I Am An ImmigrantPodcast Series
Who do you see when you hear the word immigrant?
NEWS! Season 2 of the podcast is available NOW! This is a special commission from the Edinburgh International Festival. Christine chats with some of the artists whose work has been programmed at the festival this year.
Season 1 supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Edited by Helen Clapp
Listen below or search ‘I Am An Immigrant‘ wherever you get your podcasts
2.6. Tawona Sitholé: My Uncle and Ambition Brought Me Here
Tawona Sitholé, like a lot of artists, does many things. Better known as Ganyamatope (his ancestral family name), he is a poet, playwright, storyteller and musician. He was born in Zimbabwe just before independence and moved to the UK aged 21. He has research and teaching roles in the school of education and medical school, at the University of Glasgow. Other educational roles are with Glasgow School of Art, University of the West of Scotland, University of Stirling and Newcastle University, and Scottish Book Trust. He is co-founder of Seeds of Thought, a non-funded arts group.
Tawona is one of the writers of immersive production Muster Station: Leith which will be performed at the Edinburgh International Festival on August 15-26 (tickets are limited so get booking!). We talked about the expectation of success people have of you if you go overseas, how the legacy of the colonisers in Zimbabwe still persists and getting to grips with the Glaswegian accent.
Release date: 25th July
2.5. Leena Nammari: Unapologetically Palestinian
Leena Nammari is a Palestinian artist printmaker based in Scotland. Her work has been part of group and solo exhibitions within Scotland and in Europe more widely. Leena’s installation, It Will Live can be seen on the façade of the Studio venue at the Edinburgh International festival August 12 – 27. We talked about Leena’s favourite Scottish words, the essential herbs and spices to fill your suitcase with before you leave Palestine, and the feeling that, despite living here for decades, being here still feels temporary.
2.4. Madison Nonoa: You Can Choose To Get Back On The Horse
Madison Nonoa is an opera singer. She was born and bred in New Zealand and made the big move to the UK in 2017 to complete a degree in opera at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. She is based in the UK and performs around the world. Madison will sing in a concert of songs by Brahms with Edinburgh pianists Malcolm Martineau & Steven Osborne on August 13th. We talked about how opera must always strive to be relevant, the all-too common immigrant story of visa woes and the antipodean obsession with good coffee.
2.3. Mavin Khoo: Just Call Me An Artist
Mavin Khoo is a dancer and coach. He was born in Malaysia and moved between there and India from the age of 10-17. After a short stint in New York, he landed in the UK aged 18. His career has taken him all over the world. He is currently an Associate and Rehearsal Director at the Akram Kahn Dance Company. Their show Jungle Book Reimagined will play at the Edinburgh International Festival August 25 – 28. We talked about falling in love with dance in Malaysia at age 5, being a young queer man in London in the 90s and what Mavin does when he needs to turn his brain off.
2.2. Akeim Toussaint Buck: Being the one who is in the room the longest
Akeim Toussaint Buck is an interdisciplinary performer and maker, born in Jamaica and raised in England. We talked about the good times, the not so good times, the rocky road to British citizenship and how dance became Akeim’s survival tool.
His solo show Windows Of Displacement is a dance theatre solo show and plays at the Edinburgh International Festival August 12 and 13. Working with dance, song and spoken word, Akeim explores diverse identities in today’s England. Using his own experience of being a Jamaican born citizen now a citizen in the UK as starting point, while further exploring both historical as well as current political and socio-economic references. Toussaint draws on the contexts of imperialism, colonialism and displacement to create a story of the past, present and future of humanity. Prepare to be taken on a journey galvanising people power and reclaiming our collective responsibility.
2.1. mandla rae: Expressing rage with fruit
Mandla Rae is writer, performer and occasional curator, who was born in Zimbabwe, moved to South Africa aged 2 and came to the UK aged 7. We talked about rage, feeling out of place and talking to strangers in Manchester. Their solo show, As British as A Watermelon plays at the Edinburgh International Festival August 23 – 26
1.1. Siobhán McSweeney: The London-Irish Experience
You may know her as the caustic, hilarious Sister Michael in Lisa McGee’s runaway success, the Channel 4 series Derry Girls. Or more recently as the host of the Great Pottery Throw Down. Siobhán hails from County Cork in Ireland and now lives in London. We talked about feeling foreign, bereavement, finding your tribe and a whole lot more.
1.2. Lucian Msamati: This is London, people. London!
Lucian Msamati is an actor who grew up in Tanzania and Zimbabwe and has lived in London since his early 20s. He has worked extensively in theatre, TV and film (Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials, Gangs of London). I saw him most recently in an unforgettable portrayal of Salieri in Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus at the National Theatre (which you can watch via NT at Home). We talked about what makes a place home, the long shadow of Robert Mugabe, paying the bills in an unpredictable profession, and a whole lot more.
‘Opening the door when your children come home from school. Nothing quite beats that. It’s like, wow, OK, this is their beginning. Their start in life is here. OK, I guess that means I am home.’
1.3. Francisco Gomez: The Only Immigrant in the Village
Francisco Gomez is a veterinary surgeon from Spain who lives in a small town in Derbyshire. He came to the UK in the early 2000s thinking, like many of us do: I’ll stay six months or so, do a bit of travelling, have a little adventure. But life happened, love happened, jobs were offered, and he stayed. We talked about what it’s like to be the only immigrant in the village, how stressful a vet’s life can be, and what happened when his English colleagues found out he routinely had a glass of wine with his lunch each day.
‘My accent is my accent, it’s part of my identity. I don’t want to lose it to be honest. It’s a very good conversation starter when you’ve been here for three or four months. But when you’ve been here 15 years like me, it gets a bit boring.’
1.4. Meltem Avcil : And So I Stood Up
Meltem is 28 years old, a social entrepreneur and award-winning campaigner, and she lives in Cambridge with her partner and one year old son. Originally from the Kurdish part Turkey she and her mother fled to seek asylum in Europe when Meltem was very young. They ended up in the UK and waited six years for a decision on their case, which was rejected, after which they were taken to the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedford and was locked up there at the age of 13 for 3 months. We didn’t talk much about what happened during those three months in this interview because Meltem has talked extensively about it. We talked about what it’s like being a child trying to find her place in the world and finding courage when it seems that all is lost.
1.5. Babou Ceesay : The Monster and I Are Now One
Babou Ceesay is a BAFTA-nominated actor from Gambia. You may have seen him in BBC film Damiola, Our Loved Boy or the Star Wars film Rogue One, or Guerilla, the TV mini-series about British black power movements. He plays the lead in an upcoming Sky drama Wolfe, created by Paul Abbott (Autumn 2021). We talked about how Babou has dealt with the several twists and turns in his life – from barely getting by on poverty wages as a cleaner in London, to being recruited by Deloitte and working in the city, to biting the bullet and auditioning for drama school. The man is a natural born storyteller. Enjoy.
1.6. Amber Murrey: So I Sent Out A Tweet
Dr Amber Murrey is a professor in Human Geography at Oxford University and is originally from the USA. Amber’s wide-ranging and fascinating work focuses largely on resistance and social change in Africa (links below). We spoke about growing up in small town USA, the implications of being in a bi-racial relationship and, despite the UK government’s refrain about welcoming so-called highly skilled migrants, the difficulties Amber faced when seeking visas for her children to come and live with her here. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
1.7. Nicolas Hatton: I Felt Like Someone Had Died in the Family
Nicholas Hatton was born in France France and now lives in Bristol. He is the CEO of the 3million – the largest campaign organisation for EU citizens in the UK, which he was instrumental in founding after the 2016 Brexit referendum.
We talked over zoom during lockdown about getting by in the UK without speaking the language, being lucky enough to find your calling in life and what the next post-Brexit battles will be for EU citizens living here. I hope you enjoy our conversation.
1.8. Agnes Harding: I Am Reminded Often That I Am Still An Immigrant
Agnes is 23 years old and recently completed a Physics degree at Manchester University. She is from Gambia and has lived in the UK since she was 4. We talk about Gambia’s weird borders, growing up in Dagenham when the British National Party had a big presence there and what happened when, despite aceing her A-Level exams and being offered places at four Russel Group universities, she found that her visa status scuppered everything.
1.9. Maryna Sulym: You Can Get Out Of Your Box Here
Maryna is originally from Ukraine and moved to London six years ago. She is completing a Masters in Photojournalism and runs the Local Foreigners project recording stories, images, and experiences of immigrants in the UK. We talked about how to interpret British politeness, the insecurity of speaking in a second language and smiling for the sake of it.
1.10. Lisa Caruccio Came: Citizen of the World
Lisa is an actor who was born in Hong Kong and has lived in Brazil, Italy, Canada, the United States and the UK. She has worked with my theatre company ice&fire and we live in the same area of Hackney in London. We chatted about being perceived as foreign, what has led Lisa to move from place to place and her dreams in which she argues publicly with Teresa May.
1.11. Raph Dilhan: I Want To Win This Thing
Raph Dilhan is a textile artist working in the film industry who was born and raised in France and now lives in London. Many of you will know him as a finalist in Season 7 of the Great British Sewing Bee, in which he consistently wowed the judges, despite being the least experienced sewer on the show. We talked about Raph’s MANY hobbies, how his sense of humour doesn’t always translate well here and why he never lost his cool on TV.