an inspiring insight into 1950s and 1960s immigrant life

The Back in Time series “Living History” started in 2015 as a food show. Back in Time for Dinner took a family on a culinary journey from the 1950s to the present day, which meant children stared in horror at a plate of bread and dripped. Over the years it’s broadened its remit – we’ve had Back in Time for the factory and Back in Time for the school – and now we’ve arrived Back in time for Birmingham (BBC Two), which literally doesn’t make sense as a title, but here we are.

The story being told this time is about South Asian immigrants who set down roots in the Midlands. The Sharma family bravely volunteered for the show: father Vishal, mother Manisha and student descendants Akash and Alisha. Vishal’s parents left India to make a new life in the UK almost 50 years ago, so the experience was very close to them.

We started in the 1950s. Father and son Vishal and Akash were there first, moving into a replica of a typical apartment building for newcomers (Asians couldn’t afford to be choosy, as many landlords openly discriminated against immigrants). They had to share a bed and the kitchen didn’t have a fridge. Akash described the situation as “tragic” in the millennial sense of the word.

The fun of these programs always lies with the younger members of the family and their amazement at how different life used to be.

Once the Sharmas received a telegram. “A what?” Alisha said, her face a picture of confusion. Her father explained, “It’s … like an email. Somehow.” However, the youngsters were not complainers and approached everything in a good mood. Even the liver curry.

And there was a lot of history. The episode – here set in the 1950s and 1960s – explained how the community became established. Wholesalers began selling Indian spices; an enterprising Sikh founded the Eastern Film Society, which screens Bollywood films.

The BBC set up the Immigration Programs Unit, which ran special programs to help new arrivals settle in. Women needed this the most as those who worked at home as seamstresses meant they fell far behind their factory workers husbands when it came to learning English.

The sympathy of the Sharmas helped make this a fun watch. And there’s always reason to be nostalgic: this week a wood-framed TV, next week a mustard Austin Allegro, and the wonder that was Angel Delight.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/0/back-time-birmingham-review-inspiring-insight-1950s-1960s-immigrant/ an inspiring insight into 1950s and 1960s immigrant life


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