Sunday, 8 January 2012

From the archive - People Like Us



People Like Us - The Irish Community in Birmingham was a booklet of interviews by George Makin with photographs by Phil Lea published in 1997 by the Libraries and Learning Division of Birmingham City Council.

The booklet and the exhibition of photographs that it accompanied were the result of a commission which arose from a desire to produce a visual and written record of life in the Irish community in Birmingham at the time.

The photographs and interviews are still housed in the Local Studies department of Birmingham Central Library where they form part of a permanent record of contemporary Birmingham.

The interviews in the booklet included the following local people:

Paul Murphy - poet, novelist, singer / songwriter, educationalist and video maker

Brenda Fleming - outreach worker at the Irish Welfare and Information Centre

Rory Flemming - health promotion worker

Maggie Roche - Sales manager and Rose of Tralee 1995

Dennis Hennessy - painter and computer artist

Deirdre Dunne - headteacher of St Anne's Primary School

Des Bromley - Trade unionist, employment rights adviser and tribunal advocate

Caroline Kerlin - M.A. student

Gearoid Mac An Mhaoir & Denise Ni Loinsigh - teachers of the Irish language

Tony Gorman - philosophy lecturer

This was a great snapshot of the Irish community in 1997 which recorded the optimism and self reflection going on within the community at that time. The interviews were well written by George Makin who widened the exploration beyond the traditional stereotype that the lives and activities of Irish immigrants in Britain were restricted to road building, attending Mass, then heading for the nearest pub.

The interviews explored many contemporary issues such as education, identity, politics, language, disadvantage, art, sexuality, mental health and even philosophy.

ISBN 0-7093 0221-5

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