About the Coming to Coventry project

The project

Coming to Coventry is a partnership project between the Asian Mental Health Access Project (AMHAP) and The Herbert, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It records the experiences of South Asian migrants who came to Coventry from the 1940s to the 1960s. Video interviews, photographs and other personal objects have been collected to create this website, a book and an exhibition.
Coming to Coventry was developed by staff at AMHAP and The Herbert as an extension of existing work to record and celebrate the history of Coventry’s South Asian community. Through our activities we recognised that many early migrants were passing away and taking their significant personal histories with them. Many project participants saw their experiences as insignificant and expressed fears of being marginalised in modern society. We hope that this project will preserve their achievements and help to secure them greater recognition from younger British Asians and other communities. Identity and immigration are major issues today and this project has great contemporary relevance. It challenges stereotypes and misconceptions not only of the Asian community but of the migration experience in general.

The results

During the project we recorded the memories of over 60 pioneers and collected more than 600 personal photographs and objects relating to their migration experiences. The full collection will shortly be deposited at The Herbert where it will be preserved for future generations and made available for public use. It will be accessible to anyone doing a school project or personal research - or maybe you know one of the participants and would like to hear their stories. If so, please {ln:Contact 'contact us}.
The material collected during the project was used to produce a {ln:book 'book} and a temporary {ln:exhibition 'exhibition} which were launched at The Herbert in May 2006. They were very successful and have inspired the local Asian community to value and preserve its history. The book and project website have been welcomed by teachers as a much needed cultural diversity teaching resource. Some of the {ln:educational 'educational resources} produced for school visits to the exhibition can be found on this website.

The future

The current phase of the project has come to an end but the project team hopes to secure funding to continue documenting the experiences of South Asian people living in Coventry. Future aspirations include working with schools to develop the material collected into an interactive CD ROM. We would also like to develop this website, making it more interactive so that other South Asian pioneers can add their own stories and photographs to the site.

Asian migration to Coventry

Though most South Asian migrants came to Coventry in the 1950s and 1960s there was a small Asian community before this time. Some of the people who arrived in the 1920s and 1930s worked as labourers in Coventry's thriving industries. Others were travelling salesmen who went wherever they could find opportunities. Most of them saw migration as a temporary measure which would give them the opportunity to earn some money and then return home.
Post-war Coventry attracted new migrants. The labour shortage meant that there was a need for workers from overseas, and large numbers came from the former British empire. Many of the Asians who arrrived during the 1950s and 1960s were employed as manual labourers, even though some of them were well educated. They worked long unsocial hours and lived in crowded run-down housing. They were mainly young men, seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families back home.
Though many of these migrants had intended to return home, a lot of them began to settle in Coventry with their families and a permanent community was established. Today the South Asian community represents the largest minority in Coventry and accounts for 11 per cent of the population. It has made a positive contribution to the city and the Coming to Coventry project attempts to capture and preserve the stories of just a few of its pioneers.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 08 July 2007 )

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