Olympic Medalists Reflect Multicultural Britain

The endless debate about whether Multicultural Britain is working was silenced tonight as 3 Olympic gold medalists showed the value of a diversity.

3 Olympic Athletes from 3 different backgrounds win 3 gold medals.

Photo: adifansnet / Flickr

Jessica Ennis held her gold medal high for the Heptathlon, Greg Rutherford for long jump and Mo Farah became the first British man to win the Men’s 10,000m.

All three of them, including Somalian-born Mo Farah, were proud to represent Great Britain. “This is my country,” Mo Farah answered to a rather silly question – “Would you have been prouder to have done it for Somalia?”

The medalists visually and metaphorically symobolise how people from different backgrounds can flourish in the UK.

Most of the British public are feeling a great sense of pride over tonight’s victories, regardless of the ethnic backgrounds of the athletes.

And hopefully that pride will bring people in Britain closer together, long after the Olympics finish.

Fame Asylum: Thinking out of the box to change popular opinion on asylum seekers

If someone asked you how you would try to change the public’s perception of refugees and asylum seekers, the last thing that would come to mind would be to form an asylum seeker boy-band in 2 weeks. But nothing escapes the mind of Richard Dedomenici.

The Platforma Festival, a collection of talks, performances and displays of artwork by and about refugees, has run from 29th November to the 4th December.

It has given me another chance to see ‘Fame Asylum‘ by Richard Dedomenici and listen to his reflections on the project 5 years after it was broadcast.

The man himself

Renowned for coming up with thought-provoking, awe-inspiring, or to some, jaw-dropping Live Art, Richard Dedomenici isn’t your average film-maker, or artist.

He spent part of 2004 wandering around Chicago with a plastic bag over his head and hands tied behind his back, in the same fashion as prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Then spookily days later, the prisoner abuse scandal was availed in the Iraqi prison.

“I want to create the kind of uncertainty that leads to possibility” he says on his website, where one can get a real sense of what live art is.

Show Aims

The documentary, art project, TV show, however you may perceive it, ‘Fame Asylum’ was aimed at poking fun at the genre of talent shows but eventually became a part of it. It was structured with all the X-Factor/Pop Idol elements; auditions, rehearsal, performance.

The difference this time is that this talent show also aimed to take away the stigma that exists around asylum seekers and refugees due to negativity portrayed in the mainstream press.

Richard had wanted people who wouldn’t usually come into contact with asylum seekers, but who would watch talent shows on TV, to interact with asylum seekers through the project. Some people who commented on the show by email had expressed their change in opinion towards asylum seekers after watching it.

Richard admitted to losing a lot of control over the project as Channel 4, who commissioned the piece, had preferences.

The show provokes emotions at both ends of the spectrum. There is the comedy of four asylum seekers who begin dancing out of time, and singing out of tune. But there is also the heart-breaking story of each individual’s plight, having lost family and traveled alone far from home at a young age.

Status, as the group was eventually named, consisted of Long from Vietnam, Saeed from Iran, Aaron from Albania and David from Nigeria. 

Asylum Issues

Many of the issues in the lives of asylum seekers are covered in the show. Aaron, after making his life in the UK, is ashamed to let his English friends know that he’s an asylum seeker due to the stigma around the term.

David, having relied on the Church since coming to the UK, battled between performing on stage or going to Church when they need his assistance.

Unaccompanied minors are asylum seekers who come to the UK under the age of 18, without the supervision on an adult. They are allowed to stay in the UK under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As Saeed was approaching 18 when the show was being filmed, he faced deportation.

Richard had had doubts before starting the project, wondering if making the boys into a boy-band for 2 weeks only for it to cease to exist afterwards, was being fair or not. But the ‘Status’ boys reflected positively afterwards.

Apparently when Richard and the boys watched the show back together, emotions were high.Status didn’t get snapped up by a record company, but Richard is glad of it. He thinks they are all capable of much more than that.

Though his original priority had been to create an art project, it soon changed to be the interests of the boys in Status.

My Reflection

With years experience working with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, and the issues that they face, I feel Richard Dedomenici’s project had a genuine intention to change public opinion.

We all try different ways to tackle the problem of the negativity towards this vulnerable group, but none of us have thought outside of the box.

‘Fame Asylum’ helps us to realise that there are no limits to what we can do. And even if the things we do only change a few opinions, then we’re on our way to getting there.

The reality of the infotainment era that we are in, is that people don’t like to deal with serious issues. The only way we can get ordinary people to look deeper into issues like Asylum, is to make them entertaining. And that’s what Richard Dedomenici has done.

World ‘peace’ cyclist reaches England

World cyclist Saurab Dahal, 22, begins the European chapter of his journey in Folkestone, Kent.

Having finished Asia, his plan is now to cover Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North and South America by bicycle.

England is the 39th country he has visited, which will be followed by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland if all goes to plan.

While most 13 year old boys are still in school, Saurab decided to embark on a mission to cycle through 205 countries, aiming to “flow Peace to all in the world.” The message of Peace which underlies Saurab’s journey started in the context of the Nepalese Civil War.

He was also inspired by the poor and uneducated children in his region of Nepal, Jhapa. He wanted to show them that even if a person has only 25 rupees (20p) in their pocket, as he had when he left home on 28th February 2002, one can still do what they desire to do.

For the entire duration of his trip so far, he has relied on the hospitality and kindness of local people. “If you have motivation, you can do anything in this world,” he says.

But he has also overcome many hurdles, including being detained in Pakistan, facing language barriers and having his bicycle stolen in India, China and Vietnam.

Nepalese communities and the Nepalese Embassy have often helped him pick himself up again. The struggles he comes across highlight the main obstacles to peace, including crime, ignorance, language and money.

Though he is not actively fundraising for poor and educated children, he saves any money given to him on his way, to go towards stationary, computers, clothing and food.

The funds he has saved have gone towards helping over 2,000 children across Asia, from Bihar, the poorest state in India, to South Korea and Australia.

Depending on weather and road conditions, Saurab cycles around 40km per hour and 150km per day.

He had been staying at the Sir John Moore barracks in Shorncliffe road, home to the Royal Gurkha Rifles. On Monday, he started peddling to London to meet Mayor Boris Johnson.

Giving the ‘Unreported World’ a voice

Reporters from the Channel 4 documentary series ‘Unreported World’ tell us the difficulties and challenges they faced whilst filming for this season’s episodes.

The talk began with showings of clips from the 2011 series of Unreported World, including ‘Nigeria’s Millionaire Preachers’, ‘Uganda’s Miracle Babies’, ‘Undercover Syria’ and ‘Russia: Vlad’s Army’, some of which have not been shown on Channel 4 yet.

The newbee of the series Krishnan Guru-Murthy joined Oliver Steeds, Jenny Kleeman, Peter Oborne, Ramita Navai, Seyi Rhodes and Evan Williams, to enlighten the audience on the world of journalism and documentary-making.

Reporting for Unreported World poses many risks and challenges for crew and reporter. Seyi Rhodes said that there were physical and cultural challenges to filming in Nigeria. Floods prevented the ease of movement and certain churches were wary of being interviewed.

Jenny Kleeman said that the surgeon featured in one of her documentaries was so camera-shy, that it was difficult to film him. There were also language barriers, as it was hard to find an interpreter who spoke all the different languages of the interviewees.

Some of the Aboriginal people who were interviewed in Australia were hesitant as they feared being misrepresented, says Oliver Steeds. They had been filmed by Western film crews before, and commented ‘no-one ever asks us what we think.’

Ramita Navai commented on how emotional filming ‘Undercover Syria’ was for her. She had been in Iran during the revolution, and could relate to the people who wanted change.

The reporters encouraged anyone who has the same ambition as them, to get out there and start filming. They reminded them to stay objective. Jenny Kleeman advised one viewer to watch documentaries and analyse them, “even watching a bad documentary is useful because you can work out why its bad.”

Changes that new technology has made to journalism was highlighted by a member of the audience. The reporters responded by saying that now the people they interview can also see the end product. This pushes them to be more responsible.

The aim of the documentaries, according to Oliver Steeds, is to “give them (people) a voice.”