I haven't written for a little while, but have been busily researching migration to better inform the work I'm making. I'm particularly interested in migration patterns that don't get a lot of attention either in contemporary art or in the press.
One of those patterns is migration to rural areas. I've always felt that the popular narrative says that this migration involves seasonal labourers and is purely economic, those labourers moving on at the end of a harvest, and so not enough attention is paid to social and individual experiences. I also think the people who write about these issues in the press don't tend to live in productive rural environments, but rather in cities or satellite villages.
Another pattern is migration that doesn't cross a political border. I always thought it was strange that, when I moved from the English side of the Scottish border to London (some 250 miles) I was not seen as a migrant, but a classmate who'd moved from Paris (200 miles) was seen as a migrant. We were both English-speaking, passport-holding EU citizens, and the only real cultural or social difference between us was that French was his first language and English his second, whilst my first was English and French was a very poor second. Half of France is closer to London than where I grew up, yet still most people didn't consider me a migrant.
Thinking about these issues made me think immediately of Dr. Ben Rogaly, a geographer I was very fortunate to meet when working on a different project some years ago. He has spent many years in Peterborough and rural Cambridgeshire, documenting and understanding the lives of people who have moved there and people who've lived in the same place their whole life. Ben is also highly switched on to the value of art and creativity in exploring place and identity, so generally a great person to talk to about the issues I've been thinking about. I thought I'd paste a few links to Ben's work - some of them are academic papers and not maybe for everyone, whilst others take the form of talks, blog posts and the like. I'm particularly pasting things where Ben makes the case for the social importance of documenting individual histories and memories.
Academic paper about oral histories in Cambridgeshire
A talk Ben Gave at the Cheltenham Science Festival about the value of oral history
Ben held a meal for artists and food workers, so that people from those two backgrounds might meet, form friendships and make work together. The link just has a few photos, but I thought it was pretty cool.