Old Wives Tales – from Bangladesh to Birmingham

Old Wives Tales photo

The hidden stories of Birmingham’s Bangladeshi women will be revealed thanks to an innovative heritage project awarded £42,600 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The project named, Old Wives Tales, will create of a series of short stories documenting the journey of young Bangladeshi girls who married Bangladeshi men returning home from the UK in the 50’s and 60’s.  It will follow them through their transition to the UK and their current lives within the communities in Birmingham.

Legacy WM is leading the project armed with a group of volunteers and aims to film and tell the story of Birmingham’s Bangladeshi women through interviews, memorable objects such as saris and suitcases, and gather photographs to provide a unique insight into the culture and heritage of the Bangladeshi community.

Aftab Rahman, Director of Legacy West Midlands, said: “The ‘Old Wives Tales’ builds on the work that Legacy WM is working towards to document stories of minority groups and their contributions to society and to share this history with a wider audience.

“The aim of this project is to highlight the courageous role which Bangladeshi women have played in making Birmingham what it is today. We want to share the story of the challenges that they faced when they came to a new country and how they settled in along with their lives today.”

Old Wives Tales will particularly focus on women who arrived in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s, when they left their home country to join their husbands who had already begun to establish a life in the UK.

Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, diverse communities across the West Midlands have been able to explore and share the heritage that matters to them.

“This project will shed light on the fascinating hidden heritage of our Bangladeshi community and bring people of different backgrounds together to celebrate an important part of Birmingham’s unique character.”

Material collected during the project will be archived at the Library of Birmingham, providing a compelling and much-needed addition to the city’s record of its Bangladeshi heritage. A short documentary and exhibition will also be created.

Partnership funding for the project has also been secured from KPMG Birmingham, who are making possible the creation of an illustrated book, which aims to share the stories of the women.

Andy Argyle from KPMG explains further how initiatives such as Legacy WM’s Old Wives Tales are important in providing local communities, including their employees, with insight into their surrounding environment.

He said: “Some of our employees are coming to work in the city for the first time, so enabling them to gain a better understanding of the city’s heritage, together with visiting areas outside of the city centre core, is an important factor in exploring and understanding where they work. Old Wives Tales is a great example of how we can do this and we’re pleased be involved in the production of the book which will provide a valuable insight into an important part of our community. ”

Old Wives Tales is now underway and will run throughout the year, for further information visit www.legacy-wm.org