. Throughout history waves of immigrants have chosen London as their new home.

Ten of the twelve most recent accession nations to the EU have been eastern and central European countries. Citizens from these nations are entitled to work in the UK, but have limited access to benefits and social provision. Since 2004 there has been a noticeable increase in migration from these countries to the UK.

Many of these new arrivals have been met not only with scepticisim but sometimes also with hostility. They found a very different England from the one they had expected.

It is these people that you see in these photographs.

 

These beautifully constructed portraits hint at common experiences of migration: almost to a person, what the subjects most missed about home was family, friends and food. Similarly, despite a clearly critical position on British cuisine, there was general admiration for Sunday roasts, steak pie and those two other stalwarts of British eating: fish and chips (ours courtesy of the Portuguese) and pizza (our national Italian dish). And the things that they found strange about England and Britain held few surprises: driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, separate hot and cold water taps and, again, food.

Simon and the Migration Museum Project were in discussion again earlier this year, when the exhibition at Roast Restaurant in Borough Market was being planned. Reluctantly, we decided that his photos didn’t quite meet the criteria of that exhibition, but we ended up talking about a follow-up to Home, 2010, to see how the subjects’ answers to the questionnaire might have changed in the wake of the June 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. An e-mail was duly sent out to everyone he’d photographed, asking them to give their answers now to the opinion-type questions on the original questionnaire.

The people whose photographs appear in this blog answered the e-mail, and their answers are given here underneath the original photos of Simon’s 2010 exhibition. There’s nothing scientific about this ‘research’, of course, but the set of eight answers gives a sense of the mobility (or temporary nature) of migration – many subjects had gone on elsewhere or returned home (and we could speculate endlessly about the reasons the others didn’t answer the e-mail) – and a hint of a darkening mood since last June. Maciek, who in 2010 had said he had no plans to go home, now writes ‘Yes, very soon! If not Poland, then France/Italy’; Arleta, who previously wasn’t sure, is now thinking about it; Filip and Hanna have both left already (as they had said they would in 2010), Hanna now citing that the thing she finds strangest about England is ‘Brexit’. It would be interesting to track down more ‘before’ and ‘after’ stories of this kind and to revisit these eight subjects in a year or two’s time: it is often a useful corrective to have anecdotal and human evidence set against the statistical findings trotted out by competing positions on Britain’s departure from the EU.

Arleta, and her responses in 2010. © Simon James

Arleta, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London?
    Accountant day time/landscape photographer at weekends.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Two separate taps – one with very cold water and other with boiling hot water.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when? 
    I’m thinking about it but I haven’t made up my mind yet.
  • What do you miss most about home? 
    Mushroom picking in autumn.

 

Filip, and his responses in 2010. © Simon James

Filip, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London?
    Graphics design and video post-production for a production house in Camden.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Separate taps for hot and cold water. Calling normal taps ‘continental’; in general, your insistence on calling stuff ‘continental’ felt strange, but it makes more sense now since you voted for Brexit.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when?
    I did come back already actually, back in 2012.
  • What do you miss most about home?
    London was great, top of the world and all, but it was also very competitive. At home I don’t have to prove who I am, there’s less possibility but also less stress; at home I’ve got more time to learn new stuff and I have more room to make mistakes (which are essential if I want to make progress).
    On the other hand:
    I think what I miss most about London is the architecture, mainly the brutalist style that I am in love with, starting from well-known estates like the Barbican or the Southbank, I just kept stumbling on some totally amazing pieces of architecture on my cycle journeys through the city like the Heygate estate or Alexandra Road Estate, which I picked for Simon to take a picture of me, but literally dozens of other amazing spaces that just kept forcing me to stop and gaze for a while each time I took a different route home.
    That would be one thing that I never did back home – call my girlfriend and say, ‘Honey I’ll be home a bit later, I just discovered this another awesome building and I positively need to see how it looks from another side before I move on.’

 

Hanna, and her responses in 2010. © Simon James

Hanna, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London? 
    I no longer live in London. My last job was working in marketing for a broadcaster, mostly looking after their Eastern European business.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Brexit.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when? 
    I have since moved to Warsaw, Poland (so not home), and now I live in Southern California. I do plan to move back home for retirement though.
  • What do you miss most about home? 
    Familiarity. Family and friends.  Language.

 

Joanna, and her responses in 2010. © Simon James

Joanna, 2017 responses
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Separate taps for hot and cold water; hand washing can turn into a nightmare.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when?
    No plans at the moment.
  • What do you miss most about home?
    Family and friends and my mum’s cooking.

 

Macíek, and his responses in 2010. © Simon James

Macíek, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London?
    Musician/composer/guitarist.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Separate cold and hot water taps!
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when?
    Yes, very soon! If not Poland, then France/Italy.

 

Māria, and her responses in 2010. © Simon James

Māria, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London?
    Property investor.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Weather and food, English manners.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when?
    No, but I’m considering other options such as Asia or Dubai (temporarily).
  • What do you miss most about home?
    Our large quiet garden, better weather, cheaper restaurants and services.

 

Monika, and her responses in 2010. © Simon James

Monika, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London?
    Singer, songwriter, singing teacher.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    Food: sandwiches with chips, beans on toast.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when?
    Not at the moment, but we will see how it goes.
  • What do you miss most about home?
    Family and friends.
  • Something you do frequently in London that you never did back home?
    Going to pubs – we haven’t got pubs in Poland.

 

Wojciech, and his responses in 2010. © Simon James

Wojciech, 2017 responses
  • What job do you do in London?
    I am an artist. My jobs are my projects and also the services I perform for galleries and collectors in the care and condition of art collections.
  • Strangest thing about England?
    That the country of such great traditions – cultural, technological, politically liberal – can sink so low as it has done recently in adopting euro-sceptic point of view reserved until now to a narrow group of MPs such as John Redwood, Bill Cash and a Daily Mail lobby.
  • Do you ever plan to go back home to live? If so, when?
    I am rooted to deeply now and my mother country is suffering from the very same illiberal affliction. It would have to get a lot worse before I would do that but ‘Events, dear boy, events’, as Macmillan once had said, are unpredictable.
  • What do you miss most about home? 
    Familiar touchstones – such as sights, well-spoken words, theatre, warmth of family and friends
  • Something you do frequently in London that you never did back home?
    Listening to BBC Radio3, my favourite radio station, closely followed by John Humphries and James McNaughtie – the great news men from Radio 4.

 


There is more information about Simon James, and more of his photographs, on his website: 
www.shotbyjam.com