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Southall Ever After

 

Southall Ever After was a festival held across Wolfields Park and Southall Park this summer with Southall Community Alliance, UAL and Gunnersbury Park Museum. We set out to engage with various South Asian Community groups in Southall and connect them to our collection of Dennis Morris photographs.

Our aims

Southall Ever After festival celebrated the diverse communities in Southall and reflect on their personal and collective past, present and future through creative workshops.

Gunnersbury Park Museum had a stall in Southall Park showcasing some of our Dennis Morris photographs (a photographer who documented life in Southall in the 1970s) our South Asian Archives, archives about Ealing in the past and we also took some photos from our Being South Asian exhibition.

We talked to a lot of people across the two weekends about our pieces on display and discussed Blair Peach, bussing, racism and migration, and, in particular, the changes people have seen over the last few decades in Southall.

 

Why is this important?

This festival allowed us to spread the word about our museum and the local community had the opportunity to see themselves represented in the collection.

By using the Dennis Morris photos we were able to show the South Asian communities that they and their histories have a place in and are welcome in our museum. When discussing the photos people were pleasantly surprised these pictures of everyday people like themselves were in our collection and enjoyed the opportunity to delve back into Southall's past.

“Brings back memories” 
“These pictures will allow me to show my children the heritage of Southall” 
“We need more pictures like these to be shown publicly in museums” 
“We could hear the protests of Blair Peach from our house. It was a monumental event but people of my generation were very young and so we weren’t allowed to go and join in”.

It was wonderful to get a chance to engage with various South Asian Community groups in Southall and connect them to the Dennis Morris photos. The vast majority had never heard of Dennis Morris and the work he did photographing the South Asian community in Southall in the 1970s.

The photos brought up a lot of memories for people. We wanted to give people the time and space to reflect and talk about their time growing up in Southall in the 1970s, and we also delved into difficult and deeper conversations such as bussing. Bussing was when children from black and South Asian groups were bussed off to schools within and outside of the borough. This idea of bussing was brought about supposedly to help integration but was more due to concerns that schools in Southall were were being overpopulated by migrant children. Children were sometimes bussed to different schools each month and also experiencing physical and verbal abuse from others when standing at bus stops.

 

“Southall has a very rich history which needs to be shown and talked about more”  
“You are doing a good job. These kinds of old pictures bring back so many memories for people like me” 
“I love looking at old photos. It’s just so interesting to see Southall back in time”

Looking forward

We want to put in a bid for a pop up touring exhibition of Dennis Morris' works and involve community groups in this. From this project we believe this would be well received and has underlined how important it that people feel that there are exhibitions which represent their community.

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