Mr Bhalla with record player

Mr Bhalla with record player

 In 2011, Journeys to Cheshire started when Cheshire Halton and Warrington Race and Equality Centre (CHAWREC) obtained funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to engage local people from the black and minority ethnic communities (BME) in an oral history project. The main aim of Journeys to Cheshire was to record the oral histories of members of the BME communities in Cheshire for future posterity and as a tool for research and educational purposes. The full interviews and their written transcripts are kept at the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies Centre in Chester where they are carefully stored for future generations.

We were fortunate that we were able to record members from a wide variety of different BME communities. In addition, we were able to record the memories of a wide cross-section of age groups within the Cheshire BME communities and to record the memories of people who arrived in Cheshire in every decade from the 1940’s right up to 2011.

We interviewed residents from all four local authorities (Warrington, Halton, Cheshire West & Chester and Cheshire East) and we interviewed residents with roots in the following countries: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, The Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Guyana, Jamaica, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Spain and France.  The youngest person we recorded was 17 years old and the oldest was 93.

Letter to Mr Tatla 1970

Letter to Mr Tatla 1970

Journeys to Cheshire celebrates the cultural diversity of Cheshire through the many contributions made to our community by members of the various BME communities over the last 60 years. Those contributions include helping Britain’s war effort in the 1940’s, working to build up our shattered economy after World War II, playing vital roles in developing our public services, especially the NHS, serving our local communities through voluntary work, helping to stimulate Cheshire’s local economy with enterprise and job creation and many other important ways in which the BME communities have made contributions to Cheshire.

In a book of this size we are only able to show extracts from some of the interviews conducted for the project. There is also a DVD which accompanies the project where you can hear extracts of some interviews. As stated above, the full interviews, their written transcripts and any other archive material kindly lent to us by the people we interviewed are stored at the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies Centre and we hope you will be able to visit the centre to view and listen to the full collection.

The stories tell of many different experiences. Some are happy, even amusing and funny. Some are more painful. Some journeys have been difficult journeys to Cheshire. Some stories tell of living under oppressive regimes such as Nazi occupation or Apartheid. Some stories recount instances of racism experienced in Britain or of experiences of avoiding an arranged marriage. Others tell of more positive experiences and most tell of how attitudes towards black and minority ethnic communities have improved over time.

We certainly hope you enjoy the book and the DVD of ‘Journeys to Cheshire’ and that the project leaves you with a better understanding of the black and minority ethnic communities in Cheshire and their important contributions to our local life.

Neil Emmott
Project Co-ordinator
April 2012