For my first blog, I wanted to focus on minority communities within Greater Manchester. I narrowed my search to immigrant communities, as my grandparents were immigrants who had come to England from Pakistan. The Greater Manchester Sound Archives contain so many collections of different communities within the city.
The Tameside Oral History Project (TOHP) consists of recordings of people from the Indian Subcontinent who came to England and settled in Tameside during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Growing up as a British Asian resident of Tameside, learning about my ancestors history interested me. The Asian community now compared to the one in the 1960s, for example, was completely different. Today it is so simple to find the traditional foods, clothes and religious places from the Asian culture. The Tameside Oral History Project demonstrates how easy today’s generation live compared to how the Asian community in the past united to adapt and assimilate into the British culture.
Towards the end of 1967, Kenya was facing certain immigration problems with British citizens who lived there. In particular, it was the Asian community who were given the option to become Kenyan citizens, or retain British Citizenship and risk losing their jobs. Many chose to either go to India, their place of origin. However, some found it difficult to become reaccustomed with their surroundings, and so decided to migrate to the UK.
The clips that I have uploaded are from interviews spoken in Gujarati. A transcript has been provided on Soundcloud.
Namchand Shah is one of many who settled down in Manchester. Growing up in India, he heard a lot about what England had to offer. He had heard of others who had moved to live a more comfortable life and wanted to have the same opportunities for his family. One of the things he talks about is the problem of food supplies in England. Due to the cultural and religious barriers, it was difficult to adapt to the English way.
After the initial struggle between choosing to adapt and go against their religion, a shop opened in 1972, specialising in traditional Indian foods and dishes. Ashton Sweet Mart originally started off small, but the business grew over the years and reopened on the adjacent road.
In this clip, Vishnu Mohandas, from Mombassa, Kenya, briefly describes how more shops opened to supply fresh fruit and vegetables for his community.
Other issues that both Namchand describes is finding work and place to stay. Because he was not a fluent English speaker, he relied on his community to find a job that he either had experience in or one that provided training.
Namchand talks about doing many things including driving buses, selling properties and running a shop. Similarly, Vishnu Mohandas, who came from Mombassa, Kenya, speaks of applying for different jobs. He recounts opening a travel shop on Penny Meadow in Ashton-under-Lyne. This is where he gave the Asian community the opportunity to travel around Europe and visit famous places and building sites.
Despite problems such as the language barrier at work, Namchand found that the majority of the English speaking were friendly towards him. In this clip, he talks about meeting an Englishman at a bus station who sings him an old Bollywood song called Chal Chal Re Naujawan. He also narrates the man’s time serving in the military in India.
It’s important to remember not only the already existing communities of Manchester, but also the emergence of new communities and how the Asian community in Tameside banded together in times of need. I can say this with certainty that the older generation, like my grandad for example, who was also a bus driver of that generation, looked out for one another, regardless of their ethnic origins or religion. It should also be noted that the integration of this particular community in Tameside seemed to have interlocked with the local people and this minority group has grown. Tameside is a multicultural borough with many different communities living harmoniously alongside each other.
You can listen to the full interviews at Tameside Local Studies & Archives.