Back in Time for Birmingham 23 June 2022: Episode 4 on BBC Two
Guided by BBC Asian Network’s Noreen Khan and historian Yasmin Khan, the Sharma family reflect on their time-travelling journey through British Asian history and discover how things have changed in the 21st century.
The family meet Paul Chowdhry, who has built a hugely successful career as a comedian, and discover how and why he felt able to take this unconventional career path – one that would have felt unthinkable to the earliest arrivals from India and Pakistan. Manual work was almost the only option, with many men working double shifts to try and send as much money home as possible. The family reflect on their experience of running a shop and the opportunities that education and university began to offer second- and third-generation British Asians.
Noreen takes the Sharmas to visit a desi pub, the latest way in which South Asian cuisine has adapted to win over yet more fans. It’s a far cry from the family’s experiences in the 1950s, when hunting down authentic ingredients was tricky, and Akash had to resort to flavouring a meal with pickle!
The Sharmas reflect on the development of a unique British Asian culture as families took the music, stories and entertainment from home and adapted them to life in Britain – from setting up cinemas playing the latest Bollywood hits to the development of bhangra music and the arrival of the legendary daytimer scene. Akash and Alisha visit Noreen in her studio at BBC Asian Network and talk about how mainstream British Asian music has now become.
But this is not a simple story of progression. The family meet Yasmin to discuss how the events of 9/11 had a seismic impact on British Asian communities across the country. Suddenly being brown raised suspicions, and people faced old prejudices again. As they discuss what they remember of these events, the Sharmas contemplate the different ways in which British Asians have been discriminated against over the last 70 years – from landlords refusing to rent rooms, discrimination in work and the impact of events like Enoch Powell’s speech, to changes in government policy or rhetoric on their experience. The Sharmas visit street artist Mohammed Ali, whose work draws together elements of his childhood, his faith and the history of Birmingham to express his sense of belonging in his home city and his pride in being the child of immigrants.
Manisha and Alisha visit one of the country’s top wedding planners to discover how Indian weddings have changed, and how third and fourth generations are able to blend their identity as modern British Asians with traditions that are centuries old. The whole family discover how important Birmingham’s British Asian population has become to the city as a whole and visit a mosque and community centre which has played a vital role in supporting all families in their neighbourhood during the pandemic.
As their time travels draw to a close, Noreen and Yasmin Khan join the family with their friends for a party to mark two events – Diwali and the very English tradition of Bonfire Night. They reflect on what they’ve learned by exploring their family and cultural history and toast their Back in Time experience.
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About Back in Time for Birmingham
The Sharma family are going back in time to discover what life was like for South Asian families who settled in Britain from the 1950s onwards.
This show is broadcast on BBC Two, also known as the British Broadcasting Corporation.