Against the backdrop of the UK’s exit from the European Union, Leena Normington calls for a long-overdue change to our education system with her Creators for Change video GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM.
Leena’s video essay begins how any good piece of media that wants to spread recognition of the need for change does: with a collection of voices. In this case, it’s people talking about their experience of being British and what it means to them.
The film is then split into three parts – The End Is Nigh, Ooops We Did It, and How Did It Happen – blending poetry, mixed media, and talking heads along the way, crafting a creative and powerful message.
In the first part we see newsreel clips on the UK’s EU membership referendum in June 2016, including footage of Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP at the time, saying, “The sun has risen on an independent United Kingdom”. This cuts to Leena writing in a journal, while reciting a short poem about patriotism, opposing opinions on immigration, and the perpetuation of such ideas by some MPs.
Touching on the current global political climate – from white nationalists marching in the US to acid attacks in London, and the apparent ineffectiveness of the UK government in negotiating Brexit – she asserts, “But we just have to keep calm and carry on, right? Right?
“Even though Britain is a name we give to some land, it’s also a real place, right? It’ll always be here, it’s just a fact of life. Or, is it scarily similar to J.M. Barrie’s Neverland? If we don’t believe in it, will it cease to exist?”
The second part is about the concept of birthright. To Leena, it’s an archaic idea yet one that is often brought up, especially when it comes to talking about immigration. “Birthright is not a concept we now run a modern civilisation on,” Leena refutes. “That is not the principles of Britain, hence parliament, hence democracy.”
For her, birthright is a concept that encourages hate. However, she points out that most white liberals struggle to challenge it effectively. “I often think the reason that we don’t react to problems is because we don’t think they’re very close. That perceived distance means that we feel either unqualified to interact with it or we don’t feel it’ll be a threat to us, and neither is true is it? It just keeps getting closer and closer to us.”
The third part includes a potted history of the British Empire, as well as an insightful look at education in Germany. Revealing she went to school with someone who has gone on to join one of the biggest alt-right movements in the UK, Leena seeks to find out how people brought up in a similar circumstances and environments can end up with such strongly opposing views. Her conclusion: the lack of education about the British Empire on the curriculum.
“Not putting the British Empire on the curriculum as a mandatory thing… is setting white British kids back,” she says, “because at the end of the day, if everybody else is more schooled on your history than you are, I’d say that’s a breeding ground for ignorance, shame, and resentment. Don’t you?”
And Leena has some ideas on how to move forward. Firstly, she’s launched a petition to get the British Empire on the curriculum, which she urges us to sign. Secondly, she has some suggested reading: The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla, Black and British by David Olusoga, and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Finally, she puts a call out for contributors to her upcoming zine Britishness, which she plans to send to every MP in the country with the help of YouTube’s Creators for Change.
This passionate and thought-provoking film is a striking battle cry that rallies us to get involved. “This is a call to consider more than what we know we don’t know,” states Leena. “This is incomplete… I can’t re-steer Britishness on my own.”
If you’re looking for more from Creators for Change, Sam Saffold-Geri recently put out his short film A Welcoming Place. Alternatively, take a look at some of the incredible winners of this year’s Buffer Festival Awards.