June 2020

Insiders/Outsiders Online Events for Refugee Week

15-21 June 2020

In partnership with the Association of Jewish Refugees and Four Corners, London

To coincide with this year’s Refugee Week, Insiders/Outsiders put on a lively programme of free online events. For those who weren’t able to attend live, recordings of all the events are now available on YouTube (links are given below).

Several of the events focussed on the British Government’s indiscriminate internment in early summer 1940 (mostly but not only on the Isle of Man) of about 30,000 so-called ‘enemy aliens’ – the vast majority of them already traumatised German- or Austrian-Jewish refugees, both men and women, who could hardly have posed any threat to national security.

Since the experience of internment features in so many refugees’ stories, which continue to resonate into the present, the 80th anniversary of this contentious and morally murky episode seemed the perfect moment to bring it – and the extraordinary creativity it gave rise to – back into the limelight.


On 15 June, Anthony Grenville, chair of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies and former editor of the AJR Journal, gave an introductory talk setting the internment episode in its historical context and taking a critical look at the ways in which it has been memorialised. In addition, Dr.Bea Lewkowicz, director of the AJR Refugee Voices Archive, talked about the launch of the AJR’s brand new ‘Refugee Internment’ microsite.

To listen to a recording of this event, click here.

Image: Linocut of Warth Mills Internment Camp, 1940 (detail) by Hellmuth Weissenborn. © The estate of Hellmuth Weissenborn and © The estate of Hubert Daniel

This was followed by a panel discussion about Warth Mills internment camp, in Bury, near Manchester. Even those who know something about the internment story are unlikely to have heard of this particular cotton mill turned transit camp, whose dark wartime history has only recently been fully explored. And there may well be other people for whom it features in their families’ stories, who will be keen to find out more. Participating in the event were Rachel Pistol, author of Internment during the Second World War: A Comparative Study of Great Britain and the USA; Richard Shaw, creator of the Warth Mills Project and Anna Nyburg, author of From Leipzig to London: The Life and Work of the Émigré Artist Hellmuth Weissenborn.

And on Wednesday 17 June, journalist and author Simon Parkin gave a talk about the research he has been conducting for his forthcoming book, The Island of Extraordinary Captives (to be published by Sceptre in 2021). The book tells, for the first time, the full story of Hutchinson (known as the ‘artists camp’) on the Isle of Man and the cast of colourful and creative characters who were interned there.

To watch a recording of this event, click here.

This was followed by tenor Norbert Meyn, director of the Music, Migration and Mobility project giving a talk/recital about What a Life!, a satirical revue devised by internees and held in Douglas on the Isle of Man in 1940. He was joined by Sue Lukes, founder of Music in Detention  and herself the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Nazism, to talk about contemporary equivalents of internment and the creative outputs of people held in UK detention centres now.

To listen to a recording of this event, click here.

Memories of Sarajevo (detail), 1993, Dobrivoje Beljkašić

Not all the events focussed on internment. On 16 June, there was a discussion prompted by the Refuge and Renewal: Migration and British Art touring exhibition. This was seen at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol between December 2019 and March 2020; its subsequent run at MoMA, Machynlleth, was curtailed due to coronavirus. The discussion was chaired by Peter Wakelin, curator of the exhibition, and also involved Monica Bohm-Duchen, founding director of the Insiders/Outsiders Festival, Peter Rossiter, grandson of German-born artist Martin Bloch, Dee Smart, daughter of Bosnian artist Dobrivoje Beljkašić, Iranian-born artist Zory Shahrokhi and Iraqi-born artist Hanaa Malallah.

To listen to a recording of this event, click here.

On 18 June, tthere was a screening of the filmed version of the Ballad of the Cosmo Café, based on the sell-out live performances held at St.Peter’s Church Hall, Belsize Park, London, last November. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the play’s director Pamela Howard and others with direct memories of this almost legendary café on the ‘Finchleystrasse’, haunt of many a refugee from Nazi Europe, namely, Marion Manheimer, whose parents ran the real life Cosmo, actor Jack Klaff and Etan Smallman, whose grandfather was manager of the café.

To watch the film, click here, and to listen to a recording of the discussion, click here.

And to accompany the exhibition Another Eye: Women Refugee Photographers in Britain after 1933 at Four Corners Gallery, London, now available in an online version, there were a number of relevant film screenings, followed by discussions. On 19 June, there was a Q&A session with Anthea Kennedy and Ian Wiblin, directors of The View from our House, inspired by the experiences of Anthea’s aunt, Berlin-born photographer Erika Koch.

To listen to a recording of this event, click here.

On 21 June, following the screening of Seeing Daylight: The Photography of Dorothy Bohm, there was a discussion with its director Richard Shaw, Dorothy Bohm’s daughter Monica Bohm-Duchen and photographer Marissa Roth.

To watch the film, click here, and to listen to a recording of the discussion, click here.

A screening of Tracking Edith, a documentary about Austrian-born, socially-committed photographer and communist spy Edith Tudor Hart, was followed on 26 June by a Q&A with its director Peter Stephan Jungk (Tudor-Hart’s great-nephew) and producer Lillian Birnbaum.

To listen to a recording of this event, click here.


These events were so well-attended and well-received that a further programme of events is now being planned for the last two weeks of July. If you’ve already subscribed to the Insiders/Outsiders newsletter, further details about these events will follow soon. If not, do sign up now.