Help Take the Brexiles Exhibition on Tour

by Madeleina Kay in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Help Take the Brexiles Exhibition on Tour

Total raised £815

£1,000 target 5 days left
81% 16 supporters
Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 27th May 2024 at 4:52pm

To take the 'Brexiles' exhibition - portraits of 27 British citizens who left the UK because of Brexit - on tour in the UK.

by Madeleina Kay in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom

The money raised will go towards the costs of transporting the paintings, hiring the venue, printing and other expenses associated with displaying the exhibition.

The phenomenon of British citizens fleeing post-Brexit  Britain has been described variously as ‘the Brexodus’ or the ‘Brexit  brain drain’, as we see open-minded, talented, ambitious Brits leaving a  country they no longer recognise as a home which aligns with their  world view and liberal values. My ‘Brexiles’ exhibition features portraits of 27 British citizens who left the UK citing Brexit as a key factor in their decision to leave. The portraits are accompanied by interviews which were printed in my 'Brexiles' book published in 2020. 


The first exhibition of these portraits took place in Sheffield, at The Circle Gallery, Rockingham Lane, in September 2023. You can read more about the Open Night event which was hosted by Sheffield for Europe here.

My ambition with this project was always to take the exhibition on tour across the UK, to raise awarenes of the 'Brexit Brain Drain' phenomenon and to start a discussion about the cultural impacts of Brexit on the UK. The pandemic hampered this ambition initially, but we managed to organise the debut exhibition in my home city in September 2023. The next planned is Summer Hall in Edinburgh on 11th and 12th May, organised in collaboration with Edinburgh for Europe and New European's as part of their event to mobilise EU citizens in the UK to vote in the upcoming EU elections.

We are also seeking to organise for the exhibition to be displayed in Liverpool on 13th July, however this event is contingent on funding. All these events will be open to the public and free to attend.

I am also open to approaches from anyone else who can help to organise a venue for the exhibition to be displayed in their city. Please feel free to get in touch: [email protected]

About the exhibition

The exhibition features portraits of 27 ‘Brexiles’ living across the EU (one in each country). I found these 27 individuals through social media, during the pandemic, and interviewed them as part of a research project  funded by the Schwarzkopf Foundation, who awarded me the title of  ‘Young European of the Year’ in 2018.

My fascination with  ‘Brexiles’ emerged from my own, unfulfilled desire to leave the UK in the wake of Brexit. It was also a retaliation against the Brexiters who  trolled my social media posts with a refrain of ‘If you love Europe so  much – why don’t you move there?’. The stupidity of that statement  intrigued me enough to find out more about the group of people who had done exactly that – chosen Europe, in the face of rising nationalism and  xenophobia.

It was far easier to find ‘Brexiles’ in some countries compared to others; Spain and France were especially popular  destinations for British expats, probably due to their proximity to the  UK and popularity of French and Spanish language tuition in UK schools. In contrast, it proved very challenging to find British expats (who were  willing to participate in the project) in Hungary and Lithuania, this is because few people move to Hungary to flee nationalism where their government can be described as exactly that, and Lithuania being a very small country (in terms of geographical size and population).

The colour schemes of the portraits were chosen by the participants for  their personal, symbolic meaning and many requested the colours of the national flag of their new home nation. I tried to ensure gender, LGBTQ+ and ethnic diversity in my research participants; I succeeded in the  first two but only managed to find one, non-white Brit who had emigrated who was also willing to participate in my project. What I found especially interesting was how two of my LGBTQ+ participants requested that their portrait feature the colours of the Pride/Non-Binary flag, as  this identity was so important to them to be represented.

During  their interviews I asked them to discuss the experience of migration, what they missed about the UK, what they loved about their new life and the impact of Brexit on their sense of identity. Many of my Brexiles were keen to emphasise how they are patriotic, in the sense that they love certain aspects of British culture and life, generally places, landscapes, food, cultural events and people. Whereas it was the  intensifying nationalist sentiment, rising xenophobia and social inequality, consumerist society and toxic political culture which had left them conflicted about their pride in this identity.

Quotes from the Interviews


"When I go back, as I get on the train at Gatwick, I feel a heaviness of a society too long under  pressure to just have the normal things humans should have, like secure  housing, work/life balance and enough money to enjoy themselves. The idea of being stuck behind an invisible wall with Boris Johnson in a country run by the Eton 5th form boys common room fills me with horror.” Jinpa Smith, Portugal


“My friends often ask when I’ll be coming back, but without trying to come across as arrogant, why  should I choose to waste my time in a toxic and populist environment, when I could excel in my career and flourish in one of the most international cities on the continent? Olivier Trouille, Belgium


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

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Receive a postcard from Madeleina Kay

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Signed A4 Print by Madeleina Kay

Signed print of a landscape artwork by Madeleina Kay

£25 or more

Pack of A4 signed prints

Receive a pack of signed landscape prints by Madeleina Kay

£400 or more

Commission an oil Portrait

Commission an oil portrait in the style of the Brexiles paintings.

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