Welcome to Minding Histories, an audio and visual oral history project that explores the relationship between migration, mental health and well-being, in the London Borough of Bexley, from the 1950’s to the present day.
This project was initiated in 2009 by the mental health charity, Mind in Bexley. Through our work with local Vietnamese and Chinese communities, we became aware of the many difficulties faced by those who had migrated to the UK. These included isolation, unemployment, poverty and prejudice, experiences that can affect mental health. We became interested in hearing the individual stories of people who had settled in Bexley. We wanted to find out more about how they had adapted to a new country and culture, what obstacles there had been and how they had overcome these. Above all, we wanted to better understand what impact migration and settlement had on an individual’s well-being. We received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the project formally began in the summer of 2009.
The majority of work was undertaken by a team of trained local volunteers. We provided them with training on oral history research methods and interview skills. Through our partnerships with local community groups and networks we recorded and archived oral history interviews with 60 individuals including those from the Albanian, Bangladeshi, Burmese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Ghanaian, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, Nigerian, Sri Lankan, Trinidadian and Vietnamese communities resident in Bexley. The interviews and transcripts are archived at the Mind in Bexley Archive Centre. We worked with a local youth theatre group from Rose Bruford College who produced a play based on the narratives of those who participated in the scheme. A film based on the production of the play was made and is available on this site. An academic article based on the project was published in the Family & Community History Journal and is also available to download as is a booklet which accompanied the original exhibition. The project was exhibited throughout Bexley and in a variety of places including the University of Bradford. The exhibition is currently on display at Mind in Bexley’s premises.
Minding Histories reflects the diversity of Bexley’s communities and highlight some of the unique experiences that impacted on mental well-being for participants. Significantly this project has had important educational benefits, giving the people of Bexley the opportunity to speak out about their experiences, thereby generating awareness in public attitudes towards the complex issues of mental well-being and migration. We are currently exploring the possibility of undertaking further research in this area.