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British Ugandan Asians at 50

Highlighting the experience of British Ugandan Asians in and after 1972, and the many volunteers who helped them.

Progress Report – August 2022

At its core, “British Ugandan Asians at 50” is an oral history project proposed by Mr Praful R C Patel, Chair of the India Overseas Trust and the sole surviving member of the British Government Uganda Resettlement Board. Its purpose is to capture the recollections of British nationals who volunteered, in many different ways, to assist with the reception of Ugandan Asians during the crucial early months after their arrival in late 1972. In May 2021, the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded the project a substantial grant, which has enabled us to record, on film, the stories of volunteers at three reception camps set up by the Uganda Resettlement Board. The films are being supplemented by digitalised period photographs and other materials on a dedicated new website. Interviews were partly conducted by sixth-formers; the intergenerational aspect of the Project is central to its vision. The grant provides for local exhibitions to be held in the three areas in late 2022.

A British family welcomes a Ugandan Asian mother and baby into their home

Subsequently, donations from high net worth individuals within the British Ugandan Asian (BUA) community are enabling the scope of the project to be widened to include:

  • Interviews with key surviving individuals from the BUA community who experienced life in the camps, and other dramatis personae from the era
  • Working with the Living Refugee Archive to create an online, open access archive of key documents, photographs and other materials as a resource for future generations
  • A National Reception in collaboration with the British Asian Trust to celebrate the achievements of the British Ugandan Asian Community and commemorate their arrival in the United Kingdom on Sunday 18th September 2022 at The Guildhall, London
  • A multi-faith Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral in September 2023
  • Cross-disciplinary panel discussions at the National Archives and other venues
  • A Touring Exhibition on the Uganda Expulsion, in partnership with exhibition projects in Leicester and elsewhere
  • Enhanced use of social media
  • Ongoing collaborations with relevant organisations to foster research into the Uganda Exodus and East African migration to the UK specifically and the Diaspora in general.

 

The Project was launched on 18th September 2021 with the video release of a new poem, ‘I Walk This Path’ ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0nr2esGMk0&t=4s ) by acclaimed Broadcaster and Author, Babita Sharma.

This document sets out, in bullet point format, the progress that has been achieved.

1. Uganda Resettlement Board Reception & Reception Camps oral histories

Tonfanau, Meirionnydd, Wales (interviews took place 19/20 March):

  • People’s Collection Wales (a programme of the National Library of Wales) acted as the local partner organisation; the filmed interviews will feature on its portal as well.
  • 9 individuals were interviewed: a nurse at the camp and her husband who gave work experience to UAs; a man who led the Round Table team that made the camp ready for the expellees; a UA camp resident who acted as interpreter; a teacher; a man who did odd jobs; two local people who visited the camp as school children; and the Mayor of Dolgellau who has a young man volunteered to assist the army in welcoming the UAs.
  • We sourced period photographs together with thank-you letters, wedding invitations, a sari and a cooking pot brought from Uganda.

A member of the Ugandan Asian community being interviewed by a 6th former

 

Stradishall, Suffolk (interviews took place 9/10 April):

  • A member of the Wickhambrook History Society acted as the local project leader.
  • 10 individuals were interviewed, including camp residents, volunteers, paid staff and a police cadet who staffed the camp switchboard.
  • A local 6th form college sent 3 young people to conduct interviews.
  • Content (including photographs and a doll and radio brought from Uganda) has been assembled for a local exhibition.

 

Heathfield, Devon (interviews took place 18 June):

  • Two local 6th-formers conducted the interviews in All hallows Museum, Honiton.
  • 7 interviews took place, with 5 camp residents, a volunteer and the Museum Curator, with four more volunteers to be interviewed via Zoom.
  • Photographs and other memorabilia are being assembled for an exhibition.

A member of the Ugandan Asian community being interviewed by a 6th former

A British family welcomes a Ugandan Asian mother and baby into their home

3. Panel discussions and other events

On 20th June 2022 we held our first Panel Discussion on Ugandan Asian themes. This was as part of a conference called Narratives of Refugee Memories, organised by the South Asia Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. A panel comprised of BUA50 Chair Alan Critchley, BUA50 Technical Adviser Paresh Solanki and renowned international cameraman Bhasker Solanki looked at how the media covers stories around mass migration, with a particular focus on the Ugandan Asian story.

 

An enthusiastic audience were shown our launch film ‘I Walk This Path’ and a teaser film of excerpts from our interviews thus far ( https://youtu.be/3GGWtZVAaRQ  ). Feedback was excellent, one person commenting that they had previously known very little about the voluntary effort in 1972. The event was concluded by a fascinating keynote speech by Former Amb. Professor Mike Molloy of Carleton University, Canada, who in 1972 was part of the team in Kampala processing applications for Canadian residence by Ugandan Asians.

A member of the Ugandan Asian community being interviewed by a 6th former

A British family welcomes a Ugandan Asian mother and baby into their home

Further panel discussions will take place at:

  • The Curve Theatre in Leicester, from 5.30pm on 04/08/22, the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the Expulsion by Idi Amin, as part of South Asian Heritage Month;
  • The National Archives, from 5pm on 17/09/22, the 50th anniversary of the departure of the first evacuation flight from Entebbe Airport;
  • Carleton University, Canada, 3.45pm on 16/11/22, via Zoom.

Speakers include Sir Peter Soulsby, Leader of Leicester City Council, Jasvir Singh OBE from South Asian Heritage Month, Colin Grimes (former Head Master, Jinja Secondary School), academic Dr Ria Kapoor (Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London), and Ugandan expellees Prof Akbar Vohra, Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Manzoor Moghal MBE, Sukhpal Singh Ahluwalia and Rajiv Popat of ITV Central.

The British Library has agreed to host a seminar in early 2023; and St Paul’s Cathedral has agreed in principle to host a multi-faith Service of Commemoration in May/June 2023.

4. Website

  • A website has been created (https://bua50.org), describing the project and inviting the public to contribute their own stories via a dedicated email address: mystory@bua50.org
  • Editing of the recorded interviews is now complete and the videos are being uploaded to the website and YouTube
  • Over 300 official documents relating to the Ugandan Asian Exodus and the resettlement of Ugandan Asians held by the National Archives have been photographed by the BUA50 team. A selection of these will be uploaded to the website, beginning in July 2022
  • Visits have also been made to the London Metropolitan Archives, which houses the records of the Coordinating Committee for the Welfare of Evacuees from Uganda; and a visit to the British Newspaper Archive is planned
  • Desk research has been undertaken to identify relevant online resources, websites etc.

 

5. Background information

  • Warwick Hawkins of the social enterprise Faith in Society (https://faithinsociety.org.uk) is Project Administrator/Writer for the project – warwick@faithinsociety.org.uk
  • Our Project Committee is Chaired by Mr. Alan Critchley JP (son of the Late T.A. Critchley, Full time Director of the Uganda Resettlement Board) and includes finance (Mr. Manesh Shah – Partner, PSJ Alexander & Co.), technical (Mr. Paresh Solanki – former Head of the BBC’s Asian Programming Unit), communications (Ms. Babita Sharma – acclaimed author and broadcaster) exhibitions (Mrs. Lata Desai of Subrang Arts), research (Ms. Anna Dimdore, Former Civil Servant, DCMS), social media (Ms. Meera Dattani, current Chair of the British Guild of Travel Writers) and design (Mr. Mukesh Naker of DC Evolution Design) leads, a press officer (Mr. Ali Fazel, former Parliamentary Assistant to Saqib Bhatti MBE MP) and Mr. Mayur Seta, an individual who was resident at a resettlement camp in 1972. Mr. Praful RC Patel and Mr. Mihir K Patel complete our Project Committee, having been co-opted from the India Overseas Trust – theindiaoverseastrust@gmail.com
  • Many prominent BUA individuals have become Patrons of BUA50 – current list is below
  • A Steering Group allows a wide range of interested individuals and organisations to input into programme design; at time of writing this has 50 members
  • Becky Taylor, Professor of Modern History at the University of East Anglia, is an advisor for the programme, with a particular remit to supervise the Writer in creating explanatory text for the website
  • A professional oral historian provided training for the young interviewers
  • The Living Refugee Archive has confirmed that it will host the permanent archive
  • Specialist suppliers are leading on filming and editing, and on website creation
  • A specialist curator is organising the touring exhibition
  • Social media accounts have been created:
  • https://www.facebook.com/BritishUgandanAsians50 https://twitter.com/ugandanasians50 https://www.instagram.com/britishugandanasians50/  https://www.linkedin.com/company/britishugandanasians50/ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-K9fM295Q1zT1iBTH6xZLA

 

6. Patrons List

An updated Patron’s List can be found here.

Last modified: 10th August 2022

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