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Public Engagement

Travelling Vicariously – Child Migrant Journeys

The Child Migrant Stories project captures the stories of former child migrants as told by them. Eithne Nightingale conceived the project and in her guest post dicusses the journey it's taken her on, how it links to her research and how others can contribute.
Pen and ink drawing by Linh Vu depicting the boat she escaped in, as a child, with her father from Vietnam

Written by Eithne Nightingale, PhD student at the School of Geography

In the last few months I have travelled on an open sailing boat from Vietnam to Singapore, by jumbo jet from El Salvador to London and by foot, through the jungle, from Rwanda to the Congo. In my mind at least. The experiences of child migrants who have shared their stories with me have infiltrated my consciousness and filled my dreams. It is as if I have been there although, in reality, I am not sure I would have shown such resilience.

The child migrants have come to East London under the age of 18 between 1930 and the present day. They have come from as far afield as Turkey, Cyprus, Brazil, El Salvador, Poland, Italy, Southern Ireland, Vietnam, Jamaica, Antigua, Guinea, Nigeria, Rwanda, Yemen, Somalia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The oldest person I interviewed was 99 and the youngest was 5.

Now others can share in these journeys by accessing the website Myself and Mitch Harris have worked in collaboration with former child migrants, some of whom are artists, musicians and film makers to develop a website and introductory film (see below). The memories are poignant, powerful and sometimes very funny.

We will update the website with further films and spotlight stories on a regular basis. I am also keen that the website becomes a shared platform to collect new stories of child migration from within and beyond East London and to explore contemporary, pressing issues about child migration.

The project draws on my Collaborative Doctoral Award funded by the AHRC between the School of Geography, QMUL and V&A Museum of Childhood. 'Children, Migration and Diaspora' looks at what factors affect the migration to, and settlement in, East London from 1930 to the present day, how the migration experience affects their adult lives and how these should be communicated in museums and galleries to promote a sense of belonging, inclusiveness and social cohesion.

The oral histories, images and artwork with be archived at the V&A Museum of Childhood as well as the films. The website will eventually be archived by the Centre for the Study of Childhood Culture, a collaboration between QMUL and the V&A Museum of Childhood.

I would love you to share this website with others including through your own social media networks (retweets, new tweets, @mentions and so forth), we will be sharing new stories and developments through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported this project so far. We hope, with your continued support, that it will go from strength to strength.

This post is based on the original from Eithne Nightingale’s blog ‘Chirps from Around the World’. You can view the original post here.

Child Migrant Stories received funding from the Centre for Public Engagement through the CPE Large Awards Round.


Written by Eithne Nightingale
PhD Student 
School of Geography



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