Comic addressing issues faced by Hungarian migrants

‘I’m Only Happy When it Rains’ is the fourth comic in the Whatever People Say I Am series. It’s aim is simple: To put a human face to statistics and challenge stereotypes. It features a Hungarian migrant I interviewed a couple of years ago as part of the New and Emerging Communities research project with Dr. Loretta Trickett for the Police Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping.

For the past three years I’ve been working in collaboration with Dr Loretta Trickett of Nottingham Trent University to create two comics that address the issue of new and emerging communities. One key area of her research is barriers faced by migrants and refugees as they integrate into the host country. She is also interested in ways in which understanding of migrant communities can help reduce Hate Crime. These sentiments bode well with Whatever People Say I Am – the follow-on project to Dawn of the Unread. Our other reason for collaboration is to help make academic research more accessible. Often, it’s hidden behind expensive paywalls and read by a privileged few. The comic format allows us to distil the essence of this research and frame it in a format that will reach a broader audience.

This has been a slow process for numerous reasons, the main one being that we have interviewed lots of people to find the best story to address the issues. I originally set out with the intention of featuring Roma people as I think modern life makes it increasingly impossible to live a simple nomadic life and I was eager to represent such issues in a comic. Similarly, the beautiful colours associated with the culture lent itself to visual representation. But as is often the case with research, the focus changes the more people you meet.

The comics are partly funded by Paddy Tipping, the Police and Crime Commissioner. In an article for the comic, Paddy reflects on his tenure as PCC and said: “Britain is more diverse than ever before. Nottinghamshire is a rich mixture of races, cultures, beliefs, attitudes and lifestyles. I want it to be the most welcoming county in the country, a place where people can be who they are without judgement or fear.”

He is genuinely committed to ending hate crimes of all sorts and recognises the importance of getting this message out in a way that’s befitting of the people and issues it addresses. It’s hoped that we will be able to put printed copies of the comics in public spaces – libraries, community centres, etc to trigger debate and discussion. It will also be used as a resource in schools. The comic will be available on our website by the end of the week.

Until then, the Police and Crime Commission elections are happening up and down the country on 6 May. In Nottingham the candidates are: Paddy Tipping (Labour); Caroline Henry (Conservative); David Watts (Liberal Democrat). Please take the time to research the candidates and vote. We know who we will be voting for…

Dawn of the Unread explored Nottingham’s literary history and was created to raise awareness of low literacy levels in the UK. Whatever People Say I Am is our follow-up project and challenges stereotypes. This blog was originally published on the Dawn of the Unread website here

Further reading


Twitterature: Lockdown Runner tweets

I recently retold Alan Sillitoe’s short story ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ as the ‘The Loneliness of the Lockdown Runner’ for Twitter. The purpose of this was to embed images and hyperlinks that documented the first year of lockdown and draw attention to the inherent contradictions and anxieties raised during our enforced confinement. Unfortunately, the Twitter algorithm is unable to distinguish between fact and fiction and the account has been suspended, presumably for inciting hatred or misinformation, but hopefully common sense will prevail and it will be reinstated at some point. But just in case an algorithm doesn’t have common sense, I’ve popped the Twitter timeline here (to be read left to right) as a record of my wasted venture to apply themes from Sillitoe’s short story to our current conditions.

I will be doing another version of this story as a visual essay for YouTube but this will play less homage to Sillitoe and instead focus more directly on the mental breakdown of a lockdown runner. Watch this space…

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