The welcome was magnificent, unexplainable. Not just our first steps off the plane at Manchester Airport, but also the processing of all the refugees. And yes, it’s true, the English removed the rags of oppression and truly brought smiles for the first time to our kids’ faces – our kids, who had seen nothing but violence, burnings and killing.
Oral histories are a significant feature of our collection. We currently have in the region of 400 interviews covering a range of experiences, from the life stories of Windrush immigrants to recollections of the 1945 Pan-African Congress.
We’re delighted to have Daniella Carrington, a postgraduate Museum Studies student, working with us over the next few months as Collections and Projects Assistant. She comes to us through the Institute for Cultural Practices placement scheme, University of Manchester, and we’re already making full use of her skills and knowledge. Here she reflects on her first month in post…
It has been (technically) one month since I began a work placement at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre. How time flies! Learning about this rather special place, how they were founded, and the kind of needful work they do, has been an enriching experience so far. I got to know the staff both personally and professionally, peruse the library, and even get an up close look at the archive to understand the scope of work at the Centre and its sister organisation the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Education Trust.
In the library. Photo taken by Hannah Niblett of the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre
So two weeks on from the general election and I know we’re all pretty sick of politics, not to mention politicians, but I couldn’t let this week pass without a quick nod to Mohammed Afzal Khan MEP who was invested as Manchester’s first Asian (and youngest) Lord Mayor 10 years ago.
Jo has recently been doing some work on the Exploring our Roots oral history collection. This post looks at the lives and experiences of three interviewees from the Chinese community in Manchester. What emerges is a picture of how Chinatown developed and how different people fared in their journey from East to West as they came to settle in Manchester.
Chinatown. Source: Angel Belsey
Exploring our Roots is an oral history project focusing on South Asian local heritage (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sikh) and Chinese, African Caribbean and West African communities. Among the topics covered are personal memories regarding migration and settlement; community-building, education and work, religion and culture; and experience of racism and prejudice. Continue reading →
Last time we discovered Barrington Young had become the first Black railway inspector in Manchester. We also found that he’d begun a United Nations in his own home by marrying an Austrian in the 1950s. This time, we’ll see Barrington fully engaged in transmitting knowledge of his own, as well as wider Black history, to youngsters of all ethnicities.
Barrington retired in 1994. Counting his years on the railways as the best time of his life, he joined the Railway Club to continue that good experience into the future. But by 1998 we find him in a different role. It was the 50th anniversary of the arrival from the Caribbean of the good ship Empire Windrush in 1948 and Barrington was enrolling on an exciting innovative new course – Mapping Our Lives: The Windrush Project.
Ever found that once you set off in search of someone, signs of them are just about everywhere? That’s how it was for me as I began rummaging around the Centre trying to find Barrington Young. I must have been the only person never to have come across him in my travels…
And that’s the key to Barrington. Travelling. Is he a prime minister, pianist, brain surgeon, astronaut or footballer? No. He’s far more important than that. As well as being one of the most kind and humorous individuals around, Barrington Young was the first Black railway inspector in Manchester. What Barrington doesn’t know about trains and the railways of Britain just isn’t worth knowing.
Three pounds of rice, four duck eggs, a pair of straw shoes, and a lonely trip over the mountains to 1940s Hong Kong. Long hours of labour in food outlets mushrooming on 1960s London high streets. What do these scenes have in common? The answer’s illiterate Chinese migrant Yue Kai Chung.
For Refugee Week (16 – 20 June) our Widening Participation Officer Sam ran a refugee arts day for three local secondary schools here at Central Library. I spent an enjoyable morning getting covered in acrylic paint, supporting artist Amang Mardokhy’s painting workshop.
Amang is Kurdish, from Northern Iraq. He came to the UK in the early 2000s, fleeing Saddam Hussein’s regime. At the start of his workshop he told the students a little about his personal story, including his experience of being an artist under a repressive regime and the difficult decision to take his family, including his five year old son, in search of safety. But he talked more about his artistic motivations, to express the suffering of the Kurdish people and explore global experiences of war and displacement. The students produced postcard-sized paintings reflecting on the contrast between peace and war; safety and danger, beauty and ugliness, plenty and poverty, belonging and loss.
In preparing for our Paul Robeson hands-on session next Wednesday (details on our website and Facebook) I keep coming across the name Wilf Charles. He was one of a small group who established the New International Society in Moss Side in 1946, an organisation that promoted anti-racism locally but also supported international causes, including many championed by Robeson. As a result of this relationship Robeson came to sing at the Society in 1949, but more about that another time…
Wilf Charles is mentioned, in passing, in literature about Len Johnson (Manchester’s black boxing hero), about the International Brigade and the Spanish Civil War, the Communist Party and the 5th Pan-African Congress in Manchester.
Whilst doing research in the library for Holocaust Memorial Day a coffee-table book of black and white photos caught my eye: Besa: Muslims who saved Jews in World War II.
There are many stories of non-Jewish families risking their own lives to save those of Jews during the Second World War; those now honoured by the State of Israel as the ‘Righteous among the Nations’.Besa tells the remarkable story of a small contingent of Albanian Muslims who rescued Jews during the German occupation of their country in 1943-44 – a story that, because of Albania’s own troubled recent history, has only now come to light.