99 Immigrants Who Made Britain Great
By Canbury Press
From Handel to Mo Farah, let’s celebrate the immigrants who have shaped modern Britain
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We want to counter criticism of immigrants and celebrate the achievements of 99 inspirational characters who made a new life in Britain. People like Henry VIII’s painter, Hans Holbein, the Olympic athlete Mo Farah, Queen's Freddie Mercury, and the children’s author Judith Kerr.
Many arrived broke and without knowing the language. They achieved success by dint of their hard work and talent. And their legacies are still with us, imbuing 21st Century Britain with style, ingenuity and pleasure. A Greek refugee, Alec Issigonis, designed the Mini car; an American, Henry Wellcome, left billions for British science. Caroline Herschel made discoveries in the skies, Handel’s songs exalt weddings.
Some individuals are little known, such as Polish-born Krystyna Skarbek, who carried out dangerous missions for SOE during the Second World War. With your help, we will tell their life stories to a wider audience.
Because we want to change the conversation about immigrants. In recent years, there has been a backlash against people from abroad. All too often, they are viewed with hostility and blamed for failing public services, unemployment and the housing shortage. The reality is different.
Immigrants enrich our culture, science, sport and our music. And rather than being a financial drain, they make us money. If Michael Marks hadn’t fled pogroms in Russia for Britain, we wouldn’t have Marks & Spencer; without Henry Selfridge, cities would lack Selfridges.
Immigrants often set up companies and, in 2016, they paid in £25 billion more than they withdrew. Another study found that over their lifetime, EU migrants contribute £78,000 more than they take out in benefits and public services.
Our book sets out the experiences of 99 individuals. But their stories are just some of the millions of foreign-born individuals who work in our hospitals, schools, and businesses.
So the book has a special feature – two pages at the end where, if you want to, you can add a 100th immigrant: perhaps a friend, relative, workmate or neighbour, with your own description and picture of them. This will make a memorable gift.
Across the United Kingdom, immigrants are getting the job done. Let’s make this book a much-needed thank-you.
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Early-Bird Hardback (only 99 available)
This project is a collaboration between Unbound and Canbury Press.
Naomi Kenyon has worked in obstetric medicine for the NHS and, as a research assistant at Oxford University, with a team of midwives and doctors working on clinical trials, recruiting women to processing blood and tissue samples in the lab. She read sociology at the University of Sussex, and is interested in healthcare, gender equality and human rights. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, and is illustrating the individuals in the book.
Naomi grew up in London with her brother and sister but has also spent time living in Brighton. She lives in Oxford with her co-author and boyfriend, Louis Stewart.
Louis Stewart works for a company marketing educational books for schools. While studying sociology at the University of Sussex, he become interested in understanding different viewpoints and opinions.
He started tweeting stories of inspirational immigrants after listening to a podcast about Brexit, Remaniacs. He was taken aback by the warm response and the desire, expressed by many, to make the stories better known.
Louis grew up in the Oxfordshire countryside with his two sisters. He lives in Oxford with his co-author and girlfriend, Naomi Kenyon, and their cat.
Caroline Lucretia Herschel was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1750 to Isaac Herschel and Anna Ilse Moritzen, one of eight siblings. When she was ten years old, she fell ill with typhus which stunted her growth and severely damaged her eyesight. As a consequence, she was not expected to marry, and her young life became centred on fulfilling household chores in accordance with her mother’s wishes, preparing her for a future as a maid. Following her father’s death, Caroline ignored her mother’s wishes and moved to Bath, England in 1772 with her brother William, a professional musician. William performed in churches in England, but pursued astronomy as a hobby in his spare time, making and using his own telescopes. Recognising his sister’s capability, he offered to tutor her in singing and in mathematics, among other subjects, allowing Caroline to work professionally as a vocalist and in her spare time to help William with astronomical calculations. She began to assist her brother regularly, becoming increasingly interested and adept at the discipline. She made observations and discoveries of her own as she worked more autonomously, including three previously unseen nebulae. In 1781, William discovered the planet Uranus, and was employed by King George III as court astronomer a year later. Recognising the great contributions Caroline was making to William’s work, the King employed her too in 1787, officially making her the world’s first female astronomer. Over the next thirty years, Caroline discovered eight new comets, as well as 560 stars that were absent from records, cataloguing and presenting her findings along with critiques of existing research to the Royal Society. Two of the catalogues produced by Caroline are still referred to by astronomers and scientists today. Following William’s death in 1822, she returned to Hanover and finalised the catalogues of discoveries made with her brother; an outstanding work for which she was awarded the Astronomical Society’s gold medal in 1828. A year before her death, Caroline was awarded a gold medal for science by the King of Prussia before passing away in Hanover, aged ninety-seven. Asteroid ‘281 Lucretia’ and crater ‘C. Herschel’ on the moon were posthumously named after Caroline.
Eugène Rimmel was born in France, the son of a perfume maker, who taught his trade to his son. Eugène moved to London, where he opened a perfume shop, The House of Rimmel, on Bond Street in 1834. He became an expert in manufacturing products and supplied high society with his scents and makeups and hygiene products, earning him the title of “The Prince of Perfumers”.
Eugène’s emporium was extremely successful with high profile and influential customers including Queen Victoria, who employed Eugène as her personal perfumer.
Eugène experimented with scents and colours that had not been seen before and it is believed that he travelled the world to develop his products. His best-known items were perfumes, fragranced pomades, cosmetics, mouth rinses and mascara. Each product in his store was beautifully packaged and some even bore the Royal Warrant stamp of approval, highlighting another exceptional skill of Eugène’s: marketing. He understood that the popularity of his products in the upper classes would morph into the mass market and developed advertisements and well-designed catalogues to sell to the wider public. In 1887, Eugène died and the store was passed to his family but was eventually bought up by Coty, Inc. Today the Rimmel London is Britain’s best-known cosmetics brands.
Joan Armatrading was born in Basseterre on the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts in 1950. At the age of just seven she moved to Birmingham with her family. As a teenager she performed music at local clubs around Birmingham, writing her own music and playing guitar. Her talent was quickly recognised and in 1972 she released her first album, Whatever’s for Us, and performed on the John Peel Show on BBC Radio 1. In 1976, she received critical acclaim for her album Joan Armatrading, which reached the UK top 20 and included the top 10 single “Love and Affection.” She also captured the attention of audiences in the United States and is said to be the first black British female to have received international acclaim. Her music blended a wide array of genres including blues, rock, jazz, folk and reggae
While her career in the U.S. was a resounding success, Joan continued to contribute to the British music scene with numerous appearances on the popular shows such as the John Peel Show, Later... with Jools Holland and Desert Island Discs. For her music, she has received Grammy and BRIT Award nominations and, in 1996, she was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for her outstanding song collection. She also received a lifetime achievement award from the BBC and was named as one of the 100 most influential women in rock music. Outside of her music career, Joan served as the President of the Women of the Year Lunches for five years. In 2001, she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire. Her soulful, melodic and deeply emotional lyrics and music has inspired a generation of songwriters across the world. Joan continues to write music and released her nineteenth studio album, Not Too Far Away, in 2018.
- 12th February 2020 Bonnie Greer's introduction
The playwright and broadcaster Bonnie Greer has written the foreword to 99 Immigrants Who Made Britain Great. In it, she makes the point that throughout history Britain has experienced wave after wave of immigration. In reality, she writes, Britain is a nation of immigrants.
As I write, we are over 70% to our crowdfunding target, having received more pledges yesterday. But there are only…11th February 2020 Revealed - the final cover
We can reveal the cover for 99 Immigrants, by book designer Alice Marwick.
Also that playwright and commentator Bonnie Greer has written a foreword.
But we need more people to order the book here, if we are to hit our crowdfunding target. We are closing the appeal on Saturday, in a last-ditch effort to encourage more people to come foward as backers.
Pledge £24 and receive a hardback edition…7th November 2019 See the latest illustrations
Naomi Kenyon has been drawing more illustrations of the individuals who have helped make our country what it is. Here are just two.
Alek Wek was born in South Sudan in a house without running water or electricity. Fleeing civil war, she arrived in London and almost immediately changed the fashion industry.
She was the first African model to appear on the front cover…22nd September 2019 99 Immigrants - who should be in the book?
Do you have any suggestions for who should be featured in this book? The authors Louis Stewart and Naomi Kenyon have chosen lots of terrific individuals. From George Frideric Handel to Mary Seacole to Eugene Rimmel (founder of the London cosmetics company) to Mo Farah, 99 Immigrants will highlight many fields of endeavour.
But we all want to make it the very best it can. Can you think…
These people are helping to fund 99 Immigrants Who Made Britain Great.
Mary Jane Fahy