Steve McQueen: Visualising the truth

Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave confirmed Steve McQueen’s place in film-making history. But it is his lesser-known career in art that makes him such a compelling storyteller by Michela Sechi                     Clasping his Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, Steve McQueen thanks everyone: his crew, cast and the most important women in his life. Dedicating his award for 12 Years a Slave to those who still suffer slavery, he declares that “everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live” Experimental film-maker and singular exponent of the British avant-garde, the 1999 Turner Prize winner has earned a reputation as [more]

Stopping the UK slave trade

It may be hidden from view, but forced labour is happening on our doorstep by Astrid Filippi and Giovanni Colapietro                           Mira’s odyssey began in a small village in the Philippines. The need to provide for her family pushed her to approach an agent for overseas domestic work. She was brought to the UK and began work as a nanny and maid. She lived in the same room as the children she was looking after, working 16 hours a day with no time off. Leftovers were the only food she was allowed, and all her belongings were shoved into a tiny corner under [more]

London and the life beneath its feet

Britain's most famous transport system had a difficult start - and needed a lot of outside help by Georgie Knaggs                       Over a century ago, London was home to more people than any other city in the world. Fifty years earlier it had come up with a novel idea to solve its terrible traffic jams – ‘Trains in Drains’. It was Charles Pearson, solicitor to the City of London, who promoted the idea of an underground railway system for the capital. Yet, sadly, he was never to see his subterranean railway in action, as he died a few months before its first section, the Metropolitan [more]

My Polish London: From Poland to Waltham Forest

by Esther Freeman                             This story starts on a holiday to Krakow, Poland. Standing outside a synagogue, staring up at its vast walls, I wondered if it was where my great-grandparents got married. Newly wed myself, I was fascinated that my relatives might have exchanged vows there before embarking on new lives, in a new world. Like many Polish Jews, my great-grandparents fled Poland for Britain in the mid-1800s, probably because of religious persecution and economic hardship. I know little about them, except that they settled here, while most quickly returned to Poland. Although short, the first wave of Polish migrants left its mark [more]

A space for Armenian culture

Volunteers learn about their culture - and gain useful work experience - at the Armenian Archive project by Germana Girelli Photo by Andrea Falletta                   A project to establish the Hayashan - an archive library of Armenian culture - in the centre of London two years ago has become a focus for researchers, academics, and the Armenian community interested in learning more about their history and culture. Now, the archive project, which is bringing together a treasure trove of Armenian publications, photos, films, newspapers and periodicals to promote a better understanding of the Armenian heritage for both Armenians and the wider London community, involves around 50 [more]

A Brit (almost) abroad: Keith the Spain-loving stylist

by Marina Uzcategui                   It’s been a year since London hairdresser Keith decided to launch an unusual special offer at his salon in Greenwich: free haircuts for people who speak Spanish. In the window of ‘Greenwich Clipper’ is a strange sign: “Cliente de habla espanola: Peluquería gratis con estilista senior investigar dentro de”. In faltering Spanish, Keith tries to attract Spanish speakers to help him meet his aim of practicing his second language three times a week: “For the Spanish speakers clients, free hair cut with a senior stylist please ask inside”. He knows the sign isn’t perfect, but a year since he [more]