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The Top Trumps Game

Played first with the audience of the NorthBound-Conference in Derry, Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages (AICH) at the University of Ulster, 12th May 2007

“Top Trumps” is a game most people might know from their childhood. One player begins and selects one of the pieces of information provided on the card and reads this loud. The rest of the players then read out this information from their respective cards. The person with the highest (or lowest) value wins the cards from the other players and puts them under his pile. Some values in this game need to be discussed.
This top trump games compares 19 polish migrant workers in Northern Ireland. Migrant workers are currently an important minority ethnic group given their numbers and the fairly recent increases in the population. The aim of a migrant worker is to improve life via work, experience, language ... Unlike statistical information, the game gives some information about individuals and their individual data.


Introduction on 12th May 2007
August 2006, I move to Northern Ireland.
Still commuting to Berlin, my place of departure, I soon noticed that I was sharing the flight mainly with poles. The cleaning lady on the Belfast campus is a young polish woman. A Lithuanian BMW parks in our street.

I find a front page of THE INDEPENDENT, the greatest fears and prejudices against migrants and the TRUTH. The fears are often heard: don’t pay taxes, abuse our social system, take our jobs away.

September 2006: I am invited to do a top trump game on work migration in Dublin. Via the Department of Enterprises, TRADE AND EMPLOYMENT I get the numbers of the nationalities living and working in the Republic. What I do not get: where do work migrants work? What do they get paid? How many hours do they work? What do they pay for rent? I play the game on a sunny Sunday with more than 40 strangers in Dublin parks and railway stations, in pubs. I get to hear a lot via my game partners.

October 2006: I meet my colleague R. reader in Fine Arts, also from Germany. He introduces me to his polish wife, an architect. They both lived and worked for the past 20 years in Germany. She needs to learn English, she does not want to get in contact with the polish community in Belfast. She is afraid to get stuck in her own community.
No multicultural radio, no multicultural TV. I am surprised, as in my local Tesco I discover to be one foreigner among many.

November 2006: I attend a conference in the Queens University, School of History and Anthropology, called Emotional Interaction, migrants and local communities.
A lecturer from GB, Aleksandra Galasinska, University of Wolverhampton, with polish migration background introduces the polish connection to GB, I met Barbara, the representative of the polish association in Belfast. So many things I did not know with my German perspective towards the world.

December 2006: My colleague Anthony and I decide to start a media project with and for migrants, called “Whose Voice is it Anyways”. The Queens University swimming pool, at days I hear more Polish, Chinese, Indian, German than English.

January 2007: I read a book about female polish work migrants in Germany, being the support system for the female German academic careers. Wasn’t the feministic movement about a collective liberation worldwide out of dependence and underpayment? An idea of sharing social responsibilities with the male part of society? The Lithuanian and Russian women take care of the polish families and households while the polish take care of the Germans, I learn…
My Macedonian husband makes jokes about getting a tinny little polish something to take care of our future children who eats few and lives with us.

February 2007: I start my research about Polish and Lithuanian work migrants in Northern Ireland. Anthony and I start meeting foreigners of all background to introduce our media project.
I try to find statistics. This time, I call the department of employment and learning. No secure information about the number of Polish and Lithuanians in NI. Where are the Lithuanians anyways? I notice that I have never met one nor Portuguese, by the way.
My Macedonian husband, a trained and experienced conflict consultant and holder of a university teaching degree, is still searching for a job. Job advertisement, job agencies, job interviews, how do foreigners get a job here?
I start to learn more about the system, people being recruited in their home country, people only finding temporary positions in less qualified positions. My husband, being used to have to work in unqualified positions from his home country and student life, is ready to do anything after 4 months of searching. His profession as volunteer work and any kind of job to earn some living and take part in a regular life.

March 2007: I decide this time to ask questions: Where do polish people work. What do they earn, how many hours do they work, what kind of contract do they get…. I get the first responses. A. does not want to tell me how few she earns. She has a master in psychology and works as a caretaker. Many refuse to tell me more about their working hours

April 2007: I meet potential participants for our media project. They read our advertisement in Glostik, Jakub was so kind to offer an ad and a translation.
I meet polish people from all over NI with all kinds of professions. People tell me, they are bored, they feel lonely, they have a lot of idea, they miss represention. Some of them comute, a lot of them are staying longer than expected. A lot of them did not know much about the situation in NI. Having the papers now, it is too tiring to change the country again. Most of them deal with tensions in their neighbourhood or work.

May 2007: My husband joins a migrant theatre project, belonging to Highway to Health. Migrants are interviewed about their experience here. He comes home and tells me that polish people lost their house, that neighbours advice them to move. My colleague Sandra tells me on Monday about a demonstration in her little hometown 12 miles away from Belfast against Lithuanians trying to settle down there.

On a scientific committee in Sweden, I meet the architect Eva from Lublin. She explains to me that migration was always known in Poland, the young generation saves up money to start their own business at home. Nothing unusual. I wonder, after finding number like 35 000 polish in NI, 41000 in the republic, 2000000 in GB and 125 000 polish in Germany, just as some example, is part of Poland completely empty? The Polish diaspora (Polish community abroad) amounts to 40 million and is thus second largest diaspora in the world, next to that of China.

The aim of a migrant worker is to improve life via work, experience, language, ... I wanted to know if that is really happening.
19 people gave me their personal data and a foto for this first set of games about migrant workers in Ni. My aim is to produce more cards of different ethnicities in NI.


PDF of the game.



Polen in Nordirland Quartett
Gespielt auf der  NorthBound-Conference in Derry, Nordirland
12. Mai 2007

Dieses Quartett vergleicht 19 polnische ArbeitsmigrantInnen in Nordirland. ArbeitsmigrantInnen sind derzeit eine wichtige ethnische Minderheit aufgrund ihrer steigenden Anzahl in jüngster Zeit. Das Ziel der ArbeitsmigrantInnen ist, das Leben durch Arbeit, Erfahrungen, Spracherwerb zu verbessern ... Im Gegensatz zu statistischen Daten gibt das Quartett Informationen über individuelle Personen und deren individuelle Daten.