Skip to main content
The National Conversation on immigration aims to hear the views of people all over Britain. For the whole of 2017 British Future and Hope not Hate will be in a different town every week, across the UK, listening to what people think on the issue.

There are going to be changes to immigration policy in the UK following the vote to leave the EU.  The National Conversation is a chance to bring people together to talk about their differences and find common ground.  The findings of the National Conversation will form part of a major Home Affairs Committee inquiry into immigration, led by influential MPs.

Administered by British Future and HOPE not hate the National Conversation will be regularly updating and sharing the conversations they hear as they travel around the country.

How does it work?

In 60 towns and cities in every region and nation of the UK, the National Conversation will be hosting ‘citizens panels’ to ask people what they think about immigration and the immigration system; it will also hold a stakeholder meeting in each of those towns with local business leaders, community groups, local councils and others with an interest in the topic.

An online survey will give a chance for everyone to have their say, even if the Conversation is not coming to an area.  And national opinion polling will give the National Conversation another way to find out what people think about the issue.

At the same time the Home Affairs Committee will hold public meetings in eight different regions of the UK, as well as calling for evidence to their immigration inquiry through formal evidence hearings. All of the information gathered will be published by the Home Affairs Committee, on their website and in a report that the Government must respond to.

The first locations the National Conversation is visiting are: Bradford in West Yorkshire, March in Cambridgeshire, Witley Bay in North Tyneside, Aberdeen in Scotland, Enfield in London, Trowbridge in Wiltshire, Merthyr Tydfil in Wales and Macclesfield in Cheshire.

Owen Jones of HOPE not hate, a group which campaigns against right-wing extremism, explains why keeping community spaces clean can build resistance against extremist messages


The Wren’s Nest is not a name that conjures up a positive image for most people living in the Black Country. Synonymous with a once notorious area of North Dudley, which many still would try and avoid. However, for over a year now, HOPE not hate have been working in both the Wren’s Nest and Priory estates to try and change the perceptions of the area from the outdated negative image and towards something of which residents can feel proud.


In 2011 HOPE not hate produced the Fear & Hope report, which among other findings, discovered that those who are most vulnerable to the messages of extremist organisations tend to have a very pessimistic outlook on life and their area, and believe that their future is in the hands of others. Consequently, HOPE not hate have been working hard in the Wren’s Nest and Priory to encourage local residents to view their community from a different perspective; to hopefully get them to see the positives of their area and celebrate everything that is good about their community – rather than turning to a hard estate image as a way to find their identity.


Our work does not just stop there. We also aim to help empower local residents to take action in the locality and create positive change, and hopefully give them the knowledge and skills to do this. Thankfully, both of these estates have one of the counties best community resources right on their doorstep – the Wren’s Nest Nature Reserve.


The Nature Reserve is one of the most important geological sites in the United Kingdom, and is highly regarded amongst geologists the world over. Fossils date back to an ancient tropical seabed alongside well-preserved evidence of the glacier which cut through Dudley during the Ice Age. As if this was not enough, lime mines dating back to the 17th Century dominate the area and give a constant reminder of the role this region, and the locals’ ancestors, played in the Industrial Revolution. Most communities would be singing about this from their rooftops, unfortunately however, a small minority ruin it for others by leaving their beer cans, and other less savoury items, lying around. So when a group from IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) in Brierley Hill offered their time to get involved with some community work, HOPE not hate got in contact with them to help clean up the reserve.


The motivation behind the clean-up day was to provide a cleaner and more pleasant environment for families and children who wish to use the nature reserve during the school summer holidays. On the day around 22 volunteers gave up their time to help clear, very literally, a truck load of rubbish from the reserve.


Despite it raining all day the local volunteers remained high-spirited, and the most encouraging aspect from the HOPE not hate perspective was hearing how the volunteers changed their perception of the area quite quickly during the day.


As we started quite a few were certainly aware of the reputation of the area and were, understandably, inquisitive about its realities. For the majority, this was a part of their town to which they would never consider coming. Both the Wren’s Nest and Priory offered nothing positive to the town – it was just an area that one would whizz past on the Birmingham New Road. As we walked around, they learnt about the history of the area and were given a quick lesson in how to spot fossils of the tropical plants that would have once covered the area.


Before long the volunteers were actively, and passionately, discussing amongst one another how their thoughts on the area had been transformed and would certainly be encouraging others to check out the Wren’s Nest as an interesting place to visit. Cleaning up all that rubbish and ensuring that young children passing through the reserve do not have to see the evidence of someone’s Friday night litter on the paths and bushes was of course invaluable and will help encourage more and more residents of Wren’s Nest and Priory make better use of the resource. However, what was most important was that other locals, albeit only a small group to start with, have completely changed their attitude towards the estates, opening them up to visitors, with the ultimate aim of the estates finally lifting that sense of isolation, which has had such a damaging effect on the morale of those living there.


Owen Jones is the West Midlands Community Organiser for HOPE not hate