Advent 12: Illuminations

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The Titanic leaving Dock Gate 4, Southampton

p1180671Southampton is not usually forthcoming on Christmas lights as much as other cities – What with the Christmas market and so many lights from shops, ships and offices – But, to open up a leisure area for Christmas at West Quay malls this year, a stunning loop of 7-minute, light and sound illuminations ran on our Old Town Wall at the weekend.

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p1180656Depicted, was the history of Southampton’s port, which focused on departures of: Henry V troops leaving for Agincourt, The Mayflower with Pilgrims preparing for America, The Titanic leaving for New York, boats and planes in WW2 manoeuvres, J-Class yachts, powerboats, hovercraft, container-ships and so on.

Do you have any festive lights where you are?

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Southampton’s city square

Buy Nothing Friday  

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Upstairs in the Art House

Black Friday is a recent consumer sales hype adapted from North America which takes place after Thanksgiving Day (the last Thursday in November) despite the fact that the UK does not even celebrate Thanksgiving.

Buy Nothing Day is an annual event in Britain to highlight the issues around consumerism, especially in the lead-up to the festive season.  It’s a day where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life!

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Curb giving away food at a recent festival

To mark Buy Nothing Day in the City of Southampton, this Black Friday, the Art House Café is partnering with Curb, The Real Junk Food Project, Clothes Swap and Books for Free!

They will be taking over The Art House until 6pm on the 25 November, offering food on a pay-as-you-feel basis, clothes to swap or pay-as-you-feel and books by donation!

P1130006Food will be available until it runs out – a big part of waste reduction is challenging the notion that there is always ‘plenty’.  Be sure you get a plateful of delicious nosh made from food diverted from landfill.

Drop in any time to enjoy some nosh, swap your clothes, pick up a book and have a chat about the ways you can reduce waste in your own home.

178 Above Bar Street, Southampton, Hampshire, UK SO14 7DW

Copyright © 2016 The Art House Southampton CIC, All rights reserved.

 

 

Southampton Communities: Indian

The second in my series of the many different cultures that go to make up my city.

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Kuti's Royal Thai Restaurant

As a significant part of our Southampton population, I would need to write a book to explain all the different groups plus a history of India, which I don’t feel qualified to do.

Definition of Indian

There are many living in Southampton who define themselves as Indian. Indians immigrated here way before the Partition of 1947 that divided their land into India and Pakistan. Many Indians living here have never even lived in India nor been on holiday there. Indians might have settled here from Australia, Fiji or Africa. Many Ugandan Asians, that came as refugees in the 1970s, might define themselves as African Indian. Many Indians have been here for generations and although they might be British-born and fully integrated, define themselves as Indian by their strong culture and historic roots. They might call themselves British Asian, English Indian, British-born Indian, or define themselves by their language Hindu, Gujarati, their region – Punjabi or Keralan for instance or their religion Sikh, Indian Muslim, Jain, Brahman, Indian Buddhist etc. All foreigners who have come to settle in Southampton more recently are referred to as Freshies by the people who have lived here a long time. One usually tries to guess by the clothes worn, from the way trousers are pressed to sweater-styles as to what group they belong to – but this isn’t always a correct assumption. Many who have just arrived from India, are often more western in their dress than people who settled here in the sixties. More often than not it is by their accent.

I shall mention the Pakistani and other communities at a later time but the predominant group in Southampton are Sikhs which make up about 1.3% of our city’s population.

Sikhs

Maharajah Dulip Singh
Maharaja Duleep Singh 1845

In the 2012 census 2799 Sikhs were listed as living in Southampton.

We have to go back to the time when the British colonised India and Prime Minister Disraeli bestowed on Queen Victoria the grandiose title: Empress of India.

The first Sikh to arrive in Southampton was the Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1854. He visited Queen Victoria frequently at her Osborne House residence on the Isle of Wight and she became Godmother to his children. Queen Victoria later commissioned talented Indian architects, particularly Ram Singh, to transform parts of her residence and gardens into a ‘flavour of India’. Today much of Britain has a flavour of India, from our seaside piers to rose gardens – not to mention adopted words in our language and our cuisine, which British call ‘curry’. Southampton is a prime example of this flavour with a beautiful Royal Pier which has been leased to Indian restaurateur Kuti, and spacious parks with tropical plants.

People raised here also greet each other with the phrase Acha Mush – Acha a slang word from hindi for ‘I’m good’ and Mush (of Romany origin, meaning mate) which is now an affectionate slang term for a fellow Sotonian.

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Sikh troops recuperating at Netley from injuries sustained in the first world war. Photo thanks: Marion Ivey/The Guardian

Queen Victoria had a large military hospital built in Southampton in response to the Crimean War. This she visited frequently by sailing boat from her Isle of Wight palace. The hospital was later known as Spike Island (the remains of which can still be visited in the Queen Victoria Country Park). In 1894 one entire floor of the main building was given over to Indian troops, one million of whom served in the British Military.

In the hospital grounds, a concrete platform, or ghat, was built at the side of a stream for cremations, after which the ashes would be tipped into the stream and borne back, spiritually, to join the waters of the Ganges.

Gradually Sikhs settled in Southampton from this time in dribs and drabs. Their caste system fit in well with the Victorian class system. It was mainly middle class Indians that arrived in great numbers in the 1950s and sixties to take up work in Southampton law firms or as doctors in the National Health Service. The photos immediately above are of Sikh festivals and two temples (Gurdwaras) in the Bevois Town area of Southampton.

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I have happy childhood memories growing up in a predominantly Indian community. My best friend’s brother married an Indian film star and our street threw out the red carpet, celebrating the wedding for three days and nights. This beautiful celebrity taught me and other children how to dance, Bollywood-style. It is my Indian neighbours I have to thank for opening my eyes to libraries, teaching me to swim, yoga, how to make a perfectly round chapati and the perfect cup of tea.

Further reading:

The Sikhs in Southampton by Ranjeet Singh Shahi

Spike Island – Memory of a Military Hospital by Southampton writer Philip Hoare (Harper Collins paperback)

Corrections: I do not profess to be an expert on the cultures that make up my City. I am happy to take any corrections or additions to my posts.

If you read General G Tony’s comment, you will realise that I have had to adjust my post. I assumed that British piers were influenced by Indian architecture. I have been informed now that they were more influenced by Versailles in a Rococo fashion. However the Prince Regent was a great fan in of Indian architecture and he himself influenced our seaside culture.

 

 

Southampton, Polish Capital of Britain

Southampton Communities: Polish

I have been meaning to do a series of all the wonderful different cultures that make up the people of my City for some time. With so many xenophobic comments about immigrants during the EU Referendum, I think this is long overdue.

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According to the statistics of the Literary Association of the Friends of Poland, the first Polish refugees to Britain numbered just over 460 in 1851 and over 200 left the country.  At that time the general number of Polish refugees numbered about 800 people. The refugees from Turkey came to different English ports: Liverpool, Leeds and Southampton. Many of them decided to emigrate to US. There were further waves before WW2, in the fifties and in the early noughties. Polish immigrants now make up 10 per cent of the population of Southampton.

This programme was made for Channel 5 in 2014 when the biggest influx of Polish where celebrating 10 years of living in Southampton.

As well as the changes mentioned in the film clip, some of the changes I have noticed are the Catholic churches being full again on Sundays, family picnics along the rivers and on the common (something I haven’t seen since the sixties) and a great respect for the elderly – something I think the traditional English could learn from.

 

 

Graffiti 2 – Control and Tipping Point

Graffiti at Hoglands Park
Further to my blog about Banksy art being whitewashed in Southampton (see under older posts) whereby I told of the Council’s zero tolerance to graffiti. I wanted to show examples of Southampton Council’s ‘controlled graffiti’ at the cricket pavilion and public toilets in Hoglands Park, which is located nearby a skateboarding area.

The Council must have realised that, by constantly painting this Victorian wooden structure white, they were merely providing a blank canvas for ugly slogans and therefore allowed some of the ‘better artists’ to cover the structures completely.

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To show how quickly Southampton City Council respond to graffiti, I have posted my before and after photos of a wall that was spray-painted with “Widzew nigdy nie zginie”, which is Polish for “Widzew (Polish football team) never dies”. This was sprayed on a Friday; the slogan removed by Monday, leaving clean brickwork.

Before – graffiti sprayed on a wall in a local Southampton community:

Polish Graffiti

After – the next working day the graffiti has been removed:Gone Grafitti

This idea of a zero tolerance towards graffiti comes from the book, ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this book the author describes how small actions at a certain time, in a certain place, and with a certain type of person, can create a ‘tipping point’ for anything from an action to a product to turn into a trend. (It’s an excellent book — do read it if you get the chance.) The ‘tipping point’ is that crucial moment when this trend, tips, spills and floods.

Gladwell goes on to show how graffiti and broken windows can have a dramatic effect on the behaviour of the residents in a city. Both can tip a community from being a good area into a crime-ridden no-go area.

In order to prevent this, it is necessary to actively repair broken windows and clean up graffiti straight away, because without showing care for the environment that people live in there will not be enough social impetus to allow the residents to control and discourage antisocial behaviour.

This ‘Tipping Point’ or ‘Broken Windows’ theory was taken up faultlessly in New York. The Council first tackled cleaning up graffiti on subways and trains after a man had reached his “tipping point” and shot a bully who tried to make him move seats. Next came the vigilant repair of all broken windows in the City. The crime rate dropped significantly, so the Council kept the rule even for celebrated artists Basquiat and Banksy.

This has now been adopted by cities all over the world.

Photos © Southampton Old Lady