Room To Breathe – Migration Museum

Room to Breathe at the Migration Museum Project 

We were delighted to be asked by the Migration Museum Project to contribute to their exhibition Room  to Breathe and even more delighted that this is to be relaunched in their new premises in Lewisham on 14th February 2020. Initially we were asked to produce three-minute films of people’s experience of migrating to the UK. These were to be installed into picture frames over a fireplace in the living room. The films would be triggered by people moving in front of the fireplace. 

We interviewed Ansar Ahmed Ullah who, along with his mother and siblings, left Sylhet in Bangladesh to join his father who was running a shop in Luton. Ansar now lives in Tower Hamlets and is studying for a PhD at Queen Mary University of London into the political activism of Bangladeshi youth in Tower Hamlets the 1970s and 1980s.  Ansar also contributed a small baby taxi and boat from Bangladesh to the exhibition. 

Next we interviewed Margaret Andrews, who came from Curacoa, the Caribbean as a child and her partner George Fiawoo, who came from Jamaica as teenager. They both have fascinating tales to tell. Then we went into George’s art studio in his garden. He also lent one of his wonderful sculptures to the exhibition

inally, we interviewed Juliana Pflaumer who came to London to study drama from Brazil. She now acts in shows across the UK.

For the last two films we took clips from our existing films. We took a clip from the BAFTA/AHRC nominated film “Ugwumpiti”. This is about Maurice’s experience in the civil war in Biafra and coming to join his parents in the UK. We also took a clip from our “Home” film about Blanca who came from Vienna on the Kindertransport for Orthodox Jewish children. Blanca still lives in the same house in Stoke Newington where she lived with 40 other children when she first arrived.  

We also interviewed Julie Begum and her mother, Mrs  Rajaham Begum  who lives in Poplar. Julie’s mother came to East London to marry her husband at the age of 16 from Sylhet. We did not include this film, but we did include a lovely coloured photograph of Julie, her parents and her brother in the exhibition as a still photograph above the fireplace. The framed photograph is of Julie’s mum at her wedding – her cousin is standing on a chair behind her. 

Child Migrant Stories has made other contributions to this wonderful exhibition. The curators made a replica of Argun Imamzade’s photograph album that he put behind a metal cabinet when his house was being bombed in Cyprus. It was the only thing that survived. 

We also contributed quotes about education to the Tree of Knowledge in the classroom.

Do go along to visit this immersive, fascinating exhibition that has transferred to their new premises. 

Room to Breathe is an immersive exhibition inviting you to discover stories from generations of new arrivals to Britain. Journey through a series of rooms in which the personal struggles, joys, disappointments and achievements of creating a home, finding work, navigating hardships, making friends and forming communities are brought to life through audio, films, photographs and personal objects. There is no single overarching story, just fragments of daily life.

Explore rooms to sleep, eat, learn and meet. Make these rooms your own. Open drawers, look through cupboards, settle into an armchair. Contribute your story and make connections to the past and present.

Dates:  14 February 2020–27 September 2020

Opening hours: Wednesday–Sunday, 11am–5pm

Venue: Migration Museum, Lewisham Shopping Centre, London SE13 7HB

Admission: Free