Happy Valley is a response to the recent turmoil seen in British politics following the EU referendum. The work questions the nostalgic motivations and values that lead to the Leave vote in June 2016 and it presents a collection of found vintage photographs and new portraits from Essex, a county where none of its 14 districts voted to remain in the European Union.
A collaborative work with Isabelle Dupont.
“I think it’s going to be a disaster. It’s going to impact on the recruitment of the NHS, the open borders, free movement, being able to travel to study for students, research. It is going completely backwards whereas we should be going forward and we need a global approach. So I don’t really believe in everyone putting up their boundaries and stopping free movement up. And I just think that what was driving the majority was about race, and people were misinformed. The decision that people made was based on misinformation, and there was not enough for people to make the right decision. It hasn’t been thought through, the many thousands of things it will impact, for all sorts of industries and people. I value being European. I find it ridiculous that Europeans will now not have the right to be here. It’s a ridiculous thing the think about.”
“I don’t have the same views. I voted Brexit because I hope Britain will dig deep and be a bit more creative. Hopefully people will invest more into small businesses, and develop our manufacturing industry again and we’ll need to be more worldly looking.
The issue with the Referendum was that there were only 2 answers, in or out of Europe. I do believe in open borders but I don’t believe in the European commission. There was not enough flexibility in the vote unfortunately. Not everyone who voted Brexit have racist views.”
“I think it’s an ill-conceived political gamble. Clearly the government were so confident they were going to win, they put it to a public vote far too quickly. The campaign was all about disinformation, on ridiculous things like closure of borders and about turning the clock back. It’s never going to happen. Whether Brexit turns out to be a good or bad thing, time will tell. Britain is the third largest economy in Europe and we are still important trading partners.“
“I think the problem is that we haven’t got a plan. It could be good, it could be bad, but I am more of the opinion that it could be bad, especially because the European Union does not have any real incentive to give us a good deal.”
“We voted remain, but Brexit might do us good, changes are always good. We didn’t like the idea that people would not be allowed to come to the UK. Some things will be good and some won’t. I don’t travel but I would like the idea of it being easy if I did want to go.”
“I think Brexit is good. We are an island and we should be on our own. We’ve always done well on our own. Go for it again. My wife is German, has dual nationality and shares my opinion. I hope it changes something but you never know as I honestly think that with these politicians they promise you the world and as soon as they get elected, it goes the other way and they do nothing. There’s no one that I can see in this country that will stand up to their words and do what they say they are going to do.”
“I voted to leave as I thought it was not fair to have people keep coming in from wherever they come and we were not prepared for the housing .The National health is about to crash so it didn’t seem fair to the people who were already here and already struggling, and to have more people coming in without some kind of restrictions. They needed to have sorted that out first, and certainly not to send the people who are already here away, that didn’t seem fair at all, and I was totally unaware of that. And I thought I had listened enough to the TV programs to have made a wise choice. I’ve lived abroad, 8 year I’ve lived abroad, so we were in the same position, and we weren’t allowed into the country unless the job there could not be done by the locals. So there were restrictions in every country. I think ours has become a little bit lax for whatever reason, I don’t know.”
“My first thought was, oh no they’ll change the flag, but then I thought it’s just such a small island, there’s no room, they’ve let too many in now, there’s no room for more.”
“ I think it’s going to be a complete disaster for the Brits and a big loss for Europe. I really hope it’s not going to happen, for their own economy and their own survival. The UK was a leader in Europe.”
“They should promote diversity, it’s super important. Everyone should be working together for a unified Europe, but to just turn around, and shut the door saying we want to be back to where we were before the union, I think we’ll miss out on things that can make the country a better place. We are both foreigners, and I love living in London for its diversity. I think the votes were misinformed. At the time of the referendum, I was working outside of London and the reasons I heard for the people voting to leave were not informed on the reality of the situation, I don’t think Britain will lose their identity, and I think immigrants have a certain personality trait that is good and healthy and it should be promoted.”
“I voted to stay and I feel very sad. I feel bereft, I feel grief, like we’ve lost somebody, like something is dead and I feel scared. The last general election’s results showed a grand swirl, people actually realised this was not what we were told was going to happen and we don’t like this idea of strong and stable leadership. They were just repeating the same phrase over and over again without any substances or any idea of what they were doing. People are terrified that we are being lead by a very unprofessional government.”
“My feeling is that Brexit has caused people to look for the differences between them rather than the similarities. I didn’t see a coming together of people and I feel I want to have the choice about how things work in my country. My wife is French, volunteers in schools and contributes to our community, and she might not have the right to stay, and that just seems so wrong. In fact the freedom of movement, the ability to come in and work if you have the right skills and do that easily, that is a tremendous advantage for this country. I just feel very concerned that we have thrown that away. The one thing that I am grateful for is that my children have dual nationalities. They have French and British nationalities, so they have a choice. I don’t have that choice. There is a possibility, however remote that might be, that I am in this country and my wife will be forced to leave. I genuinely believe it is unlikely to happen but it’s that nagging feeling, a bit like being with a partner and everyday, you’re wondering if they are going to leave.”