Connecting Stories: community project launches

With two months to go until the exhibition opens, this weekend a photographer will be at the Library of Birmingham taking portraits of local people on 19, 20 and 22 May.


The Library of Birmingham and the British Library are today announcing further details of their partnership project, Connecting Stories, celebrating the important role South Asian culture has played in forming Britain and Birmingham’s history and identity.

The central exhibition, Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, will open on 15 July at the Library of Birmingham, drawing on the rich collections of the British Library and the Library of Birmingham. The exhibition will explore Britain’s enduring connections with South Asia, from historical trading links stretching back 400 years, to the impact of migration and settlement in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Connecting Stories will focus on the countries of present day India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The rich and intertwining history of South Asia and the Midlands will be illustrated by photographs, letters, posters, paintings, documents and ephemera, showing how libraries and archives can reveal untold and forgotten stories. Highlights include:

  • The first list of subscribers in the earliest East India Company minute book, 1599, the starting point of close connections between Britain and South Asia.
  • A letter signed by Mahatma Gandhi and a group of other South Asian people in Britain, pledging their support during World War I
  • Maps of South Asia dating back to the 17th Century
  • A rare 19th century game reflecting Britain’s trading interests in Asia and elsewhere
  • Pictures of South Asian people of all classes who came to Britain, including ayahs (nannies) a Suffragette princess and Sake Dean Mahomed who set up the Hindoostanee Coffee House in London and became Shampooing Surgeon to George IV 
  • 1940s police reports on meetings of the Indian Workers Association and India League
  • Community publications and campaigning materials charting the history of South Asians in the UK in the twentieth century
  • Photographs showing protests and counter-protests in 1960s and 1970s Britain
  • Poetry and art of Nobel prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore who visited Birmingham in 1930, the year his work was exhibited at the City Museum and Art Gallery

A crucial part of Connecting Stories is a series of public engagement events including talks, performances and free family activities. A professional photographer will be at the Library of Birmingham on 19, 20 and 22 May capturing images of Birmingham’s richly diverse community as possible, with 150 of these portraits then chosen to feature in the exhibition. Photos will be taken between 11am and 5pm on Friday 19 May and Saturday 20 May, and 1pm to 5pm on Monday 22 May.

People will also be encouraged to send in their selfies, via Instagram, to the #brumpeeps digital project over the summer to help create an online snapshot of Birmingham now.

This year marks an important milestone in South Asian history and activities will be taking place in Birmingham and across the country to mark the UK’s longstanding cultural ties with the Indian subcontinent.

Throughout 2017, Birmingham’s Utsav: Year of South Asian Culture is celebrating the contribution South Asian communities make to the city. Utsav, meaning festival/celebration, was officially launched on 18 January 2017 and will feature a wide variety of professional and community events and activities throughout the year.

This project, made possible by a grant from The National Lottery, helps forge the next step in an ongoing partnership between the Library of Birmingham and the British Library, following the success last year of Our Shakespeare, a major Library of Birmingham exhibition, curated by the British Library, celebrating Shakespeare’s connection with the Midlands.

Notes to Editors

Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage runs from 15 July – 4 November

Opening hours:

Monday & Tuesday 11am-7pm

Wednesday – Saturday 11am-5pm

Sunday – Closed

About The British Library -

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages.

In 2017 the British Library is presenting a special year of events and cultural exchange programmes to celebrate South Asian culture. These include a partnership with the Library of Birmingham, a cultural exchange programme with CSMVS in Mumbai and a new partnership with Jaipur Literature Festival. 

About the Library of Birmingham –

Birmingham City Council’s Library of Birmingham is a major cultural destination, rewriting the book for 21st century public libraries.

Described by its architect Francine Houben as a ‘people’s palace’, the Library of Birmingham is highly accessible and family-friendly. It delivers excellent services through collaboration between Birmingham City Council, The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, partners and communities. It provides a dynamic mix of events, activities and performance together with outstanding resources, exhibitions and access to expert help for learning, information and culture. As a centre of excellence for literacy, research, study, skills development, entrepreneurship, creative expression, health information and much more, the Library of Birmingham is changing people’s lives.

For more information:

Stephanie Knox
The British Library
t: +44 (0)20 7412 7790

Evenings and weekends:
+44 (0) 20 7412 7150

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