Interview with UEL Archivist, Paul V. Dudman by Dr. Lucia Berdondoni

This interview was originally undertaken as a recorded video-interview by Dr. Lucia Berdondoni, Senior Lecturer and Course Leader at UEL, for the distance learning postgraduate MSc course in Humanitarian Intervention, developed and run by the UEL School of Psychology.  A few years have sped by in between times so I thought this was a good opportunity to revisit the interview and bring it up to date now and post it here on the Living Refugee Archive.

Further details on the MSc in Humanitarian Intervention can be found on the UEL Website here:

Interviews with Paul V. Dudman

  1. Create Online Feedback form for Students

The original selected interview questions are listed below.  The interview was divided into two sections, the fist focusing on my work with the Archives at UEL, in particular with the Refugee Council Archive and related collections; the second part focusing on our Civic Engagement and London Scholars project developing the Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal at UEL.  This blog post will follow the same structure as the original interview including the original list of questions.

Interview with UEL Archivist, Paul V. Dudman.

Part One: The Refugee Council Archive.

  1. Can you tell us about the `history’ of this Archive and what kind of documents does it include?

By way of introduction, my name is Paul Dudman and I am the Archivist here at the University of East London.  The Archives are situated within the Library, Archives and Learning Services directorate at UEL and aim to support both our learning, teaching and research needs at UEL whilst also supporting civic engagement and outreach projects, collaborating with local communities and UEL students.

The Refugee Council Archive at UEL represents one of the largest collections of archival materials relating to the study of refugee and forced migration issues.  It is a source of information and analysis on displacement, flight and exile; on legal, political and social issues, causes of flight and on refugee community life.

The origins of the Refugee Council Archive can be traced back the period following the aftermath of the Second World War and the creation of the 1951 Refugee Convention.  Initially founded in 1951 as two separate organisations, the British Council for Aid to Refuges (BCAR) and the Standing Conference on Refugees (SCOR).  These two organisations were later to merge in 1981 to form the British Refugee Council, one of the largest UK third sector voluntary organisations working specifically with refugees and asylum seekers.

The Archive moved to the University of East London in November 2002.  This was as a result of UEL establishing a postgraduate MA course in Refugee Studies, and academic staff who taught on the course recommending that UEL become the host for this important Archive.  The Archive documents both the history of the Refugee Council as a working organisation including information on publicity; outreach and engagement; campaign materials; reports and publications; correspondence; minutes of meetings, etc.  It also includes a substantial special collection of materials, collected over a fifty-year period, including official and unofficial reports and grey literature, incorporating working papers, conference papers, leaflets, newsletters, case studies; field reports; and working papers.

To date over 35,000 items have been catalogues as part of the collection and new materials continue to be added, both in the form of regular deposits from the Refugee Council, and also individual items to supplement and expand the special collection.  We are also continuing to accept deposits of new archival collections within the fields of refugee and migration studies, including the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA) Archive; the Information Centre for Asylum and Refugees (ICAR) Archive; and collections from the Northern Refugee Centre; Cambridge Refugee Support Group and Charter 87.  More recently we have been working with partner and community organisations on oral history projects and have recently received deposits of oral history archives from the Voices of Kosovo in Manchester (VOKIM) project; Guajarati Yatra documenting Gujarati migration in Croydon; Crossing the Borders from the Wai Yin Society recording the  Chinese community in Manchester; and Healing the Wounds, documenting the Irish community in South East London.  We also host the Hidden Histories oral history archive produced by Eastside Community Heritage which incorporates several migration related collections.

Additionally, within the UEL Archives we also hold the British Olympic Association Archive and Library dating from 1906 and covering all three Olympic Games held in London in 1908, 1948 and 2012; the Hackney Empire Theatre Archive; a small but growing East London Studies Collection; a collection of football fanzines from When Saturday Comes; and the UEL Institutional Archive.

  1. What is excluded by this Archive?

What is excluded from the Archive – this is a very challenging and important question!  Archives are by their very nature incomplete, and if are honest are only every able to preserve a fragment of a much larger narrative(s).  I think the most obvious challenge that we are facing is in the attempt to try and document the testimonies and life histories of displaced persons (by this I include both refugees, asylums seekers and migrants) within the archival corpus. 

Documenting life history narratives and testimonies is a challenge on many levels, especially when dealing with vulnerable communities.

  1. Is there any video materials within the Archive?

Yes there are.  The archive contains both off-air recordings, programmes recorded under an Educational Recording Agency (ERA) Licence from United Kingdom terrestrial television, but also a selection of audio-visual materials from the London office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

We also hold video materials that have been donated and purchased by us over the years to help improve the accessibility of these materials to our Archive users.  This material includes documentaries, drama and investigative reporting programmes.

  1. Is the Archive part of a project and if so, what are its aims?

We are committed to utilising the Archive to help support civic engagement and outreach projects.  To date we have been involved in a number of projects including the establishment of the Living Refugee Archive and the collection of oral histories from displaced persons in East London; a project called `Performing the Archive’ with undergraduate theatre studies students drawing upon narratives found in the Archive; the OLIve course at UEL enabling access to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers; the Tate Lives project – documenting community histories in North Woolwich and Silvertown whilst also preserving the cultural heritage of the Tate Institute, constructed by Sir Henry Tate in 1887 as the former sports and social club for workers at the Tate and Lyle sugar factory; and of course the Refugee Mental health and Wellbeing Portal.  Our current project is entitled, `Gujarati Voices,’ which is a collaborative project focusing on documenting the lives of the Gujarati community in the London Borough of Brent.  This project follows the success of project partners in undertaking the Gujarati Yatra project and exhibition at the Museum of Croydon.

  1. What are the future plans for the Archive?

Following on from our successful civic engagement and outreach projects, our plans for the future include:

  • Further collaborative working on civic engagement activities in partnership with UEL academic schools and local communities.
  • Further development of the Living Refugee Archive in terms of making archival materials more accessible and open access.
  • Collaboration with external partners including the OHS Migration SIG and IASFM Working Group on
  • Further working in relation to the collection, development and accessibility of oral histories in relation to documenting the life histories of displaced persons.
  • Funding applications to help develop the Archive.
  • An online mapping exercise to document the provision and accessibility of archival collections relating to refugee and forced migration issues.
  • Supporting new projects being undertaken both within UEL and externally.
  1. Who can access it?

The Refugee Council Archive along with all of our archival collections are open to everyone.  Whilst there is a regular use of the Archive from staff and students at UEL, our Archives are very much open to external researchers from NGOs and other universities as well as members of the public. 

Anyone wishing to make use of the Archives are welcome to contact the Archie on

  1. What is in place for Distance Learning Students?

We hope that our Living Refugee Archive online portal will become a central resource for accessing information and materials on refugee and migration issues, as well as incorporating access to wider related subject areas including humanitarian assistance, psychosocial interventions and country of origin conditions. 

We are currently looking at ways in which we can improve our service provision to distance learning students and those who are not able to visit the Archie in person.  If you have a few moments, we would welcome your feedback by taking a few moments to complete our online form, available here at:


Part Two: Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing Online Portal.

  1. What did the idea for this Portal come from and what is its aim?

The idea of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal for Refugees and Asylum Seekers was born out of a training session held at the British Psychological Society facilitated by Professor Rachel Tribe from the School of Psychology here at UEL.  Focusing on the training needs of psychologists working with refugees and asylum seekers, one of the factors that came out of the day was the apparent lack of a central place that could be accessed by both psychology practitioners and refugees which gave access to peer-reviewed mental health resources.

Fortuitously, this coincided with a call for applications to the UEL internal Civic Engagement fund, for projects which would have a community focus to them whilst also enabling UEL student participation.  Consequently, a combined bit was submitted by Professor Rachel Tribe for the UEL School of Psychology and myself, Paul Dudman, on behalf of the Refugee Council Archive at UEL, for funding to enable the establishment of the portal.

Our aim was to establish an online portal in which resources on the could be utilised and made accessible as a first stop resource centre for refugee and asylum seekers as well as health and social care professionals, organisations and agencies working with them in the UK and internationally by refugees in camps.

  1. How was it designed and developed?

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal for Refugees and Asylum Seekers was designed and developed as a team effort with engagement and support from several colleagues within the UEL School of Psychology and beyond.  The result was a dynamic online portal incorporating detailed information and resources online:

  • Mental Health Resources in English
  • Translated Mental Health Resources
  • Guides and Downloads on Mental Health and Social Care of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • Audio and Video Resources
  • Relaxation Techniques and Exercise Audios
  • Psychosocial Intervention links on Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • A Directory of Services and Organisations for Refugees and Asylum Seekers
  • References on Mental Health of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants
  1. What does it comprehend?

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal for Refugees and Asylum Seekers has been created to be utilised as a first stop resource to enable mental health and social care professionals, community organisations, statutory, international and national third sector organisations as well as refugees and asylum seekers themselves, to easily access a wealth of information and resources and practical tools not previously brought together in one place.  These resources have been produced and developed by health care practitioners, international and national organisations, and academic and research bodies with experience and expert knowledge of working with refugee’s ad asylum seekers, both in the UK and internationally.

  1. Who can access it?

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal for Refugees and Asylum Seekers is primarily focused towards the needs of both refugees and health and social professionals.  The Portal is open access and freely available to access online for anyone who may have an interest in the field of refugee mental health and wellbeing.

  1. Is it somehow monitored to check who. how many people are using it?

Yes.  We have a Google Analytics account for the Portal which reports monthly usage statistics for the Portal.

  1. What is the plan for its future development?

Regular updates are provided for the Portal providing access to new and updated Resources within the field of refugee mental health and wellbeing.  If you have any suggestions on the Portal and any feedback on how it might be improved, please do contact us on