Heathrow teams up with spoken word artist Caleb Femi to create powerful poem on Britishness


By Heathrow

Published 25th January 2018

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Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, today unveils a collaboration with critically-acclaimed spoken word artist Caleb Femi to launch his new poem A Tale of Modern Britain. Caleb’s piece, a beautiful and modern description of travel, celebrates Heathrow’s role as the gateway to the UK, welcoming and waving off international visitors and returning Brits.

Heathrow partners with London’s Young People’s Laureate Caleb Femi to describe Modern Britain and travel in 2018

• New research into what being British means found that one in five Brits (20%) now travel to visit family abroad

• Harry and Meghan’s engagement announcement revealed as defining moment of the last year

• Have You Met The Queen (19%), Which Football Team Do You Support (32%) and Are You From London (33%) are the top three things Brits get asked by people when overseas

• The Beckhams, Mo Farah and James Corden join the Royals as best representatives of modern Britain

With 78 million passengers travelling through Heathrow each year, this powerful new piece of poetry – written and narrated by Femi – uses his experiences travelling, as well as capturing people and journeys which have taken or taking place at the airport, as his inspiration for the film.

Looking to the growing trend for spoken word, the poem explores what it means to be British through the lens of arrivals and departures at the country’s busiest airport.

The short film brings Femi’s words to life with his narration framing moments at the airport – from emotional reunions, excitement as people head off for new adventures at Departures and behind the scenes from the airfield – alongside snapshots of life in and around Britain.

What ‘home” means to British people today

To find out what ‘home’ means to British people today, Heathrow commissioned research asking 2,000 Brits about their views on Britain in the context of travelling.


Brits are thrill seekers at heart with more than one in five (21%) saying one of their top reasons for jetting off is to seek out an adventure, whilst 19% crave exploration of unusual places. Highlighting what a global community we truly are, a further 20% say their main purpose for travel is to visit their extended family, with one in twenty (5%) making journeys inspired by their family history.


London, the Queen and the Beautiful Game are what people most want to discuss with Brits when they travel overseas; one in three Brits stated they are asked whether they are from London, 32% are quizzed on which football team they support and nearly one in five of us are asked if we have ever met the Queen when on our travels.

With a Royal engagement, a third royal baby on the way and a global obsession with TV show The Crown, the royal family are firmly front and centre of mind for the nation, with The Queen, Harry, William and Kate all identified as our most recognisable representatives.

Beyond the royals, David and Victoria Beckham, Mo Farah and James Cordon all feature on the list of ‘18 for 2018’; the British stars voted as the best representatives of modern Britain*.Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal engagement is the moment that summed up the last year for many (32%) Brits.

Over one in four (26%) felt it was the spontaneous singing of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ following the tragic Manchester attacks, whilst more than one in ten (14%) thought that the announcement of a female Doctor Who was the biggest moment for the nation last year.


The welcoming view of our local pub on the journey back from the airport is the moment at which more than one in five (22%) of us feel truly back in Britain, whilst buying a British newspaper (18%) and hearing different regional accents (17%) also feature high on the list of what makes us feel like we’ve arrived back home.

Caleb Femi explains why he was attracted to the project: “For many of life’s biggest milestones – from exciting departures to emotional reunions – Heathrow is the backdrop.”

“The airport is a fascinating place to keep your finger on the pulse of modern Britain, as the people who travel through it says so much about the country and what we stand for. I’ve loved immersing myself in the stories of different travellers to piece together a portrait of the country in 2018.”

I hope people enjoy watching the video, which celebrates what it means to be British and the emotions that unite us all when we travel.

Caleb Femi

“I hope people enjoy watching the video, which celebrates what it means to be British and the emotions that unite us all when we travel.”

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive at Heathrow, commented, “The UK is a culture that thrives on its connections with the rest of the world – for those leaving or returning home, as well as international visitors exploring the country for the first time.”

As the UK’s only hub airport, and after more passengers than ever in 2017, we’re proud to help make these connections with the world possible. We hope that people really enjoy this ode to the UK as a celebration of Britain as a nation.”

In full: A tale of MOdern Britain

You arrive at the end of the horizon
standing at the tarmac mouth of home
lighter if you left it all behind -heavier if you brought all with you.
Come, before you step out into the open air
sit down here, in-between the brief pause
of children’s laughter and a tannoy announcement.
In the small kingdom of faces -some moving with
the grace of falling snow
others like laser beams bouncing off a disco ball.

Not too long ago you were at departures
when leaving was a sweet song bitter in the throat to sing.
Do you remember the faces who were leaving for work,
or for the spring holidays,
to say goodbye at a family funeral
or for the laughter of a hen do?
Those who were answering the call to adventure
with an open ticket in hand and in the other a phone
full of friends who will follow them each step of the way.

Now you’ve arrived at the other side of that adventure
in the warmness of home
shed the hue of ‘tourist’
you’re back in your endz now
one of the locals
you know the right trains to catch
know the best breakfast spot.

This country is not a place of good weather but of good people.
What do you want to know about the country? You might learn it here
in this marketplace of modern British culture.
Take a crash course in the local lingo
teach your ears the different accents
we don’t all sound like Downton Abbey
not all Northerns sound like Wayne Rooney
some of us man do get hot
we’re not all about tea and crumpets -well some of us are.

Imagine a terminal as a portal to a new version of yourself
a new light pouring over a new sunrise
remember that as you
depart at the start of the horizon
standing at the tarmac mouth of the world.

The research was conducted by Markettiers on behalf of Heathrow between 5 to 9 January 2018, based on a survey of 2,000 respondents from across the UK.

*Top 18 Brits for 2018 (as voted for by 2,000 UK respondents):

  1. The Beckhams
  2.  JK Rowling
  3. Ed Sheeran
  4. Andy Murray
  5. Mo Farah
  6. James Corden
  7. Adele
  8. Jamie Oliver
  9. Jessica Ennis-Hill
  10. Lewis Hamilton
  11. Idris Elba
  12. Stormzy
  13. Vivienne Westwood
  14. Nadiya Hussein
  15. Wayne Rooney
  16. Kate Moss
  17. Naomi Campbell
  18. Cara Delevingne

By Heathrow

Published 25th January 2018