London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Rhythms and Realities of Everyday Life

A Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Flagship Project

The Research findings - Immigration and Inclusion in the UK - were launched at the House of Commons July 2008, followed by regional events in Belfast, Kilburn and Leicester in the Autumn.

The Scotland, Ireland and Wales launch will be in Glasgow on 26 March 2009.

Media coverage includes articles in the Guardian and Telegraph and interviews on the Radio 4 Today Programme and the Islam Channel.

The full report Immigration and social cohesion in the UK is available to download free from

This project focuses on the life and migration experiences of long term residents and new arrivals living in six areas across the UK, characterised by different experiences of deprivation and affluence, cohesion and fragmentation, ethnic homogeneity and diversity.

The project is predicated on the premise that everyday realities in the UK are under pressure from the forces of individualisation, globalisation and post-industrialism. These transformations simultaneously structure the lives of established communities and new migrants and influence the ability of both to act socially. In contemporary social contexts across the UK these wider dynamics are characterised by the feminisation and flexibilization of the workforce, deregulation of markets, new migratory flows and the transformation of experiences of family, community and belonging. As Government control over these transformations changes and in some contexts falters, migration is perceived as a threat to social cohesion, which has now become a policy priority.

Social cohesion emerges, in our view, from understanding and managing social transformations as they are experienced collectively and individually at the intersection of gender, ethnicity, ‘race’, class, faith, age and sexuality.

We researched six sites with different compositions of long-term resident and new migrant populations. The research design was customised both to meet the specificities of each site and to incorporate common comparative methods in each location. At its core, the research employed qualitative methods including ethnographic observation, semi-structured interviews with statutory, voluntary and community stakeholders, and in-depth biographical interviews with community members, to investigate the rich complexity of everyday life in the following sites:

In London we investigated two sites addressing symmetrically different experiences of social cohesion in multicultural, metropolitan London, the location of more than 40 per cent of migrants living in the UK.

  • ‘Cosmopolitan’ Kilburn/Willesden - where we analysed the historical experience of migration and social cohesion in the area by exploring how this experience has the potential to resist construction of communities as irreconcilably different
  • White-English homogeneous Downham in south-east London - where we explored how the arrival of refugees and other migrants coincided with racist incidents and evaluated social interventions undertaken by public and non-governmental organisations

In Scotland we explored the interconnections between women, work and social cohesion with reference to a target group, overseas nurses working in the Scottish National Health Service and the private health sector, in a sector partly defined by labour recruitment mechanisms that potentially undermine social cohesion.

In Leicester we problematised a ‘successful’ example of management of social cohesion in which the city shifted from an initial position of discouraging Ugandan Asians from settling in the 1970s, to winning Beacon Status for their initiatives on promoting Racial Equality in 2003-04, and for Community Cohesion in 2003-04; we analysed the practices enabling such a shift by focusing on the historical experience of migration, the centrality of family migration and the ability of migrants to establish small family-based enterprises and community involvement.

In Dungannon, Northern Ireland we focused on men working in the food processing sector and the impact of this on social cohesion in a small town, investigating in the process how a long-standing ethno-national conflict and the largely binary conflict resolution model which has been applied to resolve it, helps or hinders the achievement of social cohesion encompassing new migrants.

In the Thetford region, East Anglia, we focused on migrant workers in agriculture with its attendant challenges for accommodation, health and social services; this is also a context where the effects of the impact of the pressure of price and delivery competition on local suppliers exerted by major UK supermarkets on documented and undocumented migrants and social cohesion could be observed.

Our local partner organisations include:

Al Khoei Islamic Centre, Kilburn
Soft Touch, Leicester
Complete Works Theatre Company, London

Lewisham Refugee Network
Lewisham Youth Service

New Link, Peterborough
Overseas Nurses Network, Glasgow
Sacred Heart Church and Quex Road Community Centre, Kilburn
STEP, Dungannon

The Research Team at London Metropolitan University

Professor Mary Hickman, Institute for the Study of European Transformations
Dr Nicola Mai, Institute for the Study of European Transformations
Dr Helen Crowley, Institute for the Study of European Transformations

The research was carried out in partnership with: Institute for Conflict Research, Belfast; and Dr Umut Erel, Open University




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