(Better) Believe it: Big Journeys, Untold Stories

Hamedullah The Road Home Learning Lab Workshop

A Learning Lab with filmmaker, Sue Clayton
In association with Creativeworks London and Royal Holloway University of London

Venue: Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R1LA

Date: 19 March 2014

A Learning Lab at Somerset House (19 March) exploring what might be the form and content of an online archive focusing on the subject of separated youth. Learning Lab drew on material that filmmaker, Sue Clayton, acquired, commissioned and filmed over 12 years (along with colleagues) longitudinally following stories of separated youth living in Britain. Stories of young people who have been child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or whose families fought alongside British troops in Helmand, or who got caught on the wrong side of partition in Sudan. This material is a rich vein of storytelling – interviews, video diaries, re-created scenarios. It has been both dramatized and rendered into documentary through a range of media and formats, via the documentary Hamedullah: The Road Home, or collaborative projects like LIFT-winners, Phakama Theatre, ARK-T Children’s Project; and the recent Mazloom Theatre tour.

Learning Lab explored the possible design and building of this online archive across two levels of engagement:

A ‘locative media/migratory archive’ designed to activate peer-to-peer (P2P) interactions (analogue and digital) between young people – speaking to increasingly dynamic arts and (social) media networks of urban/global youth cultures.

A multidisciplinary research tool for legal practitioners, social/caseworkers and other agencies working with separated young people in the migration and global human rights sector.

Background: We know little about what happens to unaccompanied youth who ‘come of age at 18’ and are unceremoniously deported and ‘returned’ to their country of origin, having spent their formative years in their host country. Refugee agencies and advocates such as the UNHCR, together with journalists and filmmakers continuously struggle to gain access to crucial on-the-ground knowledge, given current UK Home Office restrictions and prohibitions on accessing or collecting relevant data.

We know even less about what happens episodically en route to separated youth – the situations they experience and how this impacts on their sense of a past, future and evolving sense of identity and selfhood. There is little evidence covering the full arc of these life journeys – revealing the young people’s dreams and aspirations for the future and what levels of agency, social ties and notions of belonging are leveraged by them – where, when and why?

In Hamedullah: The Road Home Clayton chronicles a short yet significant portion of a life journey through the eyes of 21 year-old Hamedullah Hassany. Hamedullah originally fled Afghanistan as a young teenager. He was deported from Canterbury several years’ later barefoot and handcuffed in the context of enforced ‘return’. Having built a relationship with Hamedullah, Clayton covertly films the UK Border Agency deportation, giving him a small camera before his departure. Reversing the storytelling dynamic and against all odds, Hamedullah continues to chronicle his everyday life when back in Afghanistan, out of which emerges this co-creation and important story – one which works with and against the grain of the classic ‘road movie’ revealing the everyday experiences of what it actually means to ‘return’ – what European migration policy calls a necessary ‘durable solution’ – and the very real, alienating consequences for Hamedullah who spent his formative years in the UK.

Supported by Creativeworks London Creative Voucher Scheme