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PERSONAL STORIES | The Southall Story


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.

A collection of personal stories from our readers:

CAROLYN HUME – musician

hume“I first came to Southall in 1987 to rehearse at Westar Studios in Priory Way. I didn’t realise then that Westar would be become my second home for the next 13 years until it’s closure in 2000.

Over those years I would meet musicians from many different backgrounds,religions and cultures,many of whom have remained lifelong friends. There was a special atmosphere at the studios,a creative outpouring and a desire to collaborate with new people..making a fusion of genres from Egyptian classical, bhangra, free jazz, soul, funk, rock..the diversity covered was immense.

Together we planned gig nights for musicians and the public..these nights were magical,giving people an opportunity to hear music that they had never heard before. One of the most memorable nights was the ‘Unity’ night in 1990.We set up in the largest studio and many musicians performed,of all ages and genres..there was a feeling of really bringing music from all over the world together,which had risen out of these rehearsal rooms and studios in the back streets of Southall.

Those years have become a very memorable chapter in my life,spending whole days and evenings talking,playing,watching world cups,eating at ‘Rita’s,drinking in the ‘Halfway House’, chatting with locals and of course spending many years creating music with other people,usually at the generosity of Graeme Tollitt who ran the rehearsal rooms.

I came back to Southall for the first time in 8 years recently..the studio’s gone and many changes,the visit was a mixture of sadness and nostalgia. But i was also reminded of the energy, creativity and friendships that had been born out of ‘Westar’ and felt very fortunate to have been a part of that time.”


ps-alysonI have lived in Southall all my life. It’s a place that’s busy, rich in cultural history and very vibrant!

Southall has certainly changed over the years. As a little girl, I didn’t have a care in the world and would feel very safe and secure in Southall.

Me and the local kids would hang out after school at The Dudley Road play centre In the summer holidays. Back then, your 6 week holidays would be filled with warmth and sunshine every single day until you had to return to school September. Gosh, I had some good times there!

I used to look forward to Saturday mornings to go to Southall Market with my mum. I remember my mum always stopping to talk to someone she knew every 20 minutes or so!

They would say, “Alison, look how you’ve grown”! I’d hear that at least 3 times in a shopping trip!

Back then, most would say hello and there was much more of a community spirit. People had more time for each other back then, sadly, this has changed over the years.

My mum came to Southall in 1966, there were more English people back then.

More places to socialise, more work, English cinemas, dance halls, more recreation facilities and a safer place for kids to play.

As a black woman my mum could feel the racial tension in the air, even though it wasn’t directly aimed at her.

Even though Southall has changed so much over the years, for me, it’s still an exciting and unpredictable place to live, it has It’s own energy. That’s what I love about it.

When I see tourists taking photographs on The Broadway or even outside The Glassy Junction, it makes me feel proud that they came to my town, Southall.

DAVID KNOWLES (musician and founder member of Keda Productions Ltd)

My first experience of Southall, in December 1980, gave me a real appraisal of a phrase that I’m not sure I’d even heard yet: Culture Shock. Let me explain. Four months earlier I’d moved home from a small northern industrial town called Widnes, aiming to make my mark in the gleaming metropolis of London. I was in a rock band and, as is usual in such circumstances, convinced that we were destined to be the next big thing.

The first stop in our inexorable rise would be a recording studio. Having set up camp in Acton, a perusal of our nearest (cheapest) options led us to a choice of one – Airport Studio, Priory Way, Southall. A grand name, we set off on that sunny, early winter morning with high hopes.


keithI don’t know whether you would be interested, but during my youth I was a prolific songwriter – writing songs for me and my guitar. It was mostly a personal thing – expressing my emotions and frustrations. Not sure they were very good, but they worked for me.

Most of my songs were written for girls – well, I was a teenager – but I did write about other stuff too.

When I heard about Gurdip Chagger I was upset at the senseless violence of it, the waste of a life. And I ended up writing a song about it.

I’ve attached the lyrics in PDF format, it’s a sort of Bob Dylan/Clash style song set to a sort of modern tango beat (bit like London Calling by the Clash).

Gives you a different perspective on the event anyway.

I later found out (although I haven’t been able to verify it since) that the thug that did the stabbing was Jody Hill, who I was in a big fight with in the school toilets when I was at primary school. He was not a nice boy even then.


My grandparents lived in Tudor Road Southall for much of their married life and I recall as a child visiting their home, this would have been in the mid 60’s.

I was always told by my family that they were the last” white people” to live in that paricular street.I am not sure if this is true or how it is significant but is always something I remember.

My grandmother aparently worked in the rubber factory and I am interested in finding out more about the area as it was in her day.

Gurdeep Shinji

How about the peaceful and serene mornings as the sun rises, I recall catching the bus from outside Manor House and the birds happily chirped away, or how about the sounds of the cars with the sound systems pumping away, the butchers shop on a Saturday morning, Poonams on Diwali, the langar hall at Havelock road, King Street on Friday night, Lahori Karahi on Featherstone Road or Abi Shanti at the hall near the arches or the merry clinking of glasses at the Hambrough Tavern?

Share your story with us below


  1. Hundeslawe says:

    My grandfather was one of the pioneer Asian settlers in Southall back in the early 1950′s and I have to say, reading through this wonderfull archive, the most important bit about Southall’s ‘Asian’ settlement..i.e. it’s foundation, seems to have been overlooked. Basically, my grandfather, along with the majority of the UK’s Sikhs in the 1930′s and 1940′s, lived in what was at that time the largest Sikh concentration in the country….the Aldgate end of Whitechapel in London’s East End. The actual area has today been incorporated into the City but back then was very much a very poor residential area. After the end of World War 2 alot of British industrialists were returning to Blighty after serving in the army alongside Sikhs. Thus they came back home with very high opinions of Sikhs and were keen to employ them in their factories. Two of the most famous of these were the owners of the paper factory in Gravesend and Wolf’s rubber factory in Southall. Thus, from the end of the 1940′s to the middle of the 50′s most of the East End Sikhs were communuting to work each day either west to Southall or east to Gravesend. Thus, as successive immigrant groups in the East End have done, they moved…..some to Gravesend and some to Southall and to this day those two towns remain the UK’s two largest Sikh communities. My grandfather did the daily commute each day for around 5 years before buying a house in Southall. Interestly, one of his siblings bought a house in neighbouring Hounslow at the same time because it was, at that time, cheaper than Southall. So you see it wasn’t Heathrow Airport that led to Southall’s Asian identity. It was a British Army General and his affinity with Sikh soldiers. Whilst the ‘Southall Story’ is full of great information what it lacks is the solid foundation.

  2. Ravster says:

    It might be interesting to investigate Southalls Welsh connection – prior to Asians, there was a significant Welsh community there, and I remember that many of the teachers at Beaconsfiled Rd Primary School were Welsh in the 60′s, as were some of my friends there – to the extent that we were taught a well-known Welsh nursery rhyme (also a New Zealand Maori one, but that’s because one of the teachers was from NZ…)- don’t ask me to recite it though…:)

    A colleague who I worked with in the mid to late 80′s in Soho & who is Welsh with no prior Southall connection that I was aware of, and who I re-connected with on Facebook, mentioned that her grandparents lived near Lady Margarets Rd of all places….small world…

    • sparkesy says:

      Hi you were interested in the Welsh connection in Southall like ourselves a lot of family’s came to Southall Hayes and Greenford with the railway we came in 1959 there was my Mother & Father and 5 boys we all went to Dormers Wells school we now live all over the UK myself in Wales I left in 1973 but still have fond memories

  3. Ronald Southall says:

    I am a Real Estate agent in Columbus, Ohio. My grandparents came to America before I was born and they lived in Southall.

    I was wondering how the name Southall got started and why we are named Southall. Which came first the name Southall or the town.

    My grandfathers name was Enoch Southall. Can you tell me anymore about the name?

  4. Mark Allan says:

    I play in and manage an Indian style wedding brass band called the Bollywood Brass Band. Our very first gig was a Festival of Lights procession through Southall in October 1992 – it rained and our diwa (oil lamp) shaped hats filled up with water, but the community spirit was strong and a thousand people walked with lanterns they had made. Since that time our story has intertwined with Southall on many occasions, playing at weddings in various gurdwaras, rehearsing at Westar, looking for costume ideas and buying dhol sticks in the shops. Most recently, we have been playing in schools as part of Ealing Music Service’s World Music Festival. I was very moved to play in Blair Peach School; I am a New Zealander, as Blair was, and on the day of his killing I was in Southall – I remember the tension and the shops all being boarded up. I had just arrived in the UK and did not really know what was going on, but soon became involved in anti-racist activities. I have always loved to come and feel the pulse of “Little India”, such an important part of this city that accepts us migrants from everywhere and makes us all Londonstanis.

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