Category Archives: Oral History, Centre for Oral History Research, audio t

New photos of Huddersfield

Huddersfield Railway Station and St Georges Square, March 2010

Huddersfield Railway Station and St Georges Square, March 2010

 

Take a look at the new images of Huddersfield added to the Asian Voices website, including the new look St Georges Square, The Empire Cinema which was popular in the 1960’s and still stand today. Also see if you can see the symbols of the British Empire on the buildings which have been around since the 1800’s. 

http://www.asianvoices.org.uk/galleries/view/8

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End of the Project

Community events,

Community events

With the run up to the end of the project in June, I am seeking more and more people to take part in the project and have their oral histories record. If you are from a South Asian background and your family migrated in the 1950’s, 1960’s or 1970’s get in touch and have your history recorded and documented for life. The project run by The University of Huddersfield will be archiving all interviews and you will be able to see your biography on the Asian Voices website, www.asianvoices.org.uk.

During this month I have been working with Lindley Infant School, conducting Oral History workshops teaching students to reflect on their family history and learn to interview each other and have collected interviews from The Indian Workers Association with thanks to Baldev for allowing me access to his men’s social group who gave me some fascinating stories. Have a listen to them on the website.

So get in touch; this is a chance for ordinary people to have their life histories recorded… be part of the future now!

Oral history and what it means.

So far, the Asian Voices project has interviewed many people from the South Asian community and documented their experiences and memories about coming to England.  It has been an eye-opening, fascinating experience to take part in and it will provide an invaluabe archive of the thoughts and feelings of those who experienced this important period in British history first hand.  This, however, is not the sole purpose of Asian Voices or indeed oral history as a whole.  Looking at some parts of various transcripts it is easy to see why.

“We got Saturday and Sunday off, but we had to go shopping and clean the house.  We were tenants but we had to clean the house, and cook for ourselves.  We used to cook fish but there wasn’t an awful lot of fish around.  We used to put curry powder into it and make a sort of curry.  After a few years, there were a couple of shops where we could get halal meat on George St. There was a Pakistani shop there, but we used to kill our own chickens.  We used to go to a farm to get chickens and halal them ourselves.” – Sabir Hussain

This part of Mr. Hussain’s interview shows clearly how and why oral history is such a relevant tool for more than just the cataloguing of events.  For a community such as South Asian immigrants, particularly in Britain, oral history serves to give  people a voice where, in many cases, they haven’t had one before. 

South Asian immigrants to the UK possess some of the richest, most diverse and most interesting cultural history, yet in a historical sense it is an aspect of our country’s history which has been overlooked.  With oral history, the very people who participated in this movement are able to say what they feel about it themselves before it is too late.

When the British Empire collapsed in the late 1940s due to Britain’s heavily weakened state after World War 2, Britain needed workers.  Men like Sabir came from their homes in Southern Asia to aid Britain at a time when their labour was invaluable.  Asian Voices has given these people the chance to say what it was like to come to Britain and find work, mostly in industrial jobs, and form a community that has remained strong and secure ever since.

“The first job I did, the name of the firm was TA Corckings.  They used to make hydraulic rings for aeroplanes and ships.  Technically I was very good and I made many  rings and I checked rings and could say whether they were good rings or bad omes.   That’s why the firm owner was very taken with me and thought I was a real asset to the firm.” – Sabir Hussain

The purpose that men like Sabir served in those early days of South Asian immigration to the UK is what oral history and the Asian Voices programme is all about.  It aims to show the community how and why these men and women came to Britain, and tell the fascinating stories they have about their experiences in doing so.

Accents in ‘uddersfield

View of Castle Hill from Sikh Temple in Springwood

View of Castle Hill from Sikh Temple in Springwood

With transport being so readily available and travel instant, people are diluting their accents to an acceptable form as they are no longer restricted to living and working in one town or city. I am born and bred in ‘uddersfield, and with fellow Yorkshire men and lasses my accent will go back to the Yorkshire form it should be, but in the workplace and even on the phone I find I am speaking the way one should… but how should one speak? and how long will we be able to keep our regional accents and dialects without diluting them to the extent they no longer exist?

Oral history is the way in which this can be preserved. For years now oral historians have been recoding and archiving hundreds if not thousands of interviews with people on subjects of the past. Going back to World War I and the experience of the soldiers in the trenches, World War II and the migration of the South Asian community after the collapse of the British Empire. Here are just a few of the subject areas in which people have delved into, but listening back to the sound archives makes you appreciate the language and tones in which ordinary people communicated in. How times have changed, how diverse language has become, with the Oxford dictionary taking on new words constantly, words originating from across cultures and continents, it is something to think of. Try recording your older generations on your phone and see if you can catch a glimpse of the past through their voice.

Education Pack

Asian voices leafletAsian Voices is developing an education pack in which schools can teach their students aspects of oral history though a social, historical and geographical context. Oral history is about capturing people’s feeling, emotion and experiences of past life to allow individuals to trace developments within an area.

Asian Voices is looking at Huddersfield’s geographical landscape and the way it has changed since the 1960’s through the South Asian influence. We are hoping to produce an education pack viewed through South Asian history in which students from all backgrounds can explore their local community.

Packs will be available free to Kirklees schools from January 2010.

Interview with former Mayor of Huddersfield; Karam Hussain

Former Mayor of Huddersfield

Former Mayor of Huddersfield

In the final hours of his term as Mayor, Former Mayor Karam Hussain invited me into the Town Hall parlour to take an Oral History recording of his life as Mayor, achievements; his struggles of starting work at the age of 15 in the textile mills and how he still has a strong sense of belonging to Kashmir, his birthplace. He recalled memories of coming to England at the age of fifteen to see his dad who had left for England when he was born and described the way in which his granddad called him back to live in Kashmir after finding out he was working in England in the mills at such a young age.

Karam Hussain spent many years between homes, six months with his parents in England and six months with grandparents in Kashmir. He recalls enjoying the experience and highlights the way in which it has deepened his knowledge and life experiences, but Karam decided to settle in England when he married and started his family; as England provided a better life as was viewed by many South Asians at the time. He describes how life was hard in England and he only managed to go back to Kashmir every now and then, but he achieved his ambitions with will power and determination, describing his previous role as Mayor with a focus of bringing communities together.

Karam Hussain was Mayor of Huddersfield from May 2008-2009. He is the second South Asian Mayor of Huddersfield after former Mayor Mohan Sokhal whose term as mayor completed in 2002.

 Listen to this oral history on the Asian Voices website, along with many other oral histories from the Huddersfield community on www.asianvoices.org.uk.