Where Are You Really From?

Church Window Mask

Sunday 24 March 2.30pm

Professor Audrey Osler draws on stories from her mixed-heritage family to explore ideas around migration, identity and belonging.

  • St James’s aspires to be a place where all can belong, and where every person’s gifts and identities are welcome and celebrated. We are working to improve the experience at St James’s in the church building and the online community. We have step-free access from the courtyard to the church, and a toilet for disabled people. The courtyard and Redemption Roasters coffee shop are wheelchair accessible. If you have special access requirements (e.g. wheelchair users) please contact concerts@sjp.org.uk

  • St James’s Church welcomes donations, whether £5 or any amount you’re able to give. Donations can be made in cash in the basket on your way out, or by tap donation at the machines at our exits. Your generosity helps support our cultural events and charitable services. Thank you.

  • For people of colour the questions “Where Are You From? No, Where Are You Really From?” often imply more than simple curiosity. They are political questions of identity, since the assumption (naive or aggressive) is that to be British and to belong you must be white. Whether or not we trace our families from beyond the shores of Britain, British people deserve a better understanding of our shared past, and opportunities to explore and recognise the complexities and contractions of empire. As Audrey Osler says: “The stories I tell here reveal as much about Britain as they do about the countries of the British Empire. This is not just my history, it elucidates the largely untold history of a nation and of its citizens, both people of colour and white.”

    Audrey Osler continues: “I am delighted to be invited to St James’s Piccadilly to present ‘Where Are You From? No, Where Are You Really From?’, for this was where my great, great, great-grandfather Thiruvenkatam was baptised on 3 August 1789. A young Tamil, and still in his teens, he had already led an eventful life. He had escaped war, been abducted, and then enslaved on an East India Company ship. He arrived in London a free man and took the name William Roberts. Unfortunately, William’s baptismal celebrations were short-lived, for they caused him to lose his job and end up destitute in a strange city. His story, and that of every subsequent generation of my family, is set against the backdrop of the British Empire, elucidating aspects of that history over 200 years.”

    Audrey will be interviewed by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Books will be available to buy and Audrey will be signing copies.

    “Timely, affecting, and so darn necessary at this moment.” Philippe Sands

    Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was exiled from her birthplace, Uganda, in 1972. She is a journalist, broadcaster, and author. She is a weekly columnist for the i newspaper and has written for various publications including the Guardian, Sunday Times, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, New York Times, Time Magazine. She has won several awards including the Orwell prize for political writing and in 2017, the National Press Awards columnist of the year prize. She is a consultant on diversity and inclusion and trustee of various arts organisations, and she co-founded the charity British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Her recent books include Refusing the Veil, Exotic England about England’s infatuation with the east, In Defence of Political Correctness and Ladies Who Punch. She has twice been voted the 10th most influential Asian in Britain.