Community film resource, City Eye and oral historian Padmini Broomfield have worked together to reveal the stories of 12 BAME and migrant community members living in Southampton. Throughout 2020 and 2021, their stories were collected, recorded and transcribed.
The collected stories, in part, inspired our large-scale music commission, Voyages of the Heart. The stories are also be used to inform our School of Sanctuary linked education programme which will focus on migration to, and transmigration via Southampton.
Below are a selection of the oral histories collected through this project. Full transcripts and recordings are available from Southampton City Archive. Please note, some recordings contain distressing stories with recollections of war, death and abuse. Listener discretion is advised.
Abelardo Clariana Piga
Born in Santiago, Chile, 1950
Moved to UK 1977
Abelardo’s parents were both teachers, he has an older sister. He talks of his many years studying and civil unrest in Chile. He speaks of being detained, beaten up and threatened. Abelardo moved to Southampton to finish his degree, accepted to the UK as a refugee. He speaks of struggles studying in English and learning the language when he arrived.
Born in Damascus, Syria, 1966
Moved to UK 1991
Aiman’s parents were medics who met at University. His father came to England to study cardiac surgery and Aiman joined him in London for a period of his childhood. He speaks of his early memories in the UK, then returning to Syria and studying science. Aiman came to the UK to do a placement in a hospital to move into medicine.
Born in Ghent, Belgium,1929
Moved to UK 1946
Alice’s father was a painter, her mother and brother worked in the cotton factories. She speaks of German occupation in Belgium and their failed attempt to leave for the UK during the war. Alice married a British solider and moved to the UK, unable to speak English. She talks of her first impression of Southampton, which had just suffered a lot of bomb damage. She talks of her homes, jobs and socialising here.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, 1955
Moved to UK 1981
Hasan’s father was a Civil Servant and he has 3 brothers and 3 sisters. He talks of his schooling and various languages he had to learn. Hasan tells of how his parents wanted him to become a doctor and he initially resisted, but eventually came around to the idea and started enjoying it. He came to the UK for a job in a hospital, he is now a professor.
Born in Chimoio Camp, Mozambique, 1977
Moved to UK 1993
Larry was born during a war, his mother was a soldier, his father was a commander. He talks of him and his mother being caught in a bomb when he was a baby. Larry recounts an abusive step-father and his mother meeting a new partner who was from Southampton. The family moved to England, he recalls his first impressions of Southampton and racist incidents at school. He now does youth work and is a musician.
Born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 1959
Moved to UK 2000
Moyra’s parents are from Wales but moved to South Rhodesia after getting married. Her father was a carpenter, her mother was a secretary. Moyra talks of her childhood and enjoying life despite the unsettled nature of her home country. She talks of various jobs and the apartheid regime. After having a few cars stolen she decided to leave for the UK. Moyra recounts her mother and daughter joining her in Southampton, but her mother passing soon after.
Born in Aleppo, Syria, 1978
Moved to UK 2014
Aref’s father worked in customs, his mother was a teacher. He talks of studying and a love of science. Speaks of unrest in Syria in the 1980s and improvements during the 90s. In 2003 Aref moved to Egypt to study for his PhD, he then worked as a professor in Syria for five years. By 2014 Syria had become very divided and dangerous, Aref recounts being injured by a bomb. He applied for a CARA (Council for At-Risk Academics) placement in England. His family followed him shortly after his placement in Southampton.
The oral histories also inspired a project with young people creating short films which will be available here soon.