Migration nation: exhibition highlights key moments that have shaped Britain

Tom Lawson

Amid uncertainty about the movement of people to and from the UK following the EU referendum, an exhibition presents pivotal moments in the nation’s migration history

An exhibition examining key moments in Britain’s migration history is to open next week at the Migration Museum in London. No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain aims to show visitors how migration has shaped society here.

The exhibition opens at a time of ongoing Brexit negotiations, which have sparked a national debate about the movement of people to and from Britain. But, say the organisers of No Turning Back, Brexit is by no means the first pivotal moment in the UK’s migration story.

“Brexit is currently the centre of attention, but Britain has faced many moments throughout history which have had a major impact on the movement of people to and from these shores,” said Sophie Henderson, director of the Migration Museum Project, the organisation behind the museum.

“Some brought people together, others moved people apart. All had a profound effect on individuals who lived through them – and on the country as a whole.”


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Moments highlighted in the exhibition include the expulsion of England’s entire Jewish population in 1290, the large increase in the number of people defining themselves as mixed-race in the 2011 census, and the first East India Company voyage to India in 1607.

Each of the moments is explored through a combination of personal stories, photography and art from a range of British and international contributors.

No Turning Back features the UK premiere of Humanae, a global photography project by Angélica Dass, which aims to document every shade of human skin tone. Other exhibits include work by London-based collage artist Hormazd Narielwalla responding to the pieces of yellow felt that all Jewish people in medieval England were required to wear prior to expulsion. Original artwork, memorabilia and photography from the Rock Against Racism marches and concerts in the late 1970s, which featured performances from bands including The Clash, Sham 69 and Generation X, are also included.

Against the current backdrop of fierce national debate, the need for exploration of this important theme could scarcely be greater

The Migration Museum opened in April 2017 and aims to explore how migration has influenced British society. Currently a temporary space, those behind the project hope to find a permanent home for beyond 2018.

Barbara Roche, chair of the Migration Museum Project, said: “No Turning Back encapsulates what the Migration Museum for Britain that we are creating is all about – providing a cultural space to explore how immigration and emigration has shaped who we are today as individuals, and as a nation.

“And against the current backdrop of fierce national debate, the need for exploration of this important theme could scarcely be greater.”

No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain runs from 20 September – 25 February 2018 at the Migration Museum in Lambeth, south London. Admission is free.

Image: Angelica Dass / Juan Miguel Ponce


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  • pjm77

    Jesus fucking Christ. I was looking for a site with good news EXACTLY to avoid that kind of drivel. You know, cute animals , nature, weather and shit. Great Britain has NEVER been a country of immigrants. With exception of conquest the country’s population has been very homogenous. Immigration is a recent phenomenon and mass immigration has never happened before. You are losing your country dear Brits. Will you wake up?

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