Departures Exhibition at Migration Museum

Arts & Culture

Departures: A new immersive exhibition explores 400 years of emigration from Britain

11:00 am - 5:00 pm | 30 October 2020
Migration Museum | Free

Departures is a new immersive exhibition by the Migration Museum opening on 30 October 2020, exploring 400 years of emigration from Britain from the Mayflower to the present day through personal narratives, contemporary art and a range of media.

British emigration has been one of the largest movements of people in modern history. Tens of millions of people have left the British Isles over the past 400 years. Today, some 75 million people across the world self-identify as having British ancestry, greater than the population of the UK itself.

But while immigration dominates debates, Britain’s emigration story is often overlooked. Why is this?

  • Who are the many millions who have departed these shores and why did they go?
  • Can exploring their motivations help us better understand the motivations of people who arrive?
  • What impact has this mass movement had on the world – and on Britain?


Photo of Adjoa-Manu from ‘Repats’ a project by Hannah Ajala © Junior Dwaah

Departures puts this lesser-explored story at centre stage. Visitors will embark on an immersive journey starting in a ‘Departures Lounge’ featuring guidebooks for emigrants and an animated timeline, proceeding through ‘Passport Control’ to a series of themed ‘Departure Gates’ exploring reasons and motivations for leaving, finishing in an interactive ‘Baggage Reclaim’ hall in which visitors are invited to share their thoughts on the complex legacies of British emigration.

The exhibition features dozens of emigration stories spanning four centuries – from Mayflower Pilgrims to Windrush deportees, Cornish and Welsh emigrants to South America to ‘Ten P0und Poms’, Black Londoners resettled in Sierra Leone in the 1780s to Black Britons who have recently moved ‘back’ to their parents’ countries of birth across West Africa.


  • An animated timeline exploring 400 years of British emigration by Bafta-nominated director Osbert Parker
  • Responses to the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage by a range of voices including Sarah Sense, an artist of mixed Native American and European heritage; and historian Rebecca Fraser
  • The Disowned Briton, a textile tapestry by artist Rachelle Romeo, whose father was forced to prove his British nationality for 12 years as part of the Windrush Scandal
  • The story of the ‘Dunera boys’, Jewish refugees who had sought refuge in Britain wrongfully deported to Australia during WWII, told by TV presenter Nick Ross, whose father was one of the deportees
  • Greetings from Europe – postcards from Britons living across the EU as they face up to Brexit
  • Repats – stories of Black Britons who have moved ‘back’ to their parents’ countries of birth across West Africa by Hannah Ajala

“It is impossible to quantify the huge impact that British emigration has had – both on Britain and the wider world. Yet we rarely talk about emigration in Britain, and when we do, we do so in a way which is largely detached from broader debates around migration – and often using very different language,” says Aditi Anand, head of creative content at the Migration Museum and curator of the exhibition.

“We cannot begin to understand immigration, or contemporary Britain and its relationship with the world, without understanding Britain’s emigration story. Departures places this story at the centre of conversations around migration and identity, inviting us to reflect on the reasons why people have left these shores over the past 400 years and how these are often similar to the reasons why people arrive.”


Photo of Morris from ‘Repats’ a project by Hannah Ajala © Junior-Dwaah


Artists: Becky-Dee Trevenen, Cat Santos, Dawn Parsonage, Ed Hall, Emma Bingham, Kate Anderson, Louise Daneels, Meryl McMaster, Osbert Parker, Rachelle Romeo, Sarah Sense, Sue McAlpine.

Contributors: Alan Taylor, Avril Loveless, Barry York, Carole and Norman, Carol Feldman, Clare Jethwa, Deborah Briers, Elwaldo Romeo, Hannah Ajala, James Evans, Jenny Mallin, Josh and Laura Thompson, Leslie Trotter, Lila Tognetti, Lucy Taylor, Michaela Benson, Nick Ross, Nico Yennaris, Rebecca Fraser, Sasha Perera, William Jervois

Filmmakers: Chocolate Films, Mark McEvoy, Tim Smith

Curators: Aditi Anand, Sue McAlpine. Curatorial Assistant Debbie Meniru

Opening Hours and Admission

Departures opens to the public at the Migration Museum on Friday 30 October 2020 at 11am. It runs until June 2021.

Admission is free and advance booking is not required – although, in line with Covid-secure guidelines, the Migration Museum may need to restrict the number of visitors in the exhibition at any time. For more information on the measures that the Migration Museum is taking to keep visitors, volunteers and staff safe, visit:

For directions and visitor information, please click here

Contact details for visitors and general enquiries: 020 3488 4508 Email:

About the Migration Museum

The Migration Museum explores how the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped who we are – as individuals, as communities, and as a nation. Migration is a pressing contemporary issue and is at the centre of polarised political and online debate. But there’s an underlying story of comings and goings stretching back many centuries. And this story goes to the heart of who we are today. Britain has thousands of museums, but none comprehensively focused on this important theme that connects us all. The time is right for a highly relevant, accessible visitor attraction that shines a light on who we are, where we come from and where we are going. From our current home in the heart of Lewisham Shopping Centre, we stage engaging, interactive exhibitions and dynamic events, alongside a far-reaching education programme for primary, secondary, university and adult learners. Our museum is reopening to the public on 23 October 2020. We also have a growing digital presence, and launched our first major digital exhibition, Heart of the Nation: Migration and the Making of the NHS, on 5 October 2020.

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