The Southall Story: a cultural history of Britain's 'Little India' since 1979

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Drama


This project is a collaboration between the Department of Drama at the University of Exeter, the Department of Dance Studies at Roehampton University, and the founding members of 'The Southall Story' organisation. It aims to research, document and disseminate the cultural history of Southall since 1979. This date is significant, as it was in this year that the range of communities within Southall came together to resist racism and violence which were threatening the town. The resultant uprisings led to the death of school-teacher Blair Peach, and in response to these events, a range of social, political and cultural organisations and festivals were created to unite the communities together in resistance and celebration. The Southall Monitoring Group, the Southall Black Sisters, and the Southall Youth Movement were founded, and alongside this, new forms of performing arts were created out of the coming together of artists from different communities and backgrounds, leading to innovative forms of performance and artistic expression. This connection between the arts and the social-political contexts is of great importance in the subsequent cultural history of the town, and its contribution to the wider cultural life of Britain, and beyond. Southall has often been seen as a model of a diaspora community, and has been of immense importance in the study of migration within Britain. This project aims to contribute a unique perspective on the town by looking across the art forms, to examine the ways in which they influence each other, which is a key factor of Asian performance aesthetics. Additionally, the performance forms will be studied in relation to their emergence from political and social events. Through a mixture of interviews and gathering of material, a vital oral and cultural history of the town will be created, which will be of benefit both to the local communities, and to the study of diasporas and migration within academia. The mixture of academics and practitioners on the research team will ensure a wide range of research and forms of outputs, which will have an extensive audience due to the forms of dissemination including a public symposium and exhibition, alongside a co-authored book, three conference papers, a website and a digital archive, leading to a documentation of the history which will be available for public access.

Planned Impact

Who Will Benefit From the Research?
1) The local communities within Southall.
2) Local public and charitable organisations within Southall, such as the Southall Black Sisters, the Dominion Centre, and the Southall public library.
3) Local creative and performing artists and arts organisations within Southall.
4) Local private businesses in Southall.
5) Public organisations, specifically the Royal Geographical Society (RGS).
6) Public visitors to London, and those interested in the cultural history and diversity of London.
7) Policy-makers, such as Parminder Vir, a Director at the Department of Culture, Media and Sports.

How Will They Benefit?
The list below relates to the groups identified in the list above:
1) The local communities will benefit by considering their past history and taking pride in their cultural heritage, and reflecting on the link between their culture and personal and communal identity. The digital archive will create an oral history which will document the memories of the community, ensuring this history is passed on to subsequent generations. Members of the community will participate in the three RGS facilitated workshops to examine their communities' histories in the RGS Collections.
2) Local charitable organisations such as the Southall Black Sisters will benefit from the greater public awareness of the importance of their work, as well as the documentation of their history. The library will benefit through holding the digital archives, thereby increasing user numbers, likewise for the Dominion Centre through the exhibition.
3) There is great benefit to local artists and arts organisations through the documentation and wider public awareness of their work. This could lead to greater employment opportunities, as well as ensuring their work is preserved through the archives.
4) Local private businesses will benefit through increased visitor numbers to Southall as a result of the project, and publicity of their importance to the history of the community, eg TKC restaurant.
5) The RGS has offered to host the symposium in 2012. This will assist the RGS in considering how they represent local communities, and encourage visitors to these public spaces to see the communities differently. It will also attract a greater number of visitors from diasporic communities to the RGS. The Society has also offered to facilitate 3 workshops with the research team and members of the Southall communities to explore relevant parts of their Collections. This will be of benefit to their education and outreach activities, and gain greater exposure of their Collections in the project outputs.
6) The public events will enable a greater level of understanding of the cultural impact of the communities within Southall on the life of London, and the UK as a whole, thereby adding to the cultural and social development of visitors to London.
7) The research will be of use to policy-makers concerned with the contribution of diaspora communities to the cultural and political life of Britain.

What Will Be Done To Ensure That They Benefit?
The research outputs are focused towards the listed beneficiaries:
1) A copy of the digital archive will be given to the Southall Library to ensure wide public access.
2) The exhibition will attract visitors to Southall.
2) The project website will be linked to the existing 'Southall Story' website to create a larger public audience.
3) The symposium will take place in central London, attracting a wide public audience.
4) Local media stations like Sunrise Radio, and community centres, will publicise the project and encourage locals to contact project members to share their memories.
5) The RGS workshops will be publicised to a wide range of the community through contacts established by the RGS on prior projects.
6) The project reviews with members of the community will ensur


10 25 50
Description We have discovered a great amount of historical research about the culture and performance history of the communities within Southall, and their contribution to the life of the UI.
Exploitation Route The information in the digital archives is available for others to use.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The 120 interviews filmed as part of the project are now available for public access at the Dominion entre in Southall. In addition, the exhibition from the project has been shown in India and Thailand, and is now also permanently situated in the Dominion Centre. The project team have held a number of community engagement workshops connected to the findings from the research. Extracts from the interview will be played at a public event in April 2019 to commemorate the uprisings in Southall in April 1979. A film produced by Daboo as part of the project on the Southall Black Sisters will be shown as part of the organisation's 40th anniversary celebrations.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

Description AHRC/REACT grant for the E-Tabla project
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2014 
End 02/2016
Description Southall and Beyond' - An Exhibition and Festival of British Asian Culture in Delhi, and community engagement workshops in Bangkok
Amount £23,946 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/L003902/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 12/2013
Title Southall Story digital archive 
Description This is a collection of video interviews conducted as part of the Southall Story project which is publicly available for viewing in the Dominion Centre in Southall. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Impact is generated due to the archive being publicly available in Southall. This is also providing impact for the Dominion Centre, where the archive is housed, due to the additional visitors to the Centre to use the archive. 
Description Collaboration with Chulalongkorn University 
Organisation Chulalongkorn University
Department SASIN, Graduate Institute of Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
Country Thailand 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The collaboration came out of my research into the Southall Story project. I was invited to give a paper on the project in Chulalongkorn, and then subsequently invited back to use my project as the model for a similar project in Chulalongkorn with Indian diasporic communities in Bangkok. This was part of an AHRC Follow-on grant which included a festival and workshops in Chulalongkorn with the three project partners and myself, which was funded by Chulalongkorn.
Collaborator Contribution Financial contribution to support my initial visit, and subsequently the activities in Bangkok that related to the Follow-on grant. The university is also publishing the paper I gave in English and Thai.
Impact Outputs: - a talk by Jerri Daboo - a series of workshops by Daboo and the three partners on the Southall Story project - a concert - an exhibition of the work from the Southall Story project - publication of the talk by Daboo - a joint international syposium on transnational culture and performance held in Bangkok in February 2016. A publication in the form of an edited book will be forthcoming from the event.
Start Year 2012
Description Collaboration with Keda Music 
Organisation Keda Music Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution As a result of collaborating on the Southall Story project, this further collaboration investigates tradition and culture in teaching and performing of Indian music in the UK. This was supported through an AHRC/REACT grant, and has resulted in the creation of a new set of teaching materials for the tabla drums; a number of workshops and public events; and the development of a prototype for an electronic version of the tabla.
Collaborator Contribution This project has created innovative approaches to teaching and performing Indian music in the UK. We have developed a new system of teaching and notating for the Indian tabla drums. This has resulted in the publication of a new series of teaching books as well as the notation system, and progress towards the development of a prototype for an electronic version of the instrument.
Impact Publication of a series of three books which are a new system for teaching and learning to play the tabla drums.
Start Year 2014
Description Engagement workshops with schools and communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A range of engagement activities with schools and community groups.

Impact was gained through the range of creative, cultural and educational workshops with school groups, including taking school students to participate in a workshop at the Royal Geographical Society. Community workshops enabled community groups to have a forum for discussion which had not happened before.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013
Description International symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I co-organised an international public symposium on transnational performance, with a focus on the performance and culture of the Indian communities in the diasporas of South East Asia and the UK. This event took place in Bangkok in February 2016, and included public events of a music workshop and concert. It involved the Indian Cultural Centre in Thailand, as well as Chulalongkorn University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Southall Story radio programme for Desi Radio 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A two-hour radio programme at Desi Radio, Southall, to talk about the project, and have guests who have been interviewed for the project on air, and take calls from the public in response to the project.

A large number of people phoned into the programme from all over the world, and additionally some came in person to the radio station to discuss the project. Some of these people were subsequently interviewed as part of the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012
Description The Southall Story 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited by the AHRC to present at 'Jalsa', an event organised to promote the AHRC's funded work, at the British High Commission in Delhi, India.

As a result of the presentation, contact was made with the India International Centre in Delhi which led to touring the project's exhibition and holding a related festival at the IIC, funded by an AHRC Follow-on award.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description Where Worlds Collide: Exploring Performance, Culture and Community of Indian Diaspora in Southall 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Invited to give a public talk at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. This has led to further planned activities relating to the arts of the Indian diaspora in association with Chulalongkorn, giving the research an international reach.

As a result of the talk, the artistic consultants and myself were invited to Chulalongkorn to show the exhibition, host a festival and begin to develop community projects with the Indian communities in Bangkok.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012