At face value, Boston would appear to be the most Euro-Sceptic town in the UK. With 77.6% of voters ticking the “Leave the European Union” box at the polls in 2016, you can understand why the towns residents have been labelled “Bigots” and “Anti-migrants”. In Feb 2017, Hilary Benn MP visited the town to gauge a better understanding of what drove the populace to vote so vigorously to withdraw from the E.U. As the Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee, Benn met with local officials, public and private sector representatives and member of the public. The one-day visit was packed full of engagements. But how much information can really be absorbed in just one day?
These “flying visits” are nothing new to the residents of Boston. National press, photojournalists and T.V crews regularly visit the town in an attempt to understand Brexit. But like many major political and social events, the circumstances that surround the vote are complex and can not be analysed over one meeting with the local council.
Prior to relocating to Boston, five years ago, I was warned by friends that I shouldn’t live there. “I can’t think of a worse place to live” one friend would say. “You might as well move to Poland,” said another. What I found on my first visit was that it was a pleasant market town. Yes, the population was diverse but I never saw that as an hindrance. I made a commitment and accepted a job offer. I became an economic migrant to the town, I wasn’t the first.
Between 2004 and 2014 Boston’s population of migrant workers increased by 460%. The local landscape is a major contributing factor. Vast agricultural lands flank all side of the Lincolnshire town. Land work and processing factories offer ample employment for Eastern European’s relocating to the UK. Such an influx of people was neither foreseen nor prepared for. The strain placed on public services was evident in both the lack of school places available to my children and the impossible task of finding a dental surgery willing to register us. Tensions in the town where high and there was a clear division between the British and the migrant community.
What I was witnessing was two sides of a coin. Heads where unhappy with the lack of housing, reduction in work opportunities and a sense of lost identity within the community. Tales where happy to build a new life in a country with better opportunities and better pay. I could see both sides and in a strange way, because I was both sides, A British national economically driven to the town. In 2015 I began documenting the residents of Boston. I found the media’s representation to be erroneous and lacked any great research. Declaration of Independence is an integral reflection of the residence of Boston, both British and Eastern European.
The project is set inside homes and spaces in both Boston and Skegness. All participants are from various countries, including; UK, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. The work includes portraiture, street photography and candid imagery. This unique visual representation of Brexit and its effect has been shot over a four-year time period.