Tag Archives: research

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.


I find the most interesting question I ask people in my Oral History research is where do you see your home? Now for you and I this may be a straight forward answer; but if you were born in another country and came to England as a child or even later on in life, where would you see your home? 



It still fascinates me the length people went to, to build a better life for themselves which I am grateful to as I being British Asian would not be here if they hadn’t done so, but this sacrifice didn’t just affect the Asian community, but Irish, Afro-Caribbean and many others communities that still have to migrate from their homeland after conflict, due to poverty and to seek a better life. The roots they hold are firm passing on their proud cultural heritage and traditions from their birthplace, but once rooted in England they are nourished by the new culture and grow with it enriching everyone around them. 

home is where the heart is

home is where the heart is

In my lifetime and through my research, I have encountered many people in this situation; my parents themselves have dual heritage, my dad maybe less so as he came to Huddersfield at the age of five so sees himself as British, but my mother who came when she was eighteen, still a young age, but as she left her family in Pakistan she strongly felt that Pakistan was still her home. It was only after her parents died that her connections weakened and despite her siblings still living there and her mother’s home still standing, her heart now belongs in Huddersfield with her children, her home and her life. 

Now for the first time this year my granddad who came to England in 1960 has gone to Pakistan. He is in his late 70’s and my grandma is not far behind, now they will go to Pakistan a few times in the year probably eight weeks here and eight weeks there…their birthplace is Pakistan, their home is England they have the best of both worlds.