As part of our ongoing commitment to civic engagement and outreach work within the fields of refugee and migration studies; oral history; narrative research and archival studies, we are looking to both continue our existing project work and expand our work into new areas of community engagement and research.

This section of the website will explore in more detail past and projects undertaken in conjunction with the Living Refugee Archive.  We are very interested in exploring collaborative opportunities for continuing our work and would be very interested in hearing from individuals or organisations about collaborative engagement on present or future projects.

Details of current and past projects undertaken are available as follows:


Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion

In February 2015, under the auspices of the UEL Library and Learning Service, and focusing on the preservation of refugees and migrants lived experiences in London, we were awarded funded from the University of East London Civic Engagement Fund to undertake a pilot project exploring the role of oral history in helping to document the testimonies of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.  The project was entitled “Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion? Civic Engagement through the Preservation and Access to Refugee Archives,” and sought to use existing Archives held within the UEL Library as a basis to forge new partnerships between students, academics, archivists and a community groups.

A full report and videos from the end of project launch event can be found on this website on our Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion page.

Performing the Archive

In front of a very receptive, supportive and intimate audience of about 60, Monday night saw the culmination of several months hard work on the part of University of East London (UEL) second year undergraduate performaning arts students in their showcase entitled, `Performing the Archive: Living Narratives and the Politics of Performance’ and included a range of diverse and interested performance pieces.

As part of a year long module investgating themes associated with the Politics of Memory and Performance,’ the students were tasked in the second half of the course to develop their own performance pieces on the theme of ‘Performaing the Archive.’ The concept being that the students would be able to explore archival collections and be encouraged to discover the breadth and range of narratives held within these collections and then to create their own pieces of performance theatre based upon the narratives they had discovered.

With a successful civic engagement funding application in place, we were able to work in conjunction with Tom Drayton (Director of Pregnant Fish Theatre) and Dr. Eve Katsouraki, (Senior Lecturer at UEL), with our second year performing arts students to start formulating their performance pieces.  We decided that we would encourage the students to make use of possible narratives from all of our archive collections: including the British Olympic Association Archive; the East London People’s Archive of East London oral histories; the Hackney Empire Theatre Archive; and the Refugee Council Archive.  Students were given two weeks of inductions at both of our archive stores, at both the Docklands and Stratford Campuses.  We are very fortunate to be able to employ Tom Drayton, Director of Pregnant Fish Theatre, as a theatre director to help guide and direct the students, and in Tom’s reflective piece for the programme, he states:

Getting second year students excited about an archive, was the challenge Eve (Katsouraki) and myself thought would be the first hurdle.  Yet, when we let loose with the multitude of boxes available at UEL I found the students immersed themselves for hours on end in the narratives that appeared throughout the archives.

This is true, it was great as an Archivist to be able to see students actively engaging with our archival collections in such a positive way and seemingly be genuinely excited about the narratives they were discovering and right from the inductions, considering how these narratives could be interpretated and adapted into a performance.  As an archivist, it can sometimes be a challenge to try and find new and different ways of encouraging students to engage with archival materials and to reflect on the many and varied narratives contained within.  With the seemingly instant “knowledge” now available at a click of a button or increasingly a swipe of a finger on laptops, tablets and smart phones, trying to highlight the benefits of a bunch of old documents sitting on a shelf can prevent its own challenges.  As Tom poetically reflects:

The process of talking something static, something safely and securely put away, catalogued, labelled and put on shelves; tucked amongst other boxes, hundreds and hundreds of its brother nestled amongst eaxh other, hidden and sheltered, and moulding it into something theatrical, breathing, kinetic and alive – that is what our students have been faced with.

Following the inductions, we encouraged the students to continue to make use of the archives as and when needed, which we were very pleased that they did, andentrusted them to Tom and Eve to start the journey of development from printed document and oral history, to pieces of performance theatre.  In addition to being able to employ Tom as a theatre director, the civic engagement funding that we received also enabled us to be able to encourage the students through the opportunity to be able to present the work publically at the end of the module and also to be able to facilitate the purchasing of additional props as required and enabled the final showcase to be filmed and recorded professionally.

All of this work over a number of weeks finally resulted in the offical showcase of the student performances on Monday 18th April in a showcase we entitled “Performing the Archive: Living Narratives and the Politics of Performance.”

Descriptions of all of these performances by the students in their own words can be found in the accomanying programme which is free to download in PDF format by Clicking on the Following Link:  Download Programme.

Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing Portal

In 2016, with the help from UEL Civic Engagement Funding, colleagues in the UEL of Pyschology with the support of the Archive, received funding to help establish a Refugee Mental Health and Wellbeing portal.  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 and refugees and asylum seekers themselves, to easily access the wealth of information and resources, and practical tools many of which are not accessible 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 refugees and asylum seekers, both in the UK and internationally.

The online portal embodies the ethos of civic engagement at university of East London through the creation of an interdisciplinary approach aimed at bringing together staff and students from a number of UEL schools and services as well as facilitating interaction with professional bodies, NGO’s, charities and community organisations in East London and at national and international levels.

The portal continues to develop and expand and we received further funding in 2017, thanks to a successful UEL London Scholars Fund application entitled “Building Bridges: Developing and using skills as a bilingual student to assist vulnerable migrants and refugees.” The focus of this second bid was to further enhance the content of the portal, specifically focusing on translating existing resources into foreign language to help facilitate their use by refugees whose first language may not be English.  This was achieved by advertising for student volunteers as part of the project who came from a bi-lingual background.  Students were given training in refugee mental health and interpretation techniques of the course of four whole day training events and were encouraged as “homework” to help translate resources from English into their own native languages.

Further details are available from our website and social media resources as follows:

UEL Refugee Mental Health Portal:

Follow us on Twitter: @RefugeeMHPortal

UEL OLIve Course for Refugees

In late 2016, the University of East London in conjunction with the Central European University in Budapest, University of Vienna and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) received Erasmas + European funding to offer five is 10-week courses for refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. The aim of the course is to introduce refugees and asylum seekers to Higher Education. The course offers an opportunity for students to find out what skills and knowledge are needed in order to apply for and succeed in HE in the UK and provides information about pathways and opportunities. The course offers modules and workshops in English language and academic writing, research skills, academic tutoring and introduction to academic discussions.

As part of the OLIve initiative, and in conjunction with the Refugee Council Archive at UEL, we applied to the University of East London (UEL) Civic Engagement Fund for additional funding in order to create the online Information Hub and to facilitate engagement of UEL students at all levels in the undertaking of the project. Our successful application is entitled, “Supporting Refugees into Higher Education: A Research Hub for London”, and is being led by Dr Aura Lounasmaa, lecturer in the UEL School of Social Sciences and Paul Dudman, the archivist responsible for the Refugee Council Archive at UEL.

The aim of this project will be to support the OLIve Initiative to start a refugee access to HE programme within UEL. The University is currently partnering in an Erasmus+ funded programme with the Central European University in Budapest and others to provide access to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers. This includes a series of five courses of 10-week Saturday workshops, beginning in April 2017. The aim of this project first and foremost will be to create an online Research Hub in London for refugees and migrants. This will act as an online hub for refugees and asylum seekers living in the UK and provide peer reviewed, current and relevant materials for refugees and asylum seekers who wish to seek higher education opportunities within the UK.

Further details are available from our website and social media resources as follows:

Olive Course Website:

Olive Course Blog:

Follow us on Twitter: @Olive_UEL

IASFM Working Group for Archiving and Documentation of the History of Forced Migration and Refugees.

The Working Group for Archiving and Documentation of the History of Forced Migration and Refugees seeks to document and preserve original history of forced migration at both national and international levels. We recognise that there is a need to work on how knowledge in the field of forced migration is created/ produced and maintained. Our aim for this Working Group, therefore, is to bring together researcher, academics, librarians, archivists, activists, advocates (i.e.NGOs) who are either interested in the history of forced migration and related fields, or are interested in the care and preservation of the archival and library collections that help to preserve the often hidden voices of the migration journey. With a focus on networking on history of forced migration, we will also address the growing critique of the divide between experts and forced migrants themselves. We would like to take steps to ensure that the documentation of testimonies associated with the migration journey are actively preserved. We would like to generate new partnerships and networking opportunities for developing forced migration archives and for helping with the creation of knowledge on, and the collection, documentation and preservation of forced migration history.

The Working Group is, however, devoted to develop a cross-spectrum approach to the management and preservation of important archival, library and related collections of materials. We also have a strong commitment to the use of oral history to help fill in the gaps which often exist within the more traditional archival collection. In this age of financial austerity, we are fully aware of the dangers posed to efforts that help to preserve the historical legacy of often marginalised group.

Further details are available from our website and social media resources as follows:

IASFM Working Group Website:

Follow us on Twitter: @ADHFM_WG

OHS Migation SIG

Following our successful UEL funded civic engagement project focusing on refugee and migrant oral histories (see: Democratic Access or Privileged Exclusion project), we felt there was a need to continue our oral history work in this area.  This was born out of awareness born out of both an archival need for helping to preserve the often hidden voices of the refugee and migration experience and also the importance of developing an ethical oral history methodology for helping to engage with life history and narrative research with refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.

The refugee/migrant/asylum seeker voice is unique and valuable, but for so long has been undermined by the predominantly negative discourse on these issues portrayed through both media reporting political discourse on these issues.

How can we give a voice back to the voiceless and how can we approach trying to preserve their narratives and testimonies within an archival context? Archives are the backbone of our nation’s history: how has the legacy of migration been documented within these collections? Has our national history adversely impacted upon public perception of refugees by not allowing their voices to be heard? Indeed, “Why have historians ignored most refugee movements and `silenced’ those involved? Can refugees be re-installed on the historical record?” (Marfleet, 2007, p. 136).

What is the Migration Special Interest Group, (MSIG)?

Our focus on these issues coincided with a call for action from the UK Oral History Society with the aim of establishing new special interest groups to focus on oral history within a particular thematic context.  This resulted in Paul Dudman, our Archivist, establishing the Migration Special Interest Group, (MSIG).  The aim of MSIG is to bring together Oral History Society members who are working within the fields of refugee and migration studies, or who are interested in the issues and practice involved, to gather and share knowledge, to explore these and related questions, and to formulate an Oral History Society response that can be useful for the wider oral history community.

This is an ongoing project with aims towards establishing an oral history mapping exercise to help determine the extent and availability of oral history collections which focus on elements of the migration experience, both forced and voluntary.  MSIG also aims to raise awareness of projects and activities within this area as well.

Further details are available from our website and social media resources as follows:

OHS Migration SIG Website:

Follow us on Twitter: @OHSMigrationSIG

ESPMI, MAN and BSA Activism in Sociology Forum

Colleagues of the Living Refugee Archive are also involved in several external activities relating to the fields of activism, sociology, and archives combined with refugee and forced migration studies.  Engagement beyond the direct involvement of our day to day work facilitates networking and engagement with colleagues in a number of related fields and provides opportunities to engage with wider projects within the fields of academia, activism and the third sector.

In addition to his work with the UEL Archives and the Living Refugee Archive, Paul Dudman is also Head of Web at ESPMI (Emerging Scholars and Practitioners on Migration Issues) Network which focuses on encouraging engagement and interaction between emerging scholars, practitioners, policymakers, journalists, artists, migrants, and all those involved in forced migration and refugee studies.  Paul has also been involved in helping to establish the Migration and Asylum Network and has been involved with the Campaign for Voluntary Sector Archives.

Dr. Rumana Hashem is the co-convenor of the BSA Activism in Sociology Forum which focuses on bringing together different academics, researchers, and social scientists from all subject areas within the discipline of sociology to use their work within a public context.  Rumana is also an active environmental campaigner and founder of the Phulbari Solidarity Group.