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Media Movers and undocumented migrants

Ade Lamuye and Kate Llewellyn blog about Media Movers – a project bringing together young people from migrant backgrounds with senior media professionals to improve media coverage.  This blog was posted originally on On Road’s website.  

Ade Lamuye, a reporter and immigration campaigner for young undocumented migrants shares her experience of taking part in Media Movers. Ade is a part of We Belong, known previously as the campaign group Let Us Learn.

Throughout the first year of Media Movers I’ve had interactions with extremely influential media organisations, which included a BBC soap, Channel 4 and VICE. Although I did not attend all of them, one memorable interaction would be with VICE and Broadly. This is because one of the editors who attended, Zing Tsjeng, shared with the group her own personal experience with immigration and the hurdles she had to jump through. Also, the environment during the interaction was relaxing because those who attended came ready with questions and showed actual interest past the idea of just getting a story — they came in wanting to know about our individual stories and to get more information.

My experience as a ‘Media Mover’ began with an informal but practical day of introductions and learning how to engage with the media, something we would be doing throughout the upcoming months. Coming into the group as a journalist, I had some idea about how to work with different media organisations but the day gave me the opportunity to interact with the other young people that I would be working with, and it also gave me the chance to understand the importance of self care and ‘peer support’.

Migrants telling their personal stories about immigration and their experience with the Home Office can be such a heavy topic, particularly in the cases where the young people affected are left helpless by their family and their government. Peer support and self care highlighted by the On Road team made me realise how important it is to share with others. We spent months telling strangers our personal and emotional stories, and what was amazing about being part of Media Movers was that the team made it clear you had the power to say no — no to questions you don’t want to answer and no to part of your personal struggles you don’t want to share.

Overall, this past year has been wonderful and it’s provided me with great insight into how to pitch to other media organisations outside of print, and I’ve learnt how to be comfortable sat across from senior members. But most importantly, being a part of the project has taught me that everything takes time and the result may not be instant but you work to make it happen.

Kate Llewellyn, an On Road project manager, who also ran the All About Trans project.

Having run All About Trans for a few years, I was really curious to see how we could start working with young people with irregular immigration status – we had support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Explore and Test grant, which was a great approach for the pilot. I guessed there would broadly be similarities between the two projects, but wasn’t sure what to expect on the media side of things – would journalists see irregular immigration status as a new, fresh angle and be up for meeting the group, or would they think the experiences were something well-covered already?

Also, there’s always a lot of thought that goes into the best way to explain what it is that people are going through, and although I’d done a stack of reading, chats with people in the sector and consultation with young people who have irregular immigration status, I wasn’t sure yet how we’d go about explaining these experiences to the media without getting stuck on the legal explanations.

It was really obvious though, once the group got together in July last year, there wasn’t going to be a problem bringing these issues to life, and working out how to get this simple explanation across would come quickly. I was struck when we bought the group together for the first time by the energy and spark in the room, and the eloquent way people spoke about their experience.

After the first day of Media Movers, I was excited to get stuck in with this fiery group – made up of 10 young people, coming from organisations and campaign groups including Let Us Learn / We Belong, Brighter Futures, Coram Rights Trainers, PRCBC.

The year went past in a blink – the Media Movers took part in ten interactions with organisations across the UK media including LBC, VICE, Channel 4 News and Creative Diversity, ITN News, ITV, Times, and BBC teams. Interactions are what we call friendly and informal meet-ups between the media and people with experience of a particular issue – essentially a good chat that gives media professionals an experience that makes them connect emotionally with the issue at hand. All the while, we ran monthly peer support sessions – mini trainings or discussions, a space that’s always tied to action.

Everyone was a little nervous as we headed into the first interaction, and we had a big chat about how to kick things off with the journalists. With All About Trans, there’s broadly a reluctance to share a personal story off the bat, but the Media Movers were far more relaxed with doing this. My gut was that it would be good to challenge ourselves to be tighter on boundaries – not beginning with a really personal story but giving people the chance to click with each other, whether over a shared hobby or their meaningful item.

I feel like that paid off, as the Media Movers began to see their story like holding a deck of cards – sharing what feels right and relevant and holding back what’s not relevant, or what they didn’t feel comfortable to share, making sure there’s no burn out in the long run. I love it, genuinely, when people say no to me – no, actually I don’t want to do this interaction, no, I’m not okay to talk about that. Seeing people look after themselves is a joy.

With the interactions themselves, it felt like there was an opportunity after Windrush and all the work the sector had been doing – I suspect there was a momentum that journalists felt, making them want to find out more about this little heard of experience.

When we were in the room at an interaction, I was fascinated to see the journalists’ reactions to the group – there were some surprises. When explaining what irregular immigration status is to the Managing Editor of The Mail on Sunday, a Media Mover found out that his wife is a migrant herself and he’d had a pretty good sight over the immigration processes. But there was total shock from a few media professionals the group met with – people who saw themselves as very progressive and in the loop – who had no understanding of the process, in particular the 10 year route.

The disbelief and confusion from the media professionals, a lot being parents of similar aged people, was obvious. It was the everyday that seemed to be moving them – the description of people sitting down to UCAS and realising they can’t apply for student finance, or heading out of school and then not being able to apply for a job. Journalists hated thinking of young people being blocked, and this was no different for the Media Movers.

Coming to the end of the grant, I was desperate to carry on with the project that the Media Movers had built with On Road. It felt like we were on the edge of a bigger understanding of this area, and I didn’t want that opportunity to be lost.

So it’s my absolute pleasure to announce two bits of good news. Not only have we been given support from Unbound Philanthropy to run Media Movers for three more years in London, but we’ve just been awarded funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to run Media Movers in the North of England over three years. A bigger announcement on that last one coming soon!