H is for Hostile Environment
Pouyan fled the Iranian regime and made the dangerous land and sea crossing to England. Kateryna celebrates food from Eastern Europe that helps her feel connected. Usman spent 50 days in a detention centre and lived to tell the tale. An undocumented Londoner tells us why he moved and what it's like living under the radar.
In 2020, artist and filmmaker Edwin Mingard and I were commissioned to produce a piece for the Trellis: Public Art programme, part of UCL Culture, with additional funding from Arts Council England. Over the course of two years, we developed and produced a moving-image piece with a network of partners, which explored migration and asylum seeking in East London. While the project was borne from overlapping professional interests, we saw it as a chance to work in a mutual way with people who had been oppressed by the UK’s border regime, providing a platform and support to tell a multi-vocal story with multiple narratives and styles (including documentary elements, dramatization, and spoken word).
The result is a film comprising 26 sections, each made in collaboration with a partner or partners with first-hand experience of the issues at hand. Each section was developed, and then collaboratively made, together. Part of the process involved commissioning artists and non-artists alike with lived experience of the Hostile Environment to develop themes that appear in the finished work.
H is for Hostile Environment was premiered at Rio Cinema with Chisenhale Gallery on 11 May 2022. Watch the trailer here.
Photograph by Ollie Harrop