I Am An Immigrant

Podcast Series

Who do you see when you hear the word immigrant?

 
Welcome to I am an Immigrant – a weekly podcast series where I talk with people who used to live somewhere else and now live here, in the UK. I’m Christine Bacon, an Australian of Irish descent who moved here 15 years ago. Most of us have a picture in our mind when we hear the word ‘immigrant’. Mostly, us so-called foreigners are framed as victims or villains, or on the flip side, we are the inspiring heroes or the ‘model citizens’ making a ‘contribution’. The truth is (don’t tell anyone) we immigrants are mostly people who live regular lives, subscribe to streaming television services, work in a variety of jobs, socialise with friends, fall in and out of love, say and do stupid things and pick our kids up from school.
 
This podcast is not about getting into the immigration debate. We’ve had decades if not centuries of that mostly toxic conversation. We won’t talk about which migrants are good and how many is too many. Whatever image appears to you when you hear the word immigrant, I offer you this podcast to transform that picture into something way more interesting.
 
Supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Edited by Helen Clapp
Cover art by Ada Jusic

Listen below or search ‘I Am An Immigrant‘ wherever you get your podcasts

Preview
A sneak peek at what’s in store when we launch on June 28.

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.

‘I learned quickly to stop talking to people at bus stops and it took me ages to not feel dreadfully rude that I wasn’t even acknowledging the other person at the bus stop.’ 

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.’

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.’  

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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