Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Taxi Tour gives a taste of Stratford Road, Birmingham

·        Free, immersive theatrical experience – take a Taxi Tour of Stratford Road

·        Hear of 70 years of history with sights and stories from migrant communities

·        Sample the flavours of Birmingham’s famous Balti Triangle

·        Part of Sampad south asian arts’ heritage project My Route

Free Taxi Tours will give visitors a sweeping insight into Birmingham’s Stratford Road this July and August.

Each Tour is in fact a piece of theatre, with visitors immersed in the sights, sounds, stories and memories of this famous Birmingham road. Starting in the Ladypool Road – heart of the Balti Triangle – the Taxi Tours route through the outer edges of Moseley and Balsall Heath before heading down Stratford Road, through Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Springfield, to the leafy suburb of Hall Green.

Since the 1940s, Stratford Road has witnessed waves of migration and has been home to Indian, Pakistani, Kurdish, Irish, Africa-Caribbean and Somali communities, with each leaving their stamp on the architecture and fabric of the road. The Taxi Tour brings this heritage together into one immersive experience, with the tour guide bringing to life stories from the last 70 years.

The Tour points out many easy-to-miss yet vitally important landmarks of modern Birmingham. Visitors will see the unassuming Oriental Star Agencies in Moseley who in fact introduced the music of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the world. Considered to be one of the greatest stars in Asian music, the singer recorded much of his music with Birmingham-based OSA.

The Amanah Masjid mosque exemplifies how Birmingham has transformed itself in recent history. Once a factory on the edge of the Grand Union Canal, the building has been converted into a mosque catering for some 2500 worshippers and delivering a range of educational and community services. Similar re-use of old industrial buildings can be found across Stratford Road, as they have become temples and gurdwaras.

The Tour takes in the fashion and jewellery emporiums of Sparkhill, piled high with bindi, bangles and Bollywood-style bling. The Grade II listed Antelope pub remains, once popular with the Irish but now Hajees Spices, a Kashmiri restaurant.

As the Taxi enters Springfield, we see a shift away from small independent shops to larger Asian supermarkets such as East and West and A1. Along this stretch visitors may also spot Druckers, the Viennese café, which began life as a tiny shop in Moseley opened by Andre Drucker in 1958.

The Tour then moves into Hall Green, where there is a dramatic change of feel as buildings become larger, the road wider and the route leafier. Here you will see Jyotis, the famous Indian vegetarian restaurant, championed today by the likes of Jamie Oliver. We take in Tony Hancock’s house, 52 Southam Road, a street that suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II, and see a row of prefabs still in existence from that period.

The Tour ends with snacks at Al Faisals in the Balti heartland, considered one of the earliest proponents of Birmingham’s most famous dish.

Urmala Jassal, Producer of the Taxi Tour, commented, “Visitors will experience the real-life stories of people who lived and worked along the Taxi Tour route, from the 1940s to the present day. We’ve invested significant time getting to know the area in detail and this has led to us uncovering a people’s history of Stratford Road. The challenge is how to encapsulate all this material in a 45 minute tour!”

She continued, “We have been interested in observing the migrational shift of people along Stratford Road over the last 70 years, with particular focus on the social changes that have taken place. New migrants have frequently arrived in the city end of the road but as they grow in prosperity, shift towards the more aspirational suburbs. Everywhere we look, there are reminders of people who have gone before. This has all contributed to making Birmingham the culturally-rich and fascinating city it is today.”

Taxi Tour forms part of My Route, an 18 month community heritage project led by Sampad and supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, which is researching and documenting the history around Stratford Road from the 1940s to the present day.

Working in partnership with Birmingham Archives, Sampad have trained volunteers in heritage research skills, using oral histories, factual data collection and public donations to uncover the unique history of Stratford Road.

In addition to Taxi Tour, a series of free culture and heritage activities will be delivered during 2014 and 2015. My Route will create valuable and lasting public resources including a new archive about the history of the road, a publication, exhibition and interactive map. 

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