New research: Sikh activism and race relations organisations in Britain

It’s always gratifying to see our collections contributing to academic research and new publications.

Gyani Sundar Singh Sagar, who fought for turban-wearing Sikh men to be exempt from the law regarding motorcycle helmets. Image courtesy of Ujjal Singh

Gyani Sundar Singh Sagar, who fought for turban-wearing Sikh men to be exempt from the law regarding motorcycle helmets. Image courtesy of Ujjal Singh

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Asian Youth Movements Archive: Reflections on Re-engaging with Personal History

Nigel de Noronha has been our Researcher in Residence this year, working on the Tandana Collection; a large archive of material about the Asian Youth Movements (AYMs). Nigel was a member of the AYM in Manchester in the 1980s, so this project has been of personal as well as academic and professional interest for him. In this post he reflects on the process of re-engaging with his own personal history through working in the archive.

Asian Youth movements (AYMs) emerged spontaneously in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. The AYM was active in anti-deportation campaigns in Manchester, connected to other AYMs and supported their campaigns against racist discrimination and racial violence.   I joined AYM Manchester in 1982. We adopted a black political identity. Many young Asians witnessed racist and fascist violence, state discrimination from the police, schools, housing and immigration authorities, and discrimination in the labour market.

Liberation, the newsletter of the Manchester AYM. The Manchester movement formed in 1980. Public meetings were often held in Longsight library. They made links with AYMs across the country and supported their campaigns. Courtesy Tandana Archive

Courtesy Tandana Archive

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Chinese Whispers?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

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.

image of Yue Kai Chung

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Black ’47, Bob and Me

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

Get yourself a coffee and sit down. Here’s another intriguing tale behind what looks like an innocent volume parked on the Centre’s shelves…

Image of Black 47 coverHave you seen Black ’47. Britain and the Famine Irish by Frank Neal, with its bleak black and white cover and title printed in green? Haunted by the image of a gaunt famine-starved couple with a baby, it doesn’t look a relaxing read. Published in 1998, it appeared during the 150th anniversary commemorations of one of the most catastrophic transformational experiences ever to scar the collective psyche of any community in the world – the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.

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From Jamaica to England – What happened next?

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

 

Our Roving Reader has been investigating what happened to the people whose stories and writings she looked at in her journey from Jamaica to England.

 

Una Marson died in 1965, but she lived for many years in the London Borough of Southwark. In 2005, Southwark Council awarded her a Blue Plaque in recognition of her contribution to literature and broadcasting. If any of you go and see it, let us know. There’s some more information on the Southwark Council website.

Joyce Gladwell is still alive and kicking. Her Brown Face, Big Master was reissued as a Caribbean Classic by MacMillan in 2003. Joyce herself went on to become a successful marriage and family therapist in Canada, whilst her husband became a professor of mathematics. In 2009, a counselling centre was named after her in recognition of her work. One of her sons is the journalist and best-selling writer Malcolm Gladwell, who discussed his mother’s life in one of his books – Outliers: The Story of Success (published 2008). You might like to read more about Joyce and the counselling centre or  Malcolm Gladwell’s thoughts on his multi-racial background.

Concerning the Adult Literacy Projects, I don’t have updates about Louise Shore and the individuals who contributed to So This Is England. But you may like to know what happened to Centerprise, the organisation which published Louise’s autobiography Pure Running. A Life Story. It survived as the Centerprise Trust Community and Arts Centre in Dalston, London, until 2012. Unfortunately, its peppercorn rent of £10 per month was suddenly raised by Hackney Council to an impossible £37,000 per year. After much legal wrangling, it looks like it finally closed, to great disappointment all round. It had been open 41 years, and had helped many isolated immigrants in London. If anyone out there knows of any further developments on this matter, we’d welcome an update. You can read more about it on the Radical History of Hackney blog and the Hackney Citizen website.

 

From Jamaica to England – Part 4: Adult literacy projects as primary sources

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The Roving Reader Files

The fourth instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Louise Shore and Her Literary Ambitions

So far, we’ve learnt from intellectuals Una Marson and Joyce Gladwell, as we travel from Jamaica to England. But are you, like me, asking what our poor underprivileged companions have got to say?

Well, the disadvantaged have historically left few records of their own due to illiteracy, so if we’d asked that question even a hundred years ago, we’d probably have been told, “Not a lot. Hard cheese.”

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From Jamaica to England – Part 3: Primary sources and the autobiography of a ‘Middle-Class Brown’

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

The third instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Joyce Gladwell Goes to London

Una Marson, through our secondary source, has given our Jamaica-to-England trip some context. Hurray! Now we can get comfortable, kick off our shoes, and learn a thing or two from the reminiscences of our companions. We’re going to thumb through some primary sources.

Primary sources come in many guises  –  letters, diaries, even old bus tickets, lists and catalogues. Archives are full of such things (often called manuscripts and ephemera), but for our journey, we’re going to look at the published variety; autobiographies  –  what people have written about themselves.

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From Jamaica to England – Part 2: The secret of the secondary source

Image of a pair of glasses on a book

The Roving Reader Files

The next instalment in our Roving Reader’s journey from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Delia Jarrett-Macauley unearths Una Marson

When you’re planning a journey, what do you do?

Some people just throw a few things in a bag, jump on the first train and go to sleep. Others want to look out the window, take in the scenery and understand what they’re looking at. If this is you, you’re just the candidate to dip into a secondary source.

Secondary sources are wonderful things. Some are huge and fat, others quite slim. Nearly all are written by kind souls who love to inflict on themselves the hassle of assembling and making sense of piles of information, just so people like you and me can become enlightened. Secondary sources give us firm foundations for understanding the context and broad issues of a subject.

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From Jamaica to England – Part 1: An invitation

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The Roving Reader Files

In a new series of posts, our Roving Reader travels from Jamaica to England, through the primary and secondary sources in our library collection.

Here we are back after the break, having seen in another new year. Do any of you feel like going away for a holiday after all that exertion? I know I do. Just as well then, that in this series I’m inviting everyone on a voyage of imagination and discovery, from sunny Jamaica to dear old Blighty.

Image of boat sailing into the sunset

Now why would I do that? Well, as far as I’m concerned, the Centre is an ideal place to do a bit of research, and our journey will be a great excuse for getting stuck into introducing different types of published resources you’ll find here.

On the way we’ll find that each type has its own strengths, whether it’s a primary or secondary source, and each brings its own special perspective when read in conjunction with others. By taking a look at one or two examples in more detail we’ll start to see history spring to life, and we’ll meet Jamaicans who make their own unique contributions to the story of what it has meant to swap Jamaica for England.

By the end, I hope we’ll have greater insight into the triumphs and disasters of migration, as well as some of what the Centre can offer to shed light on the experience.

So keep your eyes peeled for the next post

 

Archives, History and Black Footprints

There is a tendency to see the history of Black people in Britain as a 20th Century history, and certainly the post-war period saw a large number of West Indian (not to mention African, Asian, European) migrants arrive here, what we call the ‘Windrush Generation’.  And this period is the focus of our own archive – a repository for recent histories and living memories.

But a trip to the Lancashire Archives (for a CILIP Black History day school) has really put this into perspective for me.

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