Tag Archives: oral history

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. 


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.

Snow up to your knees

Forty years ago not only was society different with regards to culture, ethnicity and social activities, bit climate was also different. For South Asians coming into Britain, one of the shocking things for them was the weather. In the 1960’s summer was summer and winter was winter. In the summer the sun would shine and the beaches would be filled and in the winter the snow would fall and wellies and shovels would come out. On the Asian voices website (www.asianvoices.org.uk) we have many recollections of the snow, going to the outdoor toilet in your wellies, remembering the snow falling and staying on the ground for months at a time and my favourite is the way in which Mohammad Siddique describes the ice in his mother tounge punjabi as looking like “sheets of glass on the rooftops”. The description oral history provides to the past highlights the imporatance to which it must be preserved and if you would like your oral histories recorded, please contact me via the Asian Voices website.

Oral History Interviews

flashmicWe are always looking for people to interview and if you are interested in recording your oral history please contact me via the Asian Voices website www.asianvoices.org.uk.

We are looking for people who have lived or currently live in Huddersfield and are first, second or third generation South Asian.

Oral History Society Conference 2009

The Oral History Society Conference was held in Glasgow on the 3rd and 4th July 2009. There were many intriging oral historians from all over the world, who presented papers and workshops, demonstating how much work is done within the Oral History field in relation to taking oral histories from individuals, audiotrails, sport, media, art and theatre and much more. see Oral History website for further details http://www.ohs.org.uk/conferences/2009.php.

One of the conferences guest speakers was  Scottish Poet Rab Wilson, recent holder of the Robert Burns Fellowship and winner of 2008 McCash Scots Poetry Competition, who gave the conference guests a Glaswegian welcome!

It was lovely to meet fellow Oral Historians and gain an insight into the work done in Oral History worldwide.

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.

Islamia Girls High School

Islamia Girls High School

Islamia Girls High School

Oral history training has now started at Islamia Girls High School, Thornton Lodge, Huddersfield. We have trained Year 9 and 10, the techniques behind good interviewing skills and looked at individual heritage. The girls had fun using the digital recorders to record each other on their family background and heritage.

I will be going back to train Years 7 and 8, and hope to look at what they might pack in their suitcase if they were moving from England to Pakistan, India or Bangladesh.