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Refuge Britain: Stories of Émigré Designers

15 May 2019



Refuge Britain is a 45 minute documentary film made by Anna Nyburg and Robert Sternberg, which will be screened alongside a Q&A. Framed by the life of a recent refugee from Pakistan, the film uses archive footage and conversations with the descendants of three Jewish émigré designers, Hans Schleger, Elizabeth Tomalin and Tibor Reich to explore the impact of refugee designers on the cultural life of Britain from the late 1930s until the 1970s.

The film includes interviews with the grandson (Thomas Heatherwick) of a refugee textile designer whose archive is held at The M&S archive in Leeds. A second refugee textile designer, Tibor Reich, whose grandson is interviewed in the film studied at the progressive textile department of Leeds University, where he came to from anti-semitic Vienna in the 1930s. The third refugee from Nazism is the famous graphic designer Hans Schleger. Finally, the film includes material on a contemporary refugee to Britain, who is also a textile artist and designer.

Anna Nyburg is an Honorary Lecturer at Imperial College London where she taught German, French and Italian. The subject of her PhD in Exile Studies was refugee art publishers in Britain and a book 'Emigres: The Transformation of Art Publishing in Britain' was published by Phaidon in 2016.  Robert Sternberg is a documentary film director and editor (see, most recently, The Fear of Thirteen) and Senior Lecturer in filmmaking at Imperial College London's Science Communication Unit.

Refuge Britain has been shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London,  The Jewish Museum in Camden and the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey and in September 2018 will be screened at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest.

Book your free place here.

Report of Tibor Reich’s first major export of textiles from Britain to the Americas just after the war. Still from Refuge Britain.

Elizabeth Tomalin as she was in Dresden in 1930 before fleeing Germany for Britain. Still from Refuge Britain.

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