"I am 26 years old, and have been here for one year. I am from Karnel City in Haryana in India, very near Delhi. I really don’t like it here in the UK - it is just too busy for me - too much work. I study one day a week in London doing business studies, and then work the rest of the time here in this shop. The people here - the white people, well 50% are good and 50% are bad. The Indians here, well they are 40% good and 60% bad. In India they are 80% good and 20% bad!
I have been here one year, and have another two more to go. My father in India says to me ‘come to India, come to India!’, I have my mother and father and sister there. I save all my money to go there and enjoy it. Here I save, work and study. I will go back home after my course. I like the facilities in England, very many facilities. But I don’t like this weather. Oh no.
My home town is very famous - this is where Kalpana Chawla came from, a very famous woman, an astronaut and scientist and the second Indian in space ever. She died when the Space Ship Columbia crashed. This was in 2003."
I have started to build up a few friendly connections with people along the Soho Road area of Handsworth. I am feeling much more at home introducing myself, explaining the project and learning a little about some of the people I meet. A good proportion of the folks I say hello too are very friendly and open, and happy to chat along and share their own perspectives.
One of my growing realisations is how little I actually know about the complexities of Handsworth, its histories and the many social dynamics at play. This is fine as long as I am sensitive to my relative ignorance - my approach is to ask questions, invite conversation and see what picture take shape over time.
I have started to record conversations that will be used towards the final project. The first real in-depth recording took place today, although it was rather amateurish and comical thanks to my own technical blundering, allowing my memory card to fill up on my recorder without noticing. Luckily we re-traced our steps, covering some of the areas again - aspects of belonging, contribution, spirit and future, in ways that added something new rather than trying to repeat what was first said.
I aim to work with and record about 6 -8 people in Handsworth - very achievable, the problem will be know when to stop as it is very easy to meet many people in this area who I will want to work with! I have to think about the next two locations for the next Tea Rooms and spread my time across the next 4-5 months.
My thoughts are also turning towards the form of the final outcome and a few ideas are starting to emerge. I will soon start some practical planning and testing to see what these ideas might look like and explore how it might technically work. More on this later..