Room to Breathe exhibition review: Exploring the journey from new arrival to finding ‘home’ @ Migration Museum
The Migration Museum has been open since 2016 and explores how the movement of people has shaped the capital over history. Although a hot topic of conversation in the media, it’s far from new, as migration in and out of London and the UK as a whole has been going on for centuries. This month, the Migration Museum launched their newest exhibition Room To Breathe, which runs until summer 2019. I went along to the recent launch to check it out.
Room To Breathe is the museum’s most interactive exhibition yet, offering an immersive journey through a migrant’s experiences, from arrival to settling in to (hopefully) finding somewhere they can call ‘home’. It explores the very different reasons people arrive in the UK, from escaping war, to seeking new opportunities, to love and family.
To those who may have visited before, the museum galleries have been transformed into a home, with a series of rooms featuring interactive learning tools. You start in the ‘Home Office’, an overwhelming place full of files, depicting how new arrivals are often seen as numbers on paperwork categorised into a section.
You then progress into a bedroom, a classroom, a kitchen with interactive screens, audio, and objects bringing these people to life. Over 100 migrants who arrived in Britain from the early 20th century until the present day have shared their stories for the exhibition. Many are hidden within the exhibition in drawers, cupboards or magazines so you are invited to rummage around and explore. People including war refugees, international NHS workers and Windrush migrants have revealed their personal histories. As a daughter of Irish migrants, I found some of the Irish stories particularly relevant. As many migrants can attest, pining for familiar foods or a favourite snack from home can bring a lot of comfort. I spotted a box of Barry’s Tea in the kitchen which made me smile. Whenever I visit family in Ireland, I always make sure I buy a box of Barry’s Tea for my mother, who insists it’s better than Twinings or Yorkshire Gold.
With many migrants often being demonised by society or the media, this exhibition delves deeper as it humanises them and turns them from numbers into living, breathing human beings. As well as educating and inspiring, there will also be a programme of events throughout the exhibition, including performances, workshops, cookery classes and storytelling.
- Room To Breathe is on from 1 November 2018 – 28 July 2019. At the Migration Museum @ The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, Lambeth, SE1 7AG. Nearest station: Vauxhall, Westminster or Lambeth North. Open Thu 12pm-8pm, Fri-Sun 12pm-6pm. Free admission. For more information, visit the Migration Museum website.
For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.
‘No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain’: New exhibition at the Migration Museum
Migration is a huge topic of conversation right now as the Brexit process continues to rumble on amidst much confusion. Whatever happens, it is likely to have a big impact on the cultural make-up of Britain going into the future. Earlier this year, the Migration Museum opened with an aim to explore the way the movement of people has shaped our country.
Launching this September is the Museum’s latest exhibition No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain. As we gear up for Brexit, the exhibition looks back at seven turning points in Britain’s history which have changed its people and communities.
The exhibition features the expulsion of England’s entire Jewish population in 1290 to the first East India Company voyage to India in 1607. Meanwhile, the 20th century saw the Rock Against Racism movement of the late 1970s and the 2011 census showing a large amount of Brits identifying as ‘mixed-race’. The periods are explored through personal stories, commentary, photography and art. The exhibition aims to depict the variety of reasons people decided to come and leave the UK and the difficulties experienced during their journeys.
Barbara Roche, chair of the Migration Museum Project, said: ‘No Turning Back encapsulates what the Migration Museum for Britain that we are creating is all about – providing a cultural space for exploration of how immigration and emigration across the ages has shaped who we are today as individuals, and as a nation. Britain’s migration history is as complex as it is long, with generation after generation facing challenges, sometimes acceptance and sometimes hostility. Against the current backdrop of fierce national debate, the need for exploration of this important theme that connects us all could scarcely be greater.’
- No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain is on from 20 September 2017 – 25 February 2018. Migration Museum @ The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, Lambeth, SE1 7AG. Nearest station: Vauxhall, Westminster or Lambeth North. Open Wed-Sun 11am-5pm (late opening on last Thursday of the month until 9pm. Free admission. For more information, visit the Migration Museum website.
For the latest what’s on in London guide, click here.
Following the Brexit vote last year, the Syrian refugee crisis and Donald Trump’s shock presidency, the issue of migration is bigger than ever. London is renowned for being a multicultural city so it’s no surprise most of the capital voted against Brexit. Most Londoners recognise the huge contribution migrants have given to the city. However, migration is no new phenomena, with waves from various parts in the world dating back centuries. London itself after all was founded by migrants, aka Romans, in the 1st century. As someone who was born, grew up and continues to live in London, I can’t think of many friends who are British going back generations. I myself am a first generation Brit born to Irish parents and most of my best friends have migrant parents.
With migration being such an important part of London’s history, it’s amazing there hasn’t been a museum dedicated to the subject until now. However this spring, the Migration Museum opened its doors at The Workshop in Lambeth. The Workshop, an arts and community space which is home to the London Fire Brigade Museum among others, is a temporary venue for the Museum until 2018. The museum aims to explore how the movement of people has shaped the country throughout history.
I paid a visit recently and checked out two exhibitions: Call Me By My Name and 100 Images Of Migration. The latter was a collection of thought-provoking images of migrants in Britain from professional and amateur photographers, dating back decades to present day. Although some photos were very different, they collectively demonstrated up the variety of experiences and lifestyles of migrants in the UK. I especially liked a photo of children from different ethnic groups playing together, which was a lovely display of integration and reminded me of my childhood at a multi-cultural, south London primary school.
Call Me By My Name is a particularly powerful exhibition, giving a voice to those who experienced living in Calais’ infamous ‘Jungle’. Following a lot of negative criticism and pigeon-holing in the media, this multi-media exhibition humanises them. Through art, images and other media, it delves into individuals’ motivation for leaving their home country, their desperation to seek safe refuge and their hopes for a new life in the UK or Europe. Reading some of the first-person narratives was incredibly moving and I think many MPs should check it out before making decisions regarding the UK’s treatment of migrants. The exhibition is far from one-sided, giving the views of politicians, lorry drivers and others who hold more negative opinions of migrants. I was specially struck by the tear gas curtain – what looks like a piece of decoration from afar, it’s only on closer inspection you realise it is made of tear gas canisters used in ‘the Jungle’, provoking a disturbing image.
Overall, the Migration Museum provides a balanced, informative and moving collection, putting migration in context and demonstrating it cannot be generalised. Regardless of your background, it’s well worth visiting to explore how movement of people having shaped our country, particularly when Brexit is likely to make a huge impact on this in the coming years.
- Migration Museum @ The Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, Lambeth, SE1 7AG. Nearest station: Vauxhall, Westminster or Lambeth North. Open Wed-Sun 11am-5pm (late opening on last Thursday of the month until 9pm. Free admission. For more information, visit the Migration Museum website.
To find out about the new ‘No Turning Back’ exhibition at the MM (Sep 2017-Feb 2018), click here.
To read Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.