Project events are advertised and summarised here.
14 October 2016
The Legacy of Ahmed project launch
Friday 14 October would have been Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’s 44th birthday. To mark the occasion, family, friends and those affected by his death attended a special commemorative event and project launch at Manchester Central Library.
Over 100 people gathered for a preview of the ‘Legacy of Ahmed’ exhibition, featuring a range of oral history interview excerpts, photographs and archive material. They also listened to a programme of speeches delivered by Councillor Lufther Rahman (Executive Member for Culture and Leisure), Selina Ullah (founder of the Intercultural Communication and Leadership School, and Ahmed’s sister) and Prof Lou Kushnick (founder of the AIU Race Relations Resource Centre). The event included refreshments made by members of the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation and a special screening of the project film created by producer Karen Gabay.
“A very touching event.”
“This project has given me a deeper understanding of race, my own race and my place within this city and country.”
“Mrs Fatima Begum [Ahmed’s mother and founder of the Ahmed Iqbal Memorial High School] is a true inspiration to all women, all over the world.”
“I think that Manchester secondary schools should teach their students about Ahmed’s life and legacy.”
Ahmed was murdered by a fellow pupil in the school playground, after defending younger Asian boys from bullying. 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of his death. For the past 12 months The Legacy of Ahmed project has been gathering oral history interviews and archive material to document both the impact of his death and the wide range of positive initiatives inspired by his memory.
The exhibition continues at Central Library until the beginning of January 2017.
13 March 2016
A day to remember
Around 35 women gathered at Ananna this weekend to share their memories of Longsight and the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation (MBWO). MBWO was established in 1989 and is based on Dickenson Road in Longsight. During its 27 year history the organisation has helped hundreds of women to develop life skills, access services and overcome isolation. For its founder members, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’s death was a catalyst that brought community members together, highlighting the need for greater cooperation and an organised response to discrimination.
Women at this week’s reminiscence event recalled some of their collective challenges and achievements. In particular, many had fond memories of the Longsight area:
1970s: “One of my earliest memories was when one my neighbours showed me how to grow roses. They also advised me to listen to Radio 4 to improve my English.”
1978-80: “We didn’t live near many Bengalis. Most of the people we socialised with were out English neighbours. They helped us to settle but we helped them a lot too. My children used to help me look after two elderly ladies on our street who had no family. I used to cook and send food for them and I used to send my eldest son to get them shopping…They became part of our family.”
1983: “At Longsight library with my friends, I remember finding Bangla books; a shelf full of books that I was interested in. The library became my favourite place!”
1990: “My mum used to love Longsight market and its multicultural community. She was able to go out by herself and enjoy the independence as things were quite close within walking distance. ”
Some also shared memories of shopping, eating and cooking (in particular Pithas, a Bangladeshi delicacy with many regional variations) while others recalled their experiences of migrating and settling in the UK.
“I was only 17 years old…the family’s first sibling to get married and travel over the ocean. On arriving at the airport I realised I had to handle luggage on my own (a totally new experience as in South Asian countries we have Koolies – people who carry your luggage). The next shock came when someone called me ‘love’ (a term of endearment). In India it is only for special people. I literally ran with my luggage!”
“I was 8 years old when we came to join my dad. I missed a lot of my childhood friends, relatives and extended family. I also missed the valleys of Bangladesh, the monsoon and the heat. I didn’t expect to spend my whole life here. Now I have a grandchild and am expecting another. 4th generation!”
1 March 2016
This week, members of Ananna’s Monday lunch club took time out to recall memories of their childhood. 20 women plus management committee members and staff enjoyed playing with nostalgic toys including a skipping rope, cup and ball, spinning top and marbles.
“Skipping makes you grow taller.”
“We called the spinning top a lateem. It had a nail in the bottom and you’d set it going with a string. We had races to see whose lateem would spin the longest.”
Participants remembered the freedom of growing up in rural Bangladesh; exploring outdoors, climbing trees and swimming or fishing in nearby lakes. Some shared sensory memories: the soothing sounds of frogs, crickets and fireflies; the sweet taste of date palm syrup and ripe mango; the earthy smell after monsoon rain; the spectacular, changing colour of surrounding paddy fields. Many women used their imagination and creativity to make toys of their own such as peg or rag dolls, flower garlands and clay pots and pans. Some did an impromptu demonstration of how to construct an origami boat (traditionally from banana leaves), using a scrap of paper.
When the women compared their own childhoods to those of their children raised here in the UK, the difference was vast:
“Everything here has to be bought”.
“Now it’s all TV and computers.”
“When I tell my grandchildren these stories and how much freedom I had as a child they tell me to stop; it just isn’t fair!”
Though everyone agreed that British life is more hectic, some women said they’d made time to pass on their most treasured skills and traditions.
10 December 2015
On November 11, we held a reunion and reminiscence meeting for members of the Longsight-Sylhet Link group. LSL was a multidisciplinary team of health, education and community workers who wanted to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local Bangladeshi community by meeting with counterparts in Bangladesh.
During the trip, members visited the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Memorial High School in Syhlet as well as hospitals, community projects, a madrassa and a church.
The reunion meeting included Mutasim Billah, Bob Day, Barry Johnson, Janice Leavey and Yvonne Loth. A later meeting with Jennie was held with two other members of the group – Lois Miles and Jo Fee. It was very clear that members of the group had learned a lot from their visit to Bangladesh and were glad to share their memories. The story of the Longsight-Sylhet Link group is inspiring:
“For all of us, our visit to Bangladesh was an unforgettable experience. The visit…highlighted the importance of listening to what local people are saying, taking careful note of their concerns and working alongside people to solve problems and achieve objectives”.
8 December 2015
Last week at Ananna, 13 women (including 2 members of the management committee) and 5 staff took part in a reminiscence session looking back at 30 years of development within the Manchester Bangladeshi community. Using a timeline to prompt memories, the women explained how Longsight has changed to include more Asian shops and restaurants and how the women’s project, Ananna has enabled them to meet others and develop new skills. They remembered overcoming barriers to education and employment; learning English, gaining the confidence to challenge prejudice, juggling family responsibilities and low-paid homework (mainly in sewing). They also talked about the differing experiences of their children, many of whom are now professionals working in public antibiotics health, education and the law.
Some remembered the trauma of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’s murder:
‘I came to this country in 1984. I heard about the murder of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah. I was so frightened. I was scared to send my children to school.’
‘I was at Whalley Range High School in 1986 when we heard about Ahmed’s murder. We were 13 or 14 years old. We weren’t surprised at what happened. There was a lot of tension.’
‘I am the mum of a son that went to Burnage High School. He was witness to the murder; he didn’t want to go back to school. We then put him in private school…I felt scared and anxious in the immediate aftermath. I was worried when our children weren’t at home.’
‘When I came here it was a culture shock…whilst we were trying to learn, cope and manage this very particular incident happened at Burnage High School. At that very moment the community united themselves and felt that that they had to rise above the inequality of discrimination. We also felt that the women in particular needed to empower themselves…’
We plan to run further reminiscence sessions in the new year.