One Day Without Us – an interview with Laura Stringhetti

Steve Eason spoke to Laura Stringhetti from the One Day Without Us campaign about the migrant solidarity day of action on 20 February

The London China Town community plan to take part in the day with a lion parade (Photo: Steve Eason)

The London China Town community plan to take part in the day with a lion parade (Photo: Steve Eason)

What is your campaign about and where did you get the idea from?

Our campaign is called One Day Without Us. It was created after the Tory conference, as a reaction against the xenophobia that came out from the speeches by Theresa May.

The idea came from a strike that happened in Italy in 2010 – a migrant strike. I met one of the organisers and spoke to them about what happened there. But the context is different: they’ve got different strike laws (in Italy) it might be illegal in the UK, so we couldn’t really have a strike…especially with migrant workers, that means they’d be in danger of losing their job.

So what we decided to do, was create a day where people would take a day off, we decided on a day of action. Of course we don’t endorse anything: we don’t criticise anything. We don’t judge people, we’re talking about different communities, who see different things, so we can’t come as a group and say: we want you to speak this language: they’re free to do as they want.

We’ve a whole range of people and we’re okay with that because that’s what we want it to be. The day should be to empower migrants. People who are afraid to come out at the moment because they feel they’re under attack. If they come out and attend a candlelit vigil or sing songs that’s fine, anything they feel comfortable with: it’s not up to us to decide.

Some people are very political some are not, but we want people who have never taken part in a political event before: and they’re coming, that’s very positive!

What do think will happen on the day?

What happens on the day is still under construction, we’ve got events coming in every hour. Things we didn’t know about. What we did initially is to organise a network of co-ordinators and each co-ordinator worked with migrant organisations, Hope Not Hate or others to call a rallying event or demo.

But we also get lots of events from people who are not part of the network – they keep coming in! Things like a bookshop organising a concert, museums with an exhibition – it’s great. I like the connection with the arts because music, the arts are universal. No matter what Theresa May says we can’t have a border between musicians and artists. We are listing every event on our website – just contact us.

How have you been campaigning for the day and what sort of response have you had?

Well in the begging it all happened on Facebook: Matt Carr, writer and journalist, launched a campaign on a Facebook group about organising something for migrants and had an amazing response. I wrote to him and said: can I get involved because I’ve been campaigning, if you want help.

But it lost momentum. In the beginning we had lots of media coverage, but quickly they lost interest. Now it’s picked up again; we’re getting well beyond expectation. I did not expect so many events, so many people taking part: so many people we didn’t even contact. Museums, arts galleries – where did they come from…? We got a CD out, 24 musicians donated a track each.

How can people help out and how can they join in?

On the website we are listing every single event, in every part of the country: have a look, it’s 20 February, and see what’s happening nearby and take part. They can also start their own event, it doesn’t take a lot to start an event. If you want to start an event just contact us on the website and we’ll promote it on social media.

What sort of solidarity have you had from political groups, parties, and the unions?

Groups involved so far have been Migrants Organised, Migrant Network Rights, War On Want, Hope Note Hate, and others including Right To Remain.

But what about political parties?

Well, we haven’t asked anybody for support, so far. We have support from the Green Party and Left Unity – but we didn’t ask them: they just gave their support. Because in the beginning we want to be away from party politics. They gave it to us, we didn’t ask.

And the next step, after 20th February?

I think partly, we achieved all that we wanted to achieve, because we’ve empowered some people already. Some people work with migrants, but were not connected nationally and now they’re part of a network.

So you’re creating a network?

We’re creating a network yes, and also a start of something else. It was the beginning of a single event campaign – and we didn’t know if it would happen, but it could be an annual event, we’ll see how it goes.

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