Policy Press

This Separated Isle

Invisible Britain

Edited by Paul Sng


Sep 21, 2021

Page count

96 pages




235 x 235 mm


Policy Press
This Separated Isle

Even as COVID-19 made a seismic impact across the world, the cracks exposed by Brexit, Black Lives Matter and rising levels of race hate crimes revealed bitter divisions in British society. In the aftermath of the pandemic, and with questions over the breakup of the United Kingdom refusing to dissipate, how do people across Britain choose to navigate the tensions in this divided land?

With a foreword by Kit de Waal, This Separated Isle explores how concepts of ‘Britishness’ reveal an inclusive range of opinions and understandings about our national character. Featuring a diverse range of fascinating photographic portraits of people from across the UK and their accompanying narrative stories, this landmark book examines the relationship between identity and nationhood, revealing not only what divides us, but also the ties that bind us together as a nation.

"These portraits are a battle cry against the intolerant the bigoted and the ignorant. They weave a tapestry of hope, diversity, love and humanity in all its fragile yet beautiful glory. This is my Britain." Patrick Jones, writer

"This book comes at a pivotal moment in British history. A history that sees Britain caught between the familiar it still resembles, and the post-Brexit future which awaits it. For that reason, when I look at the faces in this book and at their lives frozen in time, I cannot help but wonder how that future to come will frame them, touch them. " Andrew Jackson, photographer

"As bleakly poetic and forlornly beautiful as its title suggests, there's very little I've seen recently that more encapsulates what an odd, fractured and divided little nation we've become -- though with the potent flipside that the voices and images in this book represent mini beacons of hope in their quiet defiance and inspiring determination to build a better and braver world." Daniel York Loh, actor and director

"Our insignificance in comparison to nature is something we might all realise eventually as humans. That awareness within a community is damaging to often the most vulnerable people in society, leaving them with a sense of invisibility. By asking remarkable photographers from within those communities to create portraits of some who have felt overlooked, This Separated Isle is an attempt to focus on those people, placing them centre stage so that we can see them and begin to understand their stories." Jennie Ricketts, independent photography consultant

"A touching, unsettling elegy on modern British identity. There's a dirty dog fight to define and claim Britishness and this book goes some way to dispelling myths, encouraging debate and sticking up two fingers to the narrow definition of what Britishness is. This contested space is beautifully explored in Paul Sng's book." Tina Gharavi, screenwriter and director, immigrant

“An essential document that shines a light on alienation within a divisive society. History books shouldn’t be about Kings and Queens and class hierarchy, but about the challenges of everyday life, humanity and belonging -- real stories like those in this book.” Paul Wright, British Culture Archive.

“With its poignant and timely first person testimonies by people, from wide ranging diverse cultural socio-economic backgrounds, alongside celebratory and engaging portraits by some of our leading photographers This Separated Isle presents much needed perceptive accounts on complexities of life in the UK today.” Anne McNeill, Director, Impressions Gallery, Bradford

“Arguments about Brexit, immigration and wokeness are fuelled by the secular decline of imperialism and decades of deindustrialisation. This stunning book of diverse stories and wonderful portraits shows us that removing the imperialist baggage of the UK state presents us with new cultural and political opportunities.” Irvine Welsh, writer

"The portraits and stories in this book explore and celebrate the complex identities that make up modern Britain’s story. They draw from our individual and collective past, but perhaps most importantly, together they point to a hopeful future." John Domokos, The Guardian

“This Separated Isle serves up a cocktail of provocative photographs and intimate narratives that capture the deep humanity of those caught between worlds of belonging in modern Britain. It’s a moving addition to the canon of British diaspora storytelling, at a time of urgent reflection on the nation’s jingoistic legacy of empire.” Jessie Lau, writer and journalist in London and Hong Kong

"We British folk are all over the place. We come from all over the place, we move all over the place, and our ideas are all over the place. This book reflects that. Here are pictures, and words, with a real sense of place. I love it." Benjamin Zephaniah, poet

“This Separated Isle is a fantastic starting point towards radicalised patriotism featuring incredible photos and short punchy essays that portray this island of modern Britain as a contested space of despair versus hope.” Counterfire

“Thirty-three beautifully photographed portraits accompany insightful interviews in this well-designed book, which brings together an eclectic range of individuals living in Britain today… It should be a book that is studied and discussed in every school classroom.” Morning Star

Paul Sng is a British Chinese filmmaker and writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, whose films are driven by methodical research, creative storytelling and a collaborative approach that strives for inclusivity and diversity in people and projects. In 2015, Paul founded Velvet Joy Productions to explore the lives and work of individuals who have been neglected, marginalised or misrepresented in the arts and media. Paul's documentaries have been broadcast on national television and screened internationally and include Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain (2015), Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle (2017), Social Housing, Social Cleansing (2018) and Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (2021).

Foreword ~ Kit de Waal;


1-40 Portraits of a Diverse Britain.