Letter Thirty

Dear stranger,

It is a strange thing – to write a letter to someone you don’t know. What will you be interested in reading? All I know about you is that you are a refugee – and that is the very least of who you are.
Here is something I wrote for you. It might not make much sense. Don’t worry about that.

In the temple of my body is a darkness
Shadow is a bird passing under your feet on the earth

as it flies between you and the sun


in the temple of my body is a darkness

where potential is stored away like dust

ready to bloom in shafts of light

knowing light will come


Shadow is a womb I sleep inside

my mother is there and all my family, all my friends

pressing their kisses to my eyes


I hope you get through this difficult time in your life and that you have a future of opportunity, love, security and comfort ahead of you.

Love, Andrea Mbarushimana, Artist and Community Connector, Coventry

Letter Twenty Nine

To my sister, to my brother, 


Welcome home. Let me help you carry what you have carried all this way. I am so sorry for all that you have suffered and for all that you have lost. Rest now, rest and recover, you are safe now. 


My home is your home, what hurts you, hurts me, what I pray for my children, I pray for your children – for safety, for acceptance, for love, for joy, for laughter, for meaningful work, for peace, for prosperity, for a better tomorrow.


Masuda Rahman, Birmingham, Editor 

Letter Twenty Eight

Welcome, Traveller. 

Like you my parents came from a far off country to make a new life in Britain.

They too struggled at times with being visibly different to almost everyone around them.

They spoke and behaved in a way that did not quite fit in with everyone else.

They had abuse upon abuse piled upon them but they managed to survive because they were strong.

They had compassion for their fellow man and they learnt how to make friends.

I believe you will make friends, colleagues and mates here. 

Britain has some fine people just waiting to be your friend. 

There will always be those that fear difference. Gravitate to those people without 

that fear in their eyes and you should be fine.

I repeat: Welcome. 

Bring your truth, your compassion, your industry, your art, your music, and your honesty… 

Love provides the rest.

Whoever you are  – wherever you’re from – WELCOME.

Sir Lenny Henry CBE, Actor/Writer/Broadcaster, London

Letter Twenty Five

‘You’re welcome.’

It’s an expression that trips off the tongue for many Brits. It’s a polite response when thanked for doing something; a phrase we say without thinking.

But this, ‘you’re welcome,’ is thoroughly thought through. Please accept it. Please believe it. Thanks for everything you are bringing to our communities and lives. We value it. We need it.

You are very welcome here.

Love,
Emma xx

Emma, Theatre Maker, Lancaster.

Letter Twenty Four

Dear stranger, dear friend,

You have a right to be here. Remember that. It will often feel as if you do not have that right, or as if you are not welcome.

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

I want you to know that whatever behaviour you encountered at the border, it does not reflect the people who live here. Sometimes border agents are confused about their job. They think that they exist to strike fear into hearts, and to wield power, when in fact their first job should be to welcome and to listen. If you have not been treated well, then I am sorry that you had to experience this. But remember:

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

There are people here who want to welcome you, who are curious about who you are, and who are on your side. There are people here who want to hear your story. There are people here who think that societies are richer and kinder thanks to the presence of immigrants. It may take some time to find them, maybe even years, but you will find them, I promise.

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

There are pockets of resistance everywhere. They might seem hard to find. But please know that they exist. There are people everywhere fighting for a more just society.

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

And if you have not yet met people you can call friends, find friends in old trees, who have been alive so much longer than humans, and who are wiser than we will ever be. They will remind you:

You have a right to be here, and you are welcome here.

One day, you will find something, a place maybe, or a person, and they will welcome you, and from there you will begin to build your own sense of home here. Please remember that this will happen one day. Please stay.

Welcome.

With kind wishes,

rajni.x.

(Rajni Shah, artist, Tiohtiá:ke / Montréal)

Letter Twenty Three

When my children were still at nursery, we were greeted at the door every morning by a small poster made of laminated blue paper with the word “welcome” printed in a multitude of languages. Letters reordered and decorated with accents and transformed into elegant whirls, illegible to me but reassuring to others, all meaning the same thing.

Some people rant that this is the problem with Britain today: too many languages huddled together, in the schools, in the hospitals, on the streets. The only language they want to hear is English. Please know: those people are wrong. For one thing, English itself – for good reasons and rotten – is a composite of multitudes of languages, words adapted from Latin, Greek, Old Norse, French, Persian, Arabic, Hindi, and more. But also, the multitude of languages is one of the joys of living here. A single children’s playground or train carriage can hold people from around the globe. A single sentence in English can hold together all the world.

But if what frightens those ranting people is unfamiliarity, I suppose I can understand that. On the nursery poster I would always look for the Greek word for welcome: Καλώς Ορίσατε. I liked to see it there, because Greek is the language that surrounded me as I grew up, spoken by parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who undertook their own strange (sometimes unchosen) journeys to get here. Sometimes when I’m walking around the city, I’ll overhear someone speaking in Greek and smile, not because I understand what they’re saying, but because my mind glows with images of olive groves, and roadside stalls laden with jars of amber honey, and family parties with too many people crowded into smoky rooms. Within the bustle and cacophony of the city I have caught a pulse of home, and found comfort in that.

You too might be bewildered at first, to hear so many languages, to be confronted by so much that is strange. But I hope as you settle, you’ll have these experiences yourself: of hearing in an English word an echo of something old; of hearing someone as you walk down the street speaking like family. I hope you might look into a poster with the word “welcome” printed on it, in a multitude of languages, and find one that is familiar, and know even so each word means the same thing.

Maddy Costa, London, Writer

Letter Twenty Two

Like you I wasn’t born in Britain. 

Unlike you I chose to leave my birthplace not because I didn’t love my country, but because I could. For sixty-four years I have loved both in fairly equal measure neither perfect, but both beautiful, a part of me and I, a part of them.  As I welcome you to this your new home and your new life I want to let you know that here you will find people of all sorts some you will get on with and others you won’t, many will want to know you and others might not, some may be harsh, but very many will be kind and helpful and chatty and funny and among them you will find new friends and will make new connections.  They will not replace your old ones and you will never forget your country, but these new people, this new home is a gift that will add depth and richness to your life and you will add to theirs, so welcome to Britain, our home!

Elena, Kingston Upon Thames, Researcher

Letter Twenty One

Dearest you,

 Wherever you are –

 If walking further seems too far,

and your face is cold

from passing trains

(a screech of the track,

terminal, but sweet

somehow with new refrains)

 or bleakly starched

from the hot tread of

one by one by one

across a continent

desperate to be old

but still so young

I see you,

I hear you,

I whisper to you:

We need you.

And when we know this…

(we have asked you to wait

in the no-place

too long)

we will kiss you

and know you

as us.

With all the resting hearts

of above,

me.

 

Joe Murphy, London, Writer

Letter Twenty

Welcome!

You did it! You made it here. Your arrival marks the end of journey you made in search of a better life. I hope you find it here. It might not seem like it now, but there are people here that want you to succeed. They want you to find peace, raise your family and live the life you dreamed you’d have when you made that seemingly never-ending journey. Although we might never meet, I am just one such person.

I wish you a happy, healthy life. I wish for you to feel safe, loved and protected in this country of ours. You need just ask and you will find people to help you, people who will go above and beyond. Slowly and surely you will integrate into this multicultural community. You will make friends, find a job, have a place to call your own. Give it time – it will happen.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help – we welcome you here, your presence adds to our story and makes us all better people. Rest now, the hardest part is over. You made it here. You are a survivor. You can do anything.

Vicky, Dorset, Higher Level Teaching Assistant

 

Letter Nineteen

I’m sitting by the window, in a corner of East London where many of my forbears once lived, listening to the quiet voices of Bangladeshi men in the park by my flat. The sky is a cloudless blue, and we tend to make the most of rare sun-soaked days like these. The park gets really busy, especially after school. But now it’s getting late and it’s just those men, huddled in groups, and a few teenagers playing football.

My mothers’ family came here to escape Cossack pogroms but also to seek a better life. Over a few generations they achieved some financial security and moved to the suburbs. As Eastern European Jews, they were among several different waves of immigrants to settle here: Huguenots, Irish, Bangladeshis, Somalis… All these people came, as you have come to the UK, to make new homes. Some stayed, some moved on; either way, their presence made the place they settled in richer in numerous ways. As will your presence, wherever you make your home.

Not everyone in the UK understands this. Many are scared, seeing immigration as a threat. For the most part, they’ve never lived in places like this, so we can’t really blame them. Everyone is scared of the unknown. Everyone seeks scapegoats for their disappointments. We had a kind of national trauma recently, when a vote over membership of the European Union divided us deeply, pitting those who see openness to the wider world as dangerous against those who embrace it. No-one can really see a solution. It’s a frightening time. Not everyone will welcome you. Some of them don’t even welcome people like me: they’d see this letter as a betrayal. If only they could get to know us, I think they’d probably change their views.

But don’t let those people put you off. While the powerful benefits of immigration are particularly visible here in East London, this entire country has, over centuries, been shaped by newcomers from across the globe; through conquest, through empire, through war, through trade and through membership of the EU, as well as through the current influx of those escaping war, persecution, poverty or climate change. In that sense it’s already your country. I don’t need to welcome you because you already belong. But welcome anyway.

Soon, in the same park by my flat, I’m performing with Jewish and Bangladeshi storytellers at a festival: the Boishakhi Mela. Our group is part of a local project I run to share stories, songs and food from our different cultures. “We already have plenty of Bangla stories,” the Mela organisers told us. “Tell us tales from other cultures that are here.” Immigration for us, if not for everyone, is a normal part of life and celebrating it is a normal part of culture. So I have an offer. The project doesn’t have an end date. When you feel ready, come and share a story with us. We’ll share ours with you in return.

Paul Burgess, London, Artistic Director of Daedalus Theatre Company.

 

Letter Eighteen

Different But The Same.

I am the moon.

I wander freely through the sky.

Beneath me turns the Earth.

Its waters and seas swirl.

Its land is green, or brown, or gold.

Sandstorms rage.

Volcanoes breathe.

Rice stems push through water.

Wheat stalks push through earth.

Chickens peck at dry, barren soil.

Cows graze green swards of grass.

Birds fly, like me.

Women and men go about their daily work,

in fields or small brick boxes,

wherever they are.

Children learn, or play, or pray.

They are all the same.

Getting on with it, their given life.

Here or there.

Under the sun or me, the moon.

Different but the same.

I look down in wonder.

Welcome. Come and share our tiny island under the same moon.

Gill Davies, London, Artist.

Letter Seventeen

Hi, and welcome,
I’ve seen a lot of our country today. Been driving for about nine hours from Devon (in the southwest) to Darlington (in the northeast). Not there yet. It’s the day after the Summer Solstice as I’m writing this. I’m tapping away on my phone screen as my friend Craig is guiding the van up the A1 heading north. It’s the first time today the road has been properly clear. The sun’s probably got another couple of hours left in the sky. We’re both tired, and we’ve been listening to the World Cup on the radio, interspersed with some heavy metal. We haven’t really seen anything but traffic up until now, but finally the day’s become something approaching beautiful.
Anyway. That’s my experience of our country today. I don’t know what your experience of it is today. But it’s good you’re here too.
And I can’t give you any advice about what it’s like here. I don’t really know what it’s like here anyway. I only know it from my perspective. So any advice I can give you to help you navigate through it is only true for me. And there’s a whole lot I’m not seeing.
So I’m going to talk about how today, from here, in this van, the country’s seemed pretty weird. If today was all I had to go on, I’d think it was mostly roads. Just endless roads and interchanges and people in their own boxes, barely communicating, just pushing buttons that make lights flash on the outside of the boxes, as they speed towards other bits of road and destinations it’s impossible for me to know.
It isn’t just that though. I know sometime after this journey ends there’ll be a room with other people in it. And none of us will be moving fast, at least not for a while. And we’ll sit down and talk about some stuff, and there’ll be people I haven’t met as I’m writing this. And some of them might even end up being friends, and the next time I end up on the road, I’ll have a better idea of what I’m heading to. I’ll be building up my picture of this place, one conversation at a time. It doesn’t feel like that’ll happen from where I’m sitting now. But I know it will.
Like I said, welcome. This is our country – you’ve probably not been here as long as I have. But it’s still ours. And when I say ‘ours’ I don’t mean ‘the English’ or ‘the British’. I mean you and me. I hope to meet you someday.
Love,
Chris Thorpe, Manchester, Writer

Letter Sixteen

Hello!

I’m writing this from my home city of Liverpool; if you can, come here. This is a city built on immigrants and stocked by scousers. We are a community of people with heritage from Ireland, Scandinavia, China… Even Wales! You name it. You’re welcome here. This is a home for you; if you want to live here.

I can’t imagine what you’ve left behind but all I can say is that I mean this with every breath I have. You are welcome here, in this city, in this country. There will be the occasional bell-end who will say things to you but their problem is the fact that they’re the type of person that shouts abuse at strangers. Ignore them. A few years ago there was a fascist parade scheduled to visit Liverpool. We actually drove them out of the city and locked them in the luggage storage unit at Lime St Station. They had to be escorted out by the police. This is not a city for fascists. This is a city for people like you.

There is nothing I can say that can ever understand what you’ve been through but I want to let you know that if you chose to make this city (or even this country) your home then here’s what is waiting for you:

Everything.

Liverpool is one of the greatest cities in the world. We have the most listed buildings in the UK apart from London (that means they can’t be touched because they are protected for being architecturally remarkable). We have art galleries (most of which are free). We have some of the best theatres in the world. We have two of the biggest football clubs in the world. We have one of the best music scenes in the world. We have SCOUSERS. We have the home of bongos bingo. We have Sefton Park. We have Otterspool Promenade. We have Formby beach. We have Ye Craic. We have Crosby’s Another Place. We have Lime TV. We have The Albert Dock. We have so many things that are here for YOU. Yeah YOU. This is a city waiting for YOU!

On a personal level these are the greatest people you will ever meet. They are a community. They are radical. They are the opposition to authority. They are warm. They are funny.

Only a few generations back my family took refuge in the UK. They found safety in the mining towns of Wales. I hope you find it in Liverpool. And if not; in the UK.

Welcome to your new home,

Luke, Liverpool, Playwright / Screenwriter.

Letter Fifteen

Hello,

Hope you’re all very well! I hope it hasn’t been too rough of a journey for you. It must be very hard settling to very new surroundings, I can also imagine that you have left many memories and memorable things and times behind.

It’ll for sure get better as you get used to it. We are extremely happy for you to be here and very safe and away from war, conflict or poverty. It will all be ok. I hope the future holds new exciting things to treasure and remember!

Isabelle OBrien, London, Age 12

Letter Fourteen

Hello!

Welcome sister, welcome brother. I’d be delighted to meet you if I had the opportunity, my children would too. Children don’t see race, colour or religion, they just see a smile and a willingness to play. That language is universal, some adults could learn a lot from our children.

I welcome you with open arms and a warm hug, I’d like to offer you a comfortable seat and a nice hot cup of tea. I’d like to listen if you want to talk, or you could just sit a while and gather your strength because despite how far you’ve already come, I am sure your journey has just begun.

I want you to know how incredibly brave and strong you are, I admire you for your courage and determination. I would do anything it took to protect and care for my children. However, having had the privilege of being born here in the UK, I’ve never had to test how brave and strong I am in the way you have.

My life has been enriched immeasurably by the people that have come to this country either seeking refuge or looking for work and I’m so very grateful for that.
Sadly, not everyone will be as welcoming as we would like, they have their own problems and insecurities and might sometimes find it hard to be kind. Try to ignore them; walk on by and look for the kind smiling faces, there are many of us out here waiting to welcome you to this place we call home and it’s now your home too.

Welcome xxx

Nancy Evans, West Sussex, Home Educating Mum.

Letter Thirteen

Welcome welcome!

To the land of green parks with ducks to be fed and strong metal safety-checked swings that you can trust.

Welcome welcome!

To the schools where your younger children will find creativity, colourful plastic, abundant stationery, learning through play, and free hot meals… but your teenagers will be perplexed by rudeness. They’ll be known as “EAL” which means they have the gift of more than one language. Keep them proud of their home tongue and culture, explain to school properly how to pronounce their names, their teachers can learn.

Welcome welcome!

To charity shops, Poundland, Iceland and Lidl… there are markets too but we seldom negotiate over price and the cucumbers are mysteriously straight. You’ll find dates, spice and lentils in the ‘world food’ aisle; rice near the pasta.

Welcome welcome !

To the land of drinkable tap water. Perhaps you’ll remind us to appreciate this.

Welcome welcome!

To libraries where you can chat, learn nursery rhymes and use computers… and the wifi is free. Please make them your home from home… far from home. Your daughters will meet Jacqueline Wilson and your sons, dinosaurs and trains (though we feel strongly that girls can like them too). They’ll love Handa’s Surprise and Tom Gates and Allan Ahlberg.
Welcome welcome!
To the land of mysterious signs where gaps must be minded, pigeons must not be fed, dogs must be ‘picked up after’ and where “produce a specimen sample” means “wee in the pot”. Perhaps you’ll help us to talk to one another clearly.

Welcome welcome!

To the land where people seem to love animals and go shopping for dog food, pay to insure them and even buy coats for them… but yell at their children at bus stops or rush tiny babies off to nurseries. Where elderly donkeys have pastures to trot happily but elderly neighbours are forgotten. Perhaps you can remind us of gentle care and cherishing for our old and young.

Welcome. You’ll find much here to love and much to mourn. May you find peace.

Rosie Edser, London, Primary School Teacher

Letter Twelve

I have no way of knowing who you are, whether we would ever have anything to talk about or any subjects in common, except that we weren’t born in Britain.

What I do know is that our cities, though they are filled with people, can be some of the loneliest places when you know no-one.

But I’m here for you. Or at least, this letter is.

When I first moved here, the buildings dwarfed me; the streets seemed impossibly busy, always filled with people rushing to get somewhere, anywhere.

And now you’re here too.

My advice is: look up. The best bits of those infinitely tall buildings are above street level. And the clouds – we’re good at clouds over here – that twist themselves into shapes like dragons and rabbits and balls of fluff. And when you can see them, the stars that show you the vastness of the sky. Maybe they’re not the same stars as you saw where you’ve come from, or on your journey, but they are worth a look. They always make me feel less alone.

Welcome to this country. Maybe its not home in the same way as you are used to, but it can be home. You and everything you bring with you: your stories and memories, your lifetime of experiences we can’t even imagine, your smiles that have seen sunrise in distant lands.

Welcome, please come in. Please stay.

Jess, London, Theatre Technician and Writer

Letter Eleven

Welcome. Two syllables, stretching out like embracing arms. Well, come – come into this country, this nation, this little slab of rock that owes more than it likes to admit to you and to others who came before you.

Welcome. An easy enough word to say, but one that seems to stick in the throats of politicians and tabloid columnists. They would like you to believe that you are not welcome, that the people of this country are as hostile as its famous rain. But the weather isn’t as bad as people make out, and the people of this country contain more compassion and complexity than newspaper editors will tell you.

Welcome. From the Old English wilcuma: a combination of the word for pleasure and the word for guest. It’s a pleasure to open our doors to you, and I hope that people treat you as they would a guest, with care and kindness and consideration.

Welcome. I mean it. I don’t know who you are, but that doesn’t matter. A true welcome is a welcome that extends to strangers as well as to friends. A true welcome extends to all who need refuge.

Welcome. Sit down. Have a cuppa. Here, cups of tea soothe griefs, warm hands and build friendships. I’ll put the kettle on.

Welcome. You are welcome, though it may not always feel like it. I – we – welcome you.

Welcome.

Catherine Love, York, Writer and Academic

Letter Ten

Welcome.

How are you? I hope this letter finds you safe.

We don’t know each other but I imagine you are probably nervous and worried and homesick and lost and confused as you face a new future. I imagine you have left all you know behind and I celebrate your bravery and courage for this. I imagine what it must be like to move away from family and friends and the things you hold dear but I know I will never really understand what you have been through.

I am happy you are here. Happy that you are safe, and happy that the UK is your new home. Happy that we can perhaps exchange and share stories, hopes, fears, jokes and dreams – one day. Happy to think you may feel a little comfort knowing that the UK welcomes you with open arms, flung wide and that those who appear not to are more afraid than you. They can change as I know you have had to do.

The UK is an interesting place, it offers you safety and a future and opportunities and fun and hope and kindness and strange food like Marmite and Irn Bru and Haggis. Enjoy getting to know the UK as we get to know you. Remember we need you as much as you need us.

Keep safe. Keep strong.

Warmest and kindest regards,

Shona Reppe, Edinburgh, Children’s Theatre Maker/Designer

Letter Nine

Dear friend,

Welcome. You are so, so welcome. I can’t begin to imagine what you’ve been through to get here.

Your courage, bravery, strength and determination is humbling and inspiring.
I imagine it’s going to take a while for this country to feel like home, but in time, it will.

We’re lucky to to have you. So while it might feel scary and weird and lonely and isolating and hard right now, there are people here to welcome you, to make you tea, to smile at you, to point you in the right direction, until you feel safe.

Sending love and light and hope as you begin your adventure here.

Kate, London, Director

Letter Eight

Welcome home.

I see you have brought gifts.

That story in your pocket? Is it one I know? Of the wise woman who solved the universe? I think I knew her once – she became increasingly convinced that everything is connected with everything else. Last I heard she got on a boat or plane or train, and set off from this land with only a knapsack of hope.

Welcome home.

I see you.

And isn’t it marvelous to consider the possibility, in the quiet and relief of standing on solid ground, that we might draw to ourselves the kind of gifted people who are most needed in this our hour of greatest need?

Welcome home.

I, you.

So glad you made it. We made it, to this moment. We didn’t know who to expect, only that whoever arrived would bring with them hope.

And now you’re here. So thank you, welcome home.

Kathryn Beaumont, Gateshead, Actress & Mental Health Worker

Letter Seven

Thank God you’re here. We’re not getting on so well here at the moment and you can only improve matters.

Thank God you’re here. You must have had a hell of a journey.

Thank God you’re here. Every skill you bring, we can use.

Thank God you’re here. Every idea you have will find a home.

Thank God you’re here. We need you in our schools, our hospitals, our universities, our engineering institutes, our cafes, our fields, our homes.

Thank God you’re here. You improve the standard of the food.

Thank God you’re here. Let me give you this umbrella. You’re going to need it.

Thank God you’re here, and I don’t actually believe in God, but whether or not you do, and whichever God it is, I’m glad you’re here.

Whatever God means to you, whether a Force, or a man in the sky, or the power of love, or the invisible thread that connects us all, whatever God means to you, thank God you’re here.

I heard a good question about the reality of God: real like the daisies or real like I love you? As in, what is it to be real anyway? I don’t personally think God is real like the daisies. But I love you is real, so maybe that’s god. I love you. I’m glad you’re here. Thank god you made it. We need you right now.

Daniel Bye, Lancaster, Writer & Theatre Maker

Letter Six

Hi. I’m writing you a letter from your future. I’m your daughter, or maybe your granddaughter.

I mean of course I’m not. Obviously I’m not. But my family had a very dangerous journey to my birth country and was initially detained – not accepted at the border. I have known many families like yours, and I want to talk about way down the line – years, even decades from now.

In addition to all of the loneliness, bureaucratic terror, lack of space, and everything else, some of your best friends are waiting for you here. I promise. You will see your children learn to love it here, and that will be complicated but also amazing. This language is grammatically spare and flexible – it has always been spoken as an additional language, it is structurally welcoming even if sometimes the people who speak it are not. This place doesn’t always show its beauty easily, but it is very beautiful – my mum told me before I emigrated here that I would see shades of green here that you can’t see anywhere else. And that’s true. Sometimes, looking at rooftops and gutters, you will see greens so vibrant you have to blink.

(Because it rains too much).

But maybe that’s another way this island is welcoming – the air is soft, it’s easy on the skin, it’s almost as much water as we are.

There’s love here waiting for you.

There are people here waiting for you.

We don’t know it yet but I promise we are.

Everything heals with time. It takes time to build a home. I hope you’re one of those wonderfully skilled people who can feel at home in a place almost immediately, but if you’re not, I can still assure you that with enough time, home is waiting for you here.

The skies are like pearl here. The most ordinary light is like pearl.

There’s a quiet agreement between the greys, greens, and rusts of the landscape.

Like all countries, we’ve got more dickheads than we need, but like all countries, most of us are all right.

Eve Leigh, Folkestone, Playwright and Theatre Maker

Letter Five

If you’re reading this or indeed hearing this. Let me start with the simple thing. Hi. Hello. Welcome to our country. And I mean ours. We share this land together now. We might not have walked on the same land, we might not have walked on the same journey. But our feet now share the same soil and breath the same air. (Watch out for that if you’re in London).
Sometimes it might seem like that’s all we have in common, but let me assure you if you find yourself in a forest of wilderness, hatred and fear. You won’t be too far away from a friendly smile, a sympathetic ear or a cup of tea. A friend.
Some people might scare you.
Some journalists might make you feel unwanted.
Some politicians might seem like they hate you.
But remember that these people are individuals, they have their own fears, their own loves, their own problems. That these people also scare lots of other individuals who were born here. Who have lived here their whole life. Individual humans are not always the nicest people, but we are also capable of great love and great compassion. Never forget that. So don’t worry, for every bigot, there are two friends near.
The United Kingdom is a community. Our community. We have over 200 nationalities residing on our shores. From all over the world. From every continent. I believe that’s something to boast about, and I believe others do, too. For diversity truly makes us richer. If everyone was the same how boring would it be? So my friend, it’s OUR country. Welcome. Thank you for making it a more interesting place to live with your stories and your experiences. Thank you for understanding that we all aren’t perfect here but some of us really try to be better people. I wish you the best and hope you find more of us better people to call your friends.

*Last note* reality television programmes like Love Island are a thing in Britain. Best to get involved so you can nod at people when they talk about it. Even if, like me, it confuses your brain. Try not to judge us too harshly.

Peace and love
Chris Sonnex, London, Director

Letter Four

Dear sister, dear brother –

The Queen says hello.
Mo Farah says hi.
Adele says wotcha.
Harry Potter says accio you.
Mr Bean bows to you so deeply he falls over.
A red bus driver says welcome aboard.
A black cab driver asks where you want to go.
Tower Bridge opens its bascules.
The Angel of the North opens her arms.
The Beatles want to hold your hand.
Lord Kitchener sings London is the Place for Me.
Mary Seacole wants to know about your wellbeing.
Millicent Fawcett says you must be listened to.
David Bowie says it’s okay to be different.
Victoria Wood says it’s good to be delighted.
Eric Morecambe says it’s great to be daft.
Tommy Cooper says it’s okay to be wrong.
Mrs Brown and Graham Norton and Fred from First Dates say it’s okay to have come from nearby.
Kylie Minogue and Meghan Markle and Doctor Who say it’s okay to have come from far away.
And our patron saint of immigrants, an orphan,
our beloved visitor who has walked this path before you,
lays out a marmalade sandwich for you,
wraps you in a duffle coat,
and says everything is going to be okay.
You’re safe.

Tom Wateracre, London, Writer

Letter Three

I know that we haven’t met but I’m writing to tell you that I’m glad you’re here! Welcome to the UK. I imagine that your journey here hasn’t been an easy one and I hope that it’s getting better all of the time. There are a lot of others like me who are so happy to see you here and who are eager to bring you into their communities.

Some things to tell you about the UK. The weather I apologise for, it’s not so good and we as a nation like to comment on it a lot, whether it’s hot or cold, good or bad. We’re pretty into football, even though our national team isn’t so flash right now. And we have some crazy tv programmes like Love Island that you might want to give a miss- or that you might find quite funny! But the main thing to say is that, even though we haven’t met, I know that there is probably a great deal that you and I share in common. And that you will share in common with most people here. And everything that you bring that is different is only a good thing for us, that’s what makes the UK exciting, that we are a collection of countries and communities and eccentricities.

About 100 years ago my great grandparents came to the UK from countries like Belarus, Russia and Poland escaping persecution and poverty. I know sometimes it was hard for them but they were able to make a new life here. I want that to be the same for you. The UK has a tradition of welcoming people from different countries and now you are part of that.

I hope we’ll meet some day soon and I’m sending you my love.

Lots of love,

Sharon xxxx

Sharon Kanolik, London, Head of Learning and Participation

Letter Two

Welcome.

You must have had a hell of a journey to get here. I hope you are okay.

You are welcome. We’re not having the best of time here at the moment. We are not currently the best versions of ourselves. But I have hope for the future. You are welcome.

I hope you feel safe if not now then soon.

It is a good island. It rains a little too much but apart from that it is a good island. Most people are good people. They will welcome you I hope. Most will welcome you I know.

I was trying to think of something useful I could say. I like to be useful. And I’ve decided it’s this. Every bit of this land is for you to engage with. The libraries: they are yours to use, to go into and find what you need. The theatres, the galleries, the museums: don’t be put off by any sense of snootiness – they are yours as much they are mine, as much as they are the next man’s. Take advantage of them. They will have people in them who will seize you by the shoulders in greeting. Be brave and cross the threshold. You will be welcome. They’ve promised.

The best of luck with every thing. I hope it goes as well as it can. The thing I love most about this island is that with each new person who has ever climbed out of the sea, or stepped off a boat or a plane exhausted and hopeful, the place has got a tiny bit stronger, a tiny bit better, a tiny bit more interesting. So thank you. Thanks for coming.

Alan Lane, Leeds, Theatre Director.

Letter One

I don’t know who you are. You exist in the lies we are told and the truth we try to find: you are not human; you are a plague; our borders are closed.

Your name has been replaced with a measure of your worth.

But you are welcome here. I welcome you. Land of hope and inglory. We are nothing but the sum of our foreign parts.

You are welcome. The way you talk and the way you dress. The food you eat and the music you play. Without you I wouldn’t be buying polish bread every week. Without you I would have had no one to deliver either of my babies. Without you I would be speaking to myself when I go to my local post office. Without you I would never have eaten borek, or schwarma, or jerk chicken, or dahl or humous or plantain. Without you our schools would be empty. Without you I would have had a lot less hugs. Without you I would never have attempted Afghan dancing. Without you I would not understand my fortune in being born where I was born. Without you I would not understand my privilege in never having had to load my children into a boat. Without you I would not understand the luck of the draw.

You are my grandfather and my neighbour. My childminder and my doctor. My father in law and so my children. You are the promise of generations from the past and those to come.

Without you Britain would taste less sweet, less salty. It would be less colourful, less interesting. You are welcome. With whatever you bring. Our politicians only see that you have nothing. We see that you give us everything.

Welcome.

Lily Einhorn, London, Community Arts Practitioner.