Snapshot: My sweet childhood from Nairobi to the UK

As a young woman, my mother did not want to marry or be a mother, but she went on to have six children and also an amazing journey, which brought her to England. Kamal had to leave what is now Pakistan because of partition, and was packed off to live with grandparents in Mumbai – her mother had died and her father travelled to London to do his bar exams. Unable to return to India because of the political turmoil, my grandfather ended up in Nairobi with an uncle. Eventually my mother was sent for. She went reluctantly, leaving behind an extraordinary, fun life in Mumbai, spoiled by grandparents, home help and a chauffeur.

In Nairobi, a marriage was arranged for her to a handsome Punjabi who, after serving in the British Indian army, had settled in Nairobi as a civil servant. Her reluctance to marry soon disappeared, as she embraced being a mother.

In 1963, my parents made the monumental decision to leave Kenya. My father was keen to create a distance between him and my mother’s very successful but overpowering family but, more importantly, he believed life for Asians would become difficult after independence. My father, with my eldest brother, Anil, were the advance party who headed to Birmingham. Their mission was to call us if they thought England had the opportunities my parents wanted for their children.

Three months later, we got the green light from my father and almost overnight locked up our sunny, spacious house in Nairobi, gave the keys to my aunts and flew away into the unknown.

Seeing my father at Heathrow with the biggest bars of Cadbury’s chocolate is a sight I can still recall with clarity and warmth. For me, the journey from Heathrow to Birmingham was an adventure despite the grey skies and strange, smoking chimneystacks. What a stark contrast to the sun and familiarity we had left behind. My father had not managed to get a pen-pushing job but was working hard in a dusty foundry. My mother got on with the job of making our shabby, very small terrace feel like home and in making sure we were performing at school.

At the time, we were the only non-white family in school and in our neighbourhood. Mother never openly complained – she was just glad to have all her family together. With six growing children and money tight she, too, got a factory job at Cadbury’s where she was one of the first Asian women to work on the shop floor. Childhood was sweet, in many ways. Our house was always full of children from all backgrounds, either hoping to get a broken up chocolate biscuit or a chapatti and dhal. I was happier eating baked beans and chips.

Published on The Guardian website Saturday 5th November.

Young, dynamic and creative: the future of the West Midlands

We are one of the youngest and most diverse regions in Europe which offers us limitless opportunities. We are the home to one of Europe’s largest digital and creative clusters with Greater Birmingham recognised as the most entrepreneurial city outside London with over 32,000 new startups registered in the past 2 years.

Our creative industries will contribute to further development over the next 20 only if we capitalise on our unique selling points. To do this we need bold leadership that is not afraid to try out new ideas and back entrepreneurship. The Mayor needs to support the creation of integrated partnerships across the Combined Authority area pulling in public, private and education sectors to put in place an ambitious strategy to fuel the Creative Ecosystem of the region. The Creative Economy has the capability to add billions to our GVA using the innovation strengths of this sector to drive new solutions, inspire new opportunities and deliver new efficiencies.

We need a mayor who will unashamedly champion the region, create a voice for the sector so we are part of the national dialogue around the creative economy, we want to be part of the international delegations and visits and have to position ourselves to become the come to region for inspiration, innovation and advice ­ a trusted source and one of the world¹s most liveable cities by 2031.

Written for The People’s Plan.

New Thinking, Essential Change in the Creative Industries

I will be speaking at this conference on Thursday 16 June at Birmingham City University. Register for free at eventbrite.

An essential conference for creative, cultural and digital organisations of any size, put on by Creative City Partnership, Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership with support from Birmingham City University.

  • Discover new money and ideas to help your creative organisation grow
  • Industry professionals discuss their challenges and tips for success
  • Have your say about what’s important to you. What’s holding you back?

Opportunities – Attendees will have access to current funding initiatives and will have a chance to influence future plans for sector support & growth.

Seminars on the Future of the BBC

With the BBC entering one of the most challenging periods it has ever faced, the Creative Industries Federation is holding three events to investigate the role of the Corporation in the creative industries and what any change in its scale and scope might mean for British cultural life in the future.

We want to hear from the diversity of our membership – from orchestras to video gamers and dancers to movie-makers and recording labels.

The aim is to gather evidence that will form part of a submission to the Government’s Green Paper review. There will be round-table discussions in Manchester and Birmingham followed by an event with an expert panel, and discussion from the floor, in London, kindly hosted by King’s College London. Members will be given priority.

Manchester – Wednesday September 9, 12-2pm
Birmingham – Monday September 14, 12-2pm
London – Wednesday September 23, 2pm-4pm

For full details and to register, click here.

You’re invited: Creative Birmingham | 30th September | The third in 2015 event series

Title: Talent Transformation – How to recruit and retain the best talent
When: Wednesday 30 September – 5.30pm for 6pm start to 8.30pm
Where: Birmingham City University, Top Floor, Curzon Building, 15 Bartholomew Row, Birmingham, B5 5JU
Event Chair: Michelle Wright – Co-Owner, Gough Bailey Wright

Speaker Panel: 
Noel Dunne – Director, Creative Alliance
Kate Bruges – Co-Director of Talent J. Walter Thompson
Ollie Purdom – Director, Pitch Consultants
Joel Blake – Consultant, Mentoring and CSR Specialist
Anjna Raheja – Managing Director, Media Moguls
Jaspal Sohal – Head of Games and Digital, Creative England

RSVP here

Bringing together the creative industries community in Birmingham, across the public and private sector.