Civil Society in the Spotlight: Gary Pluck from IMIX

Civil Society in the Spotlight: Gary Pluck from IMIX

EPIM’s Civil Society in the Spotlight series seeks to highlight the work of our partners-  people and organisations who are helping build inclusive communities and develop humane and sustainable responses to migration in Europe. 

We had a chance to chat with IMIX‘s Media & Communications Lead, Gary Pluck. IMIX is leading an EPIM-funded coalition of actors working on narrative change in the UK.

Can you tell us a little more about IMIX and your role? 

IMIX is a team of professional marketing, communications and campaign experts who want to change the conversation about migration and refugees to create a more welcoming society

We are experts in narrative change and the amplification of the voices of those with lived experience. We deliver support to the migration and refugee sector on marketing, communications, and media both directly by working for and alongside grass roots organisations through storytelling, film, press and PR and indirectly through our media training programmes and consultancy services that seek to build marcomms capacity within the sector.

I’ve been working with IMIX for just over a year, initially as Media & Communications Lead in the West Midlands, providing advice, guidance, media training and directly working with grassroots organisations in the refugee and asylum sector to gain positive media coverage.

More recently my role has expanded to include project management, where I lead on partnerships and projects focused on strategy, audience insight and campaigning.

Unlike my colleagues, most of whom have a journalism background, my background is in marketing and communications. I’ve been a Director of Marketing, Communications and Business Development and have worked across higher and further education, local authorities and in the third sector.

IMIX is an organisation that builds communications capacity for the refugee and migrant sector. What do you see as the impact of changing the narrative about migration and refugees on society? 

The scapegoating, demonisation and weaponisation of the issues around refugees and asylum seekers by successive governments, the media and the right has created a fear and mistrust amongst the general public that can only be addressed by changing that narrative to one of compassion, understanding and acceptance of the enormous value that diversity brings to the UK. 

It is not through experience of living and working alongside those that have settled here, it is for the most part a lack of personal contact and a lack of understanding and context around the issues used by the media and government as part of their blame culture. We believe that by changing the narrative we can change hearts and minds and become a country that celebrates and thrives as a result of migration. 

Can you tell us more about harnessing the power of sports for this end in the context of the project supported by EPIM? 

We will seek to harness the power of sport to unite and level the playing field. Sport is well known as an area that transcends barriers, builds friendship and trust, and has already been proven to positively impact on people’s opinions and perceptions of migrants and asylum seekers. We will develop and deliver a campaign that takes learning from the successful model used by the campaign ‘Show Racism the Red Card’.  

Sir Mo Farah’s personal testimony of being trafficked to the UK as a child which aired on the BBC last year had a huge impact with a 20% increase in calls to the national trafficking helpline, sparking debate and conversations around issues of trafficking, unaccompanied children and the very real risk of losing citizenship under current Government policy. 

More recently former England international, Gary Lineker, was suspended by the BBC for a tweet responding to the Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s ‘Stop the Boats’ video that simply said, ‘Good heavens, this is beyond awful.’ The decision by the BBC spectacularly backfired as fellow commentators, pundits and the sporting community backed Gary and withdrew their services, forcing the BBC to re-instate him a week later.

Both stand as incredible examples of the power of popular sport and sportspeople in countering the narrative, they reach an audience that is outside the echo chamber that we so often find ourselves in.

This initiative is implemented through a coalition with the organisations Migrant Voices and Show Racism the Red Card. Why is lived experience important to you and your partners? 

Amplification of the voices of those with lived experience is an integral part of our joint philosophy, it is the single most important factor in changing the narrative providing a platform for people to share their experiences, ambitions and dreams. It brings the issues to life; it humanises them and helps counter the rhetoric. We are also strong believers in those voices being at the heart of our strategic thinking, our messaging and our impact and that’s why we’ve introduced a Steering Group and ensured that our Board of Trustees has appropriate representation from those with lived experience.

How do we achieve long lasting change in the public discourse about migration and refugees? 

We must reach audiences outside of our echo chamber and outside of our comfort zone, we must challenge the narrative and we must educate and influence, not just those in a position of power, but the electorate themselves. That education must include those in the media, many of whom are in a position of enormous power and influence yet are often naïve when it comes to the complexity of the issues involved. We need coherent and consistent messaging across the sector that uses evidence and the voices of lived experience to expose the myths, lies and rumours that the right thrive upon.

Learn more about with IMIX’s great work on their website.