As part of Children in Movement we’re honoured to have had local historian Professor Carl Chinn deliver a public talk at The GAP entitled ‘Many People, One Birmingham’. Its safe to say that many a proud Brummie will tell you how proud they are of Birmingham’s multicultural society and how people from across the globe have settled in Brum to become the building blocks of this city. But we often don’t get to hear the stories, troubles and struggles of these people.
Carl was so engaging and the man's passion for this city and its people is magnetic - it literally draws you in with one of the warmest and most authentic Brummie accents I’ve ever heard (take note Peaky Blinders TV show). Carl gave a great insight into his own family's working class roots and painted a picture of a proud, tough Aston Grandmother - 'Our Nan’ - who didn’t take no nonsense from no one. This really resonated with myself as my Mom's side of the family grew up in the back-to-back houses in Aston, and those grainy black and white photographs really captures the community spirit of the time.
Carl kept making reference to history and community projects he would love to produce, one of them being working with white working class young people to show them their culture and heritage and allowing them to identify with something other than far-right street movements and political parties. After giving an account of his own family and roots, Carl then went on to speak about the various different communities who have made a home in Birmingham, covering a wide range of people such as Italians, Irish, West Indies, Jewish, Roman Gypsies, Indians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Polish, Vietnamese and Yemenis.
I admired Carl's knowledge of the situations and circumstances of these different peoples' countries of origin. He respected their stories and really hit home the importance of why these people immigrated - for example some were through service in the British Army whilst others through fleeing ethnic cleansing. For our project this gave ourselves and the young participants involved knowledge of a broad range of people to potentially interview, with the aim of capturing stories from all the different communities who have settled in Birmingham.
Its safe to say that Carl Chinn could guide you around Birmingham’s streets better than any sat nav. A sat nav will be able to tell you if you're going the wrong way but it won’t be able to break down the words of a street name, giving you a historical account of why that area is named how it is. I personally found where Kingstanding’s name originates from hilarious. The story goes that, as he was only a small dude, when King Charles I was staying in Aston to review his troops during the English Civil War, he had to stand on a mound to see his troops. This mound is known as the King Standing Bowl Barrow or Kingstanding Mound (KING STANDING get it!?)
It is also safe to say that Carl Chinn is 0121 in a shirt and trousers. But the responsibility of telling this city's stories shouldn’t fall upon one man. Our project will aim to expand on Professor Chinn’s brilliant work by gathering the information directly from the source of these stories through interviews with people who lived it. Through archiving these Oral Histories these stories will be able to be accessed by the general public and future generations to come as constant reminder of Birmingham’s proud migration heritage.