Henry Bran, born in El Salvador in 1964, came to East London at the age of 17 on his own to join his sister and brother in law.
Henry Bran lived with his parents and older brothers in a large house in San Miguel, famous for its volcano nearby. Henry’s father, a driver, had inherited the house from his father who fled to Honduras after opposing Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, a supporter of Hitler and whose government killed off the indigenous population. Henry’s mother was a talented fashion designer. Henry taught himself to play the bells and the organ in the church opposite.
When Civil War broke out at the end of the 1970s Henry was sent to a private school. Pupils in public schools were being killed by the army and one of Henry’s friends was killed. Henry’s brother in law, Head of the University, was kidnapped but released after Amnesty intervened. However he was still in danger and fled to the UK. The whole family was vulnerable. Henry’s father thought his youngest son would be safer in the army as a musician – he knew the guerrillas would not kill him.
Henry’s sister, by now in London, was worried about the effect that being in the army might have on Henry’s life. Through the Human Rights Campaign, she organised for Henry to fly to London. Henry spent hours with the Immigration Officers – he thought telling the truth would cost him his life.
At the age of 19 Henry married a girl he knew from El Salvador. He hecame a musician, poet and artist, gaining inspiration from his own life and the plight of other refugees. He was celebrated for this work when he returned to give a concert in El Salvador, 10 years after he left.
Henry died in July 2015, just a few months after he was interviewed for this project. We have used his music in the introductory film.