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BEGINNINGS | The Southall Story


New chapter, same book…

The Southall Story is a project in celebration of a town that has welcomed new communities throughout the last century, enabling them to excel and influence both the social and political structures of this country.

Southall is also a place that has come to be affectionately known as Little India, but for many it is much more than that. Being a port, (Heathrow is a stones throw away), Southall has been a home to such diverse groups as the West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis in the 50’s through to the Ugandan Asians in the 70’s. Most recently, new arrivals include Sikhs from Afghanistan and Somalians.

These settlements invariably have influenced and shaped Southall. Pivotal moments such as the racist murder of teenager Gurdip Singh Chaggar in 1976 followed closely to the killing of the teacher, Blair Peach in the Southall Uprising in 1979, meant that as a community issues of race and gender could no longer be avoided.

The racist murder of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and the killing of Blair Peach catapulted and galvanised the community in Southall to act in its defence, influencing other communities throughout Britain, giving them a voice, confidence, self-respect and determination to project their identities, both culturally and economically.

The Southall Story, like all books, at times needs re-reading and at times some revision. This is really a reminder to the participants about their heritage. For newcomers: an introduction to something fresh. For some of us – we just cannot put the book down!

Kuljit Bhamra remembers in a recent conversation:

“Last autumn, my film maker friend Shakila Maan and I were toying with an idea of creating a new theatre piece about Southall. The idea was to capture the spirit and creative passion that a evolved over the past thirty years or so…

…I have always felt that Southall’s contribution to art and culture has been under acknowledged, and was therefore thrilled at the idea of creating a project that would celebrate its achievements through a series of exhibitions, discussion forums and music events. Chatting to my children about the idea, I realised that they hadn’t a clue about the history of Southall, what it looked and smelled like thirty years ago and how it has changed! I suppose that most youngsters generally find their parents and grandparents too boring to address such questions to them! Possibly a programme of events or a discussion at school or an exhibition could be more a more powerful way. Surely, the young people would be inspired by the stories and heritage that preceded them. Stories about their own home town.”

At times, in life we all get preoccupied with the day-to-day existence and that is perfectly normal and natural. The initiators of The Southall Story love stories. We love sharing stories and experiences. Just open your front door and for a moment pause and take a deep breath. And ask yourself – what is this place about, what has happened here? This place that I live in or work in.

Now is a time to remind ourselves and once a gain share. Southall is one town, of many in the UK. This is the place to carry on with a very special and colourful heritage. What exactly, is your story? Tell us…! Get involved as an individual, an artist, a community or a group. But always as YOU.

The arena is immersed with the energy of the audience. Walk on stage now and tell us your story.

Not the final chapter…

The aim of The Southall Story is to create an archival, oral and visual documentation reflecting a dynamic heritage. The project’s journey will see a variety of exhibitions, events, film documentaries and sharings taking place throughout 2009 onwards, culminating in a publication of a book and DVD.

The project’s mission is to create a long-term sustainable presence by creating a dynamic debate that will be both inspiring and thought-provoking. With a special focus on work in schools, colleges and youth groups, its aim is to bring in the current generation’s view point to engage, explore and embrace this history.

The Southall Story is headed by Artistic Director Kuljit Bhamra and Creative Directors Shakila Taranum Maan and Ammy Phull. The sole purpose of this project is to create a popular platform that will propel the story of Southall onto a national stage, with the aim of penetrating the consciousness of the British public.

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