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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!



Rob Bell, Director of Strategy at Paul Hamlyn Foundation blogs about why society needs to support young people with irregular immigration status. This blog was originally published on the Paul Hamlyn Foundation website.
In the 1950s, American sociologist Charles Wright Mills noted a phenomenon that should trouble us today when we consider the precarious lives of young migrants. He argued that a good society should not abandon individuals to struggle alone with what he described as “personal troubles”. Some troubles, he argued, should not be private matters, but rather “issues”.


“An ‘issue’ is a public matter,” he elaborated “when values cherished by the public are felt to be threatened […] it is the very nature of an issue, unlike even widespread trouble, that it cannot very well be defined in terms of the everyday environments of ordinary men. An issue, in fact, often involves a crisis in institutional arrangements.”


There are an estimated 60,000 young people living in the UK who have irregular immigration status. This tag is no mere administrative burden. It compromises their security and safety, their health and wellbeing and our ability to support those who are vulnerable and exploited by others. If you are young, and without the correct papers, then you are likely to be extremely quiet about it: you will try to manage alone the problems this generates. You will be unable to get trusted advice and legal support. You will be unwilling to speak up about this for fear of being deported. You will be unsure about accessing the health and social support that most of us take for granted. You will not know who and what to trust. You will see both light and darkness in remaining invisible.


Last week, at a meeting of European charitable trusts at Paul Hamlyn Foundation, two organisations spoke to the assembled grant makers about what they were doing to make sure the personal troubles of so many become social issues that we address. Just for Kids Law talked about their work helping young migrant – many of whom have grown up as children in the UK – to access higher education. Swarm has developed a web portal through which young people and their families can work out how they can get help with their immigration status problems. Both charities are part of a wider collaboration, started by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy – two funders working in partnership. Supported Options uses grant making, research, convening, digital technology, story-telling and direct service development to shine a light on the lives of young people trapped by their status, and also to point to policy and practice solutions.


We are rightly transfixed by the continuing refugee crisis and in the UK there has been a huge mobilisation of interest and offers of help from the general public. But we must not lose sight of those – such as young people without papers – whose stories are not being told, and who are not in the limelight. They are as deserving of our attention and our support as any young person in trouble.


In the United States, a growing movement for change – led by United We Dream – has turned many undocumented young people into social activists and campaigners, and in this movement individuals find support and friendship. In the United Kingdom, a similar movement has been much slower in coming – but coming it is. Let Us Learn is a youth-led campaign that has already brought about a change in the law, with a recent Supreme Court decision securing access to higher education funding for many. We must nurture this movement and protect the brave young people who work selflessly for the rights and futures of others. ‘Coming out’ as undocumented and speaking up for one’s rights and the rights of others is to put oneself in peril, but it is probably the only way that young people’s troubles become our social issue. We should reward their courage and dignity by helping them to study and ensuring that they can access legal advice and representation in order to make decisions about their futures from a position of stability and security.


This meeting of the European Foundation Centre’s (EFC) Diversity, Migration, and Integration Thematic Network brought together EFC members for two days in October 2015, to network, learn from one another and identify potential areas of common interest. The Network is chaired by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.