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  • Arron Gill

Children in Movement. What's it all about?

Children in Movement is a new project led by The GAP. This project aims to use oral history and photography to uncover the rich and complex human stories that brought people to Birmingham as young people, starting from 1938 (with the first Kindertransport transporting Jewish children from Nazi Germany) right to now, with people moving to Birmingham from all over the world for lots of different reasons such as war, persecution, love, economy and more.

This is the first post of a series of blogs that will document the processes of Children in Movement, and hopefully provide an accessible way for you to engage with Birmingham’s heritage. In this post we’d like to briefly explain why we wanted to do this project.

The need for this project is very clear to us. In an era where the value of migration is tensely debated, misrepresented and quantified, we wanted to use our skills to facilitate a more cohesive dialogue in society, to help tell the human stories at the heart of this matter. It matters to us that young people are increasingly exposed to publicly articulated adverse opinions, leaving many confused and vulnerable to distorted narratives and extreme interpretations of migration. This is particularly important for young people in Birmingham, a city founded on migration, and one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse in Europe, and also the youngest city in Europe in relation to its percentage of its population.

In this photograph the Asian community in Handsworth protest racist immigration laws in 1978.

Photographer: Vanley Burke

In this context young people’s knowledge of Birmingham’s migration heritage as a whole is inadequate and somewhat general. This timely project will engage young people in an exploration of primary sources that will enable them to discover the myriad causes and effects of migration for themselves. In this way they can acquire first-hand knowledge, deepen their understanding and make informed opinions of their own.

Why oral history? There’s a number of methods to document a story, but for us oral history offers a method in which the interviewee has more control over what they want to say. As we learned from professional oral historian Helen Lloyd, ‘Oral history is not journalism’, by this she means that oral history does not try to make narratives fit in for a certain agenda, but rather it is an open way of gathering personal knowledge of past events through recordings of memories, experiences and opinions. It is often used to tell the stories of people whose histories have been hidden or obscured beneath mainstream historical narratives. It is a peoples’ history.

By the end of the project, June 2018, we will have trained 48 young people, recorded the stories of a number of people who migrated to Birmingham as young people, taken their portrait, and culminated it together into an exhibition and book that will be available to every local library in Birmingham and will also be archived at the Library of Birmingham for future generations.

We are really excited to get started on this project, and will be working with a number of organisations and individuals who will help to contribute to its overall success.

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