Shabina Aslam

Shabina Aslam

Bussing Out: an exploration into the impact of the Dispersal Policy on migrant children. 

Bussing Out will focus on the experience of migrant children in schools in Bradford during the Sixties and Seventies, exploring how a particular policy affected the identity of ethnic minority children who came to the United Kingdom in that time. The Dispersal Policy, also known as Bussing Out, was a Department of Education policy, advising local authorities to disperse migrant children from inner city primary schools into schools in outlying areas, which were predominantly White. The reason for this was racially motivated; the ‘immigrant’ children were entirely from South Asian and West Indian diasporas. The dispersal of ethnic minority children took place in Bradford from 1965 – 1976.

This research project will use a practice-led methodology. In the first instance, recording oral history interviews of adults who were bussed out as children. Then, in collaboration with the interviewees, I will turn the oral histories into verbatim theatre, to be performed on a bus.

The aim is to explore identity formation through oral history and performance ethnography, creating a bridge between documentary realism and fiction in order to find new ways of knowing about the past and how it has shaped people. The performance will be co-produced with the participants of the oral history interviews, so it is participant led and collaborative.

The starting point for this research, are some disparate ideas taken from my own musings, childhood and observations:

I was born in Kenya and my family is Punjabi Muslim; taken from the Indian sub-continent at various junctures, to work on the railways by the British. My mother was born in India in 1941 and walked across the border into Pakistan as a refugee during Partition, later joining her father in Kenya. My paternal grandfather having eloped with my grandmother much earlier was forced to settle down in Nairobi. In the early seventies, Idi Amin forcibly removed South Asian communities from Uganda. During the early years of Kenyan Independence many South Asians migrated to the United Kingdom in fear of similar reprisals. As Commonwealth citizens we had the right of abode, our passports said so. So we were coming home.

My mother arrived in Bradford in 1970 with two small children and a suitcase. She could speak five Indic languages, Swahili but no English. However, my brother and I spoke perfect English, Punjabi and Swahili. This was a time of mass migration of South Asians into cities like Bradford, Birmingham and Southall. This was partly due to the East African exodus, also because of the war between East and West Pakistan, the subsequent creation of Bangladesh and the conflict with India over Assam. As well as the continued flow of economic migrants.

My first memories of life in England are of being bussed out. My little brother remembers:

The school had a bus monitor and at the end of each day when the class was sitting round the teacher for story time, the bus monitor would come in and say: “Can I have all the immigrants please” and we’d all get up.” For myself, I remember always arriving late to school and leaving early, so we never got to the end of The Hobbit.

In the oral history interviews, following on from memories of being an ‘immigrant child’ the adult will be asked how they feel this has affected their life choices and integration into British culture. A supportive environment will be created for this dialogue about identity; to explore the ways in which it is shaped by ethnicity, class, geography, gender, Diaspora, nationality, culture and religion. And finally asking them about Bradford, how would they describe their relationship to the City and its communities now?

SASLAM

On the left of the photograph is my brother Labeeb, our cousin Habib in the middle and on the right that’s me aged eight.

Biography

I have studied Drama at Goldmiths’ College, London and Global Media at the School of Oriental and African Studies. As a theatre maker, I have worked for Contact Theatre in Manchester, as creative producer for the London International Festival of Theatre, as a radio drama producer for the BBC and as a teacher in London and Papua New Guinea. I particularly enjoy telling stories, which challenge the status quo. My practice involves working closely with communities to shape their stories into high quality productions.

Supervisors are Professor Paul Ward at the University of Huddersfield and Dr. Emily Marshall at Leeds Beckett University.

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