From India to Coleraine...

Pictured at the Conway Mill which has historic links with Belfasts industrial past, just as the former Mackies and Sirocco sites are: (left to right) Kanlini Chillara, Exhibition Artist, Nisha Tandon, Chief Executive ArtsEkta, Rachel Sayers, Project Manager, Sanskriti, and well known creative artist Rose Moore who helped to produce the wall hanging which forms a major part of the exhibition.
Pictured at the Conway Mill which has historic links with Belfasts industrial past, just as the former Mackies and Sirocco sites are: (left to right) Kanlini Chillara, Exhibition Artist, Nisha Tandon, Chief Executive ArtsEkta, Rachel Sayers, Project Manager, Sanskriti, and well known creative artist Rose Moore who helped to produce the wall hanging which forms a major part of the exhibition.

The varied and often touching personal experiences of people who came from India in recent decades to make new homes in Northern Ireland have been captured in memorable words and photos, creating an exhibition with an accompanying publication and a comprehensive Learning Resource Pack to be used in schools and community groups throughout Northern Ireland.

There are, as might be expected, occasional stories of difficulties, isolation and racism, but there are also humorous accounts of getting to grips with new lives in Northern Ireland...a young woman wondering what the locals mean by ‘aye’ and a restaurateur challenging customers to forego steak and chips and sample traditional Indian food for the first time.

Satish Bedi arrived in Coleraine with her husband to join the family drapery business. The family had three/four shops in the town called Bedi Brothers. In 1982 they opened up a VG shop. Satish still recalls with sorrow the death of her friend 24 year-year-old Asha Chopra, a housewife who was four months pregnant with her third child who was tragically killed in 1974 when she as caught up in a terrorist attack on a policeman.

There are also spirit-lifting accounts of first experiences in an unfamiliar climate and terrain: Anjana Ralhan recalls her arrival in Northern Ireland, saying “It was a beautiful day when we came and the first thing my husband did, he took me to the beach in Portrush, I had never seen the sea before. I still love walking on the sand barefoot.” For a young nurse, the joy of building a snowman was unsurpassed.

A common thread of immigrants’ tales lies in the hard work, determination and entrepreneurial flair which many newcomers showed as they struggled to build new lives thousands of miles away from their original homes, often against the testing backdrop of The Troubles.

Rachel Sayers, ArtsEkta, said:“Sharing memories and experiences has expanded cultural horizons and opened up new friendships and we’re looking forward to the Sanskriti exhibition, brochure and Learning Resource Pack expanding knowledge and understanding still further right across our increasingly diverse society.”