Faces and Places Mapping Project
1. Woodstock Road Mosque, Ladypool, Birmingham
Saifer Rehman – Age 53
This place started life as the first community mosque in the late 60’s and it was walking distance from my home. It was The place to be for practicing Muslims at the time. Also the teacher I and many others had there was considered to be the ideal person to be taught by. It was originally just one house, then the elders bought the house next door and turned the two houses into one. Eventually even that became too crowded so that’s when the elders of the community bought the site where the Hamza mosque is now. Most of my friends who at the time went to other schools would always meet me there (at the Woodstock Road mosque) and it’s a few of the friends that I met there that are still the lifelong friends I have now. Most of the others have all gone their own ways now, a few of them are millionaires now and a few are drug addicts and I’m somewhere in the middle I think!
Since the Humza Mosque was built, Woodstock Road Mosque has become a Muslim school for girls and is constantly over-subscribed because of its popularity. It’s really good that we’ve retained the building and continued to use it for a spiritual purpose, but I remember when we almost lost the building. The mosque committee at the time wanted to sell the building, even put it up for sale and it was a few members of the community that refused to let this go ahead saying that they would never allow this to happen. One of them even put up the money to buy the building himself in order to protect it. That’s how strong the community feeling was and still is about Woodstock Road Mosque.
I feel that my sons don’t have enough of an interest in the fact that if they don’t start taking control over the communities affairs then no-one else will. They’re just from the ‘IT generation’ and frankly I’m always very worried about what’s gonna happen when I’m gone. I see myself as the only link between the Muslim and Non Muslim community here in Ladypool as I’ve been the one who has forged such strong links between Humza Mosque and for example the Moseley Village church. Theres still a lot that’s going wrong with the way that the mosques are being run because the elders seem to never want to pass their authority to the younger people.
Nahim Khan – age 36
I’ve got a load of memories of this place as this is where I spent my childhood before the Humza mosque was built. The building has changed quite a lot especially the roof after the famous tornado damaged a lot of it. I remember the first sign that went up on the wall infront of this mosque because it said “all welcome.” I think that was a really forward thinking gesture by the mosque elders to open its doors to anyone interested. Being multi-faith in those days was unheard of. One of my fondest memories is of the short wall infront of the mosque where, in the winter, we used to line up snowballs along the wall waiting for the people to come out of the main doors before bombarding them! You see, just like the Humza mosque now, this mosque was such an integral part of our lives as Muslims in Ladypool. It marks the first collective effort by the Muslims in this neighbourhood to establish themselves a base, a hub to meet in and educate their children about being good Muslims.
2. Viva bites, Ladypool Road
Nahim Khan – age 36
The name for this place has come from ‘viva Palastinia’ which was a project that I was involved in out in Palastine. So that’s where the inspiration came from. This place actually used to be a laundrette. But then they divided it into two shops when the demand went down. The same person who owns Viva bites also owns the butchers and Islamic impressions across the road. I love Viva Bites because I was around when it first opened and was involved in naming it too. It’s only walking distance from the park and the mosque too which makes it easier to just come here and chill out. They’ve got a nice big TV here on the wall so my friends and I are in here quite regularly watching the cricket and having our lunch or dinner. Its seen as more of a shop for local people. Everyone meets here probably more to catch up on local gossip and find out what’s going on than to eat and drink. This shop was also right in the path of the tornado but survived.
I remember when the tornado hit. I was in Karachi airport at the time and I got a call from one of the shop keepers who said there’d been a tornado. Needless to say I didn’t believe him until I actually saw footage on people’s phones and on the TV. Luckily nobody was killed but there was one kid name Ali who was dubbed ‘Tornado Ali’ by the Sun newspaper because he apparently got lifted off the ground! So now that’s his name.
3. Seven Star Café, Highgate Road
After meeting at the mosque for evening prayers, we’d always go straight to the Seven Star Café to hang out there, which is now called Babe-Khyber. It used to be full of young Muslims from the community then because believe it or not it was one of the only eateries around in the ladypool area then. As you know Ladypool is now called the ‘Balti Triangle’ by everyone but this was one of the first to appear. It looked very different then as it wasn’t a restaurant. It was more about letting us young men socialise and it was only about a quarter of the size it is now. We used to have just a front room and a back room. In the front room there used to be pinball machines and in the back room there was a pool table. I remember right next door there was a Pub where most of the black community used to hang out, but we obviously used to go to the Seven Star Café. We never used to go to the cinemas especially the Asian cinemas because we couldn’t stand the films showing there. It was our elders that used to go and see the movies. The very first Asian food place was on Stoney Lane. It’s not there anymore though as there’s a Park there. Then the second place which is still going is on Moseley Road called the Sherrin Kadah. They’d cook mainly Samosas, Katlamas and Pakoras – side dishes thrown together by 3 or 4 guys in the back kitchen. Then you had Najeeb who still runs Al-Faisals restaurant on Stoney Lane. He took the idea and started up.
Back then it was cheaper to buy a shop than it was to buy a house, and if you bought a shop, you had the accommodation you needed upstairs too. It was perfect for our people who used to often get work in a factory whilst at the same time run their corner shop.
Its also around that time that the English families started moving out of Ladypool saying that ‘the Pakis are starting to stink with all this spicy food.’ As you can imagine, by this time our people had started coming to Ladypool thick and fast, so I remember even sympathising a little with the English families then because you really did have these aromatic smells wafting out of doorways and these were smells that they simply weren’t used to yet. Funny when you see now that the Balti triangle feeds more white people now than our own. The very smells that drove them out are the same smells that are attracting them back in now!
4. Moseley Village
Moseley This place has always had a very strong village feeling for me. Its unique to me as it reminds me of only one other place in England called Camden Town in London. I’ve always thought of myself as a village type person too rather than a city dweller and I suppose that’s why Moseley Village has always drawn me in despite the fact that the real Muslim/Pakistani centre is Ladypool Road. Unfortunately none of our people go there as its mainly middle class white. They only come to the village to use the Summerfield store for some of their groceries.
I’ve been on the committee that set up the farmers market there as well as having really close links now with the Moseley Village Church. I love that place and the people that run it because they take such an interest in our Mosque too.
In the summer the Village has all kinds of summer festivals which again are out of this world but which our people don’t bother with.
5. Hamza Mosque
As soon as this place was bought around the early nineties, I began to get involved on the committee and have a say in how it was to be run but I was still considered one of the younger generation and the elders kept to their ways of thinking. Together though we have all done some wonderful things here for the community. And especially now the mosque has had major changes made to it. The older part of the mosque looks tiny now compared to the new extensions we’ve added to it. Its only been complete in the last year.
We’ve managed to build an extremely modern and advanced mosque that complies with every legal, health and safety requirement, but goes beyond all the basic necessities to provide the community with a lot of extra facilities too. We’ve even got an amazing amount of provision for our communities youth now as we’re also building a youth wing on the site for this. We feel we’ve done all this because we’ve been able to learn where our elders went wrong. That is, for example, when our elders wanted to get some building work done, they would simply consult people like their friends and relatives instead of the people and companies who are experts in that field. When we started to plan the new extensions, we were determined to plan something that would be forward thinking. A mosque that would cater for the coming generations too. We know that the only way you can prepare for the future is by studying the past. When most of our elders came to this country, they only came for the money, and they had the intention of making as much as possible, then going back to Pakistan, buying some land and continuing life there. But they ended up staying, because the second generation appeared and felt they were British rather than Pakistani.
Nahim Khan – Age 36
When we were purchasing this mosque, we very nearly lost it. It was being auctioned and my father along with the elders of that time said to the secretary “go and bid for this property and you have an open cheque book.” There was a property developer who was bidding against us at the auction who could have easily outbid us. But my father approached him and told him that we wanted the property for a new mosque and he immediately backed down, allowing us to buy the property. He still lives across the road from me. I remember that as soon as he backed down from this property, he managed to buy a massive property on the new Brighton Road that he really prospered from. My dad has always said to him that Allah gave him that property because of his kindness to the Muslim community.
Hamza Mosque used to be a Roman Catholic Church before the Muslim community bought it because as you may know before the Muslims were here in Ladypool, it was the Irish. I remember right on this spot where the new hall has been built, there used to be a really tall tree. Its branches where so high up that it created a massive shelter for us where we’d play cricket all the time in all sorts of weather. They’ve really put so much though into the design of this mosque. Its amazing how you can stand right in the centre of the prayer hall so that you are standing directly below the highest central point in the dome above. When you speak the acoustics at that point in the hall amplify your voice as if you’re speaking into a microphone. It remind s me of a story I heard about the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. When the main hall was being built the Imam of that mosque came in one day to find the builder himself sat alone in the hall smoking a shisha and playing some music. Outraged at this behaviour, the Imam demanded that the builder explain what he thought he was doing. The builder explained that he’d sent everyone home and he was smoking a shisha to test where the smoke would go – remember back then there were only candles and he was playing music to determine the acoustics in the hall. These elements have and should always play a key part in the design of an Islamic building.
The most amazing thing is that every penny that’s paid for this mosque has come from the immediate community around here, so there so much more of a sense of ownership, a big congregation and usage of its facilities.
6. Ladypool Park
This is one place that we have to preserve. Its always been there and it’s the main place I take my grandchildren to, but its also the main place I go and have always gone to for a stroll whenever I need to.
Ladypool park has got many names for the people of Ladypool, but I know it best as Batman park. It was called this because once upon a time there used to be a long slide that reminded kids of the slide that Batman and Robin used to slide down ready to hurtle off in their batmobile. One really sad thing about this park for me though is to do with the trees. I’ve really got a personal link with these trees because I don’t think there was a single one that didn’t climb quite regularly as a kid. Unfortunately most of the trees got blown down by the tornado, which is why even now you can see people planting new trees over there. This park used to have a youth club in it too as well as being the park where the famous Attuq Cricket Club began life over 30 years ago. It now plays semi professional cricket and is based at its own ground in Ladypool school. The name Attuq comes from the city most of us here in Ladypool came from in Pakistan.
7. Monkey Steps
Ateequr Rehman – age 22
The Monkey steps are just a flight of stone steps right in the middle of our neighbourhood that we all knew about. You see when we were kids, my friends and I didn’t have mobile phones or pagers. So we all had the monkey steps to meet at. Whether it was for swimming, conker scrumping, or whether it was to sneak into peoples gardens to knick apples, it was always the monkey steps where we’d meet – our ‘head-quarters.’ It was also the best neutral place for us to meet as none of us wanted to meet outside anyone’s house. The danger there was that we might have to interact with the persons family members so the Monkey steps were perfect.
I don’t think kids use the steps like we used to now because mobile phones have killed that but I do still see kids hanging around there.
8. Moseley Bog
This place is exactly how the name suggests. It’s a fantastic place for just hanging out, especially because its across the road from our old school. At lunchtime, we used to get through a gap in the hedge and into Pickwick Park and we used to hide out there for a while, making sure none of our parents or uncles were driving past. Then we used to shoot out straight across the fields into Moseley Bog. We used to play ‘Tracking’ in there, make two teams and chase after each other. We used to go by the swamps, making stories up about people having drowned in there. We used to bike ride a lot down there too especially back then when we used to have really good summers.
9. Moseley School
As soon as we came out of Primary School, it was crazy coming to this school because all of our elder cousins and relatives where already here. It was almost like having a big extension of our house and it also mean that we got into trouble so much faster. If we did anything wrong at school everyone at home would know almost as soon as it happened because there was always someone to tell them!
We used to also make our way up to the Moseley school tower that we’d all decided was haunted by the old caretaker that died many years before. We used to really talk about it as if it was the truth and genuinely scare each other. Its all been closed off now for health and safety reasons.
10. Pottery and Pieces, Moseley Village
Aamenah Zainab – age 22
Even before I moved to Birmingham, my dad used to bring me to Pottery and pieces where we were allowed to pick toys. The toys there were largely made from wood, like your old traditional toys, very different from the toys else where. They had marbled balloons and all kinds of stuff you couldn’t find in the Early Learning Centre or The Entertainer, so we used to really look forward to that whenever we came to Birmingham.
As well as toys they also sell a lot of modern and historical art, ornate ceramics, lighting and small furniture, portraits and sculptures so there’s always been something of interest for everyone in my family. Now though I bring my little brothers here who absolutely love the toys. Its great because my mother is very creative and I think that’s where I’ve got my interest from, but I think it is a little unusual that we as a family frequent this shop so much because I’ve never really seen other Muslim families in here. The important thing about Pottery and Pieces though is the fact that generation after generation seem to find something of interest in there.
11. Lahore Sweet Centre
I love this place because firstly, its right in the heart of Ladypool road so its really accessible and secondly they seriously do the best Ghulab-Jaman, Kulfi, and Gol-Gappey there! My family and I come here quite regularly for our sweet treats and I honestly cant imagine Ladypool Road without it.
I think the best time of year in Lahore Sweet Centre is in the summer when the kiosk that sells all the Mango milkshakes and Kulfi Faloodas is buzzing with customers. Whether I’m with friends or family, the Mango Milkshake is amazing! We juts hang out outside the kiosk, go and sit inside the shop if there’s a free seat, or go and sit in the car. I know countless families who feel the same way about this place that I do. I remember when we were younger, we hardly ever saw non-Asians going into the shop, but now whenever I go there, there are always some people in there from outside our community eager to try the delights of the Lahore Sweet Centre.
12. St Peters Church, Hall Green, Birmingham
This is a church that’s got stained glass windows all around it, but the amazing thing is that the windows have been done in a whole range of Muslim prayer mat designs. This fusion of images from 2 religions is amazing and beautiful to me.
There are actually a good few people I know who are aware of this place and these amazing windows.
The other wonderful thing about this church is that the people that run it and look after it are very vocal about their wish to welcome people from every community through the doors in order to simply build bridges. I love coming here as do my parents just to see these wonderful windows.
13. Bobby’s Baguettes, Ladypool Road
Iman Zorah – age 16
I’ve been coming to Bobby’s Baguettes ever since I started secondary school and because its on my way to and from school there’s just no other place I’d like to eat. The baguettes are fantastic with all the melted cheese I could ever want and I can safely say that most of my friends come there too. I don’t think it’s a very old place but I do know that there’s no other place on the road that does baguettes as well as they do here.
Its definitely one my places of heritage in Ladypool because I’ve got loads of memories attached to it. I’m always here with my school friends most lunch times and after school because we meet there even if we don’t want to eat anything. All the gossip takes place there so obviously most of the confrontations between friends have taken place there too! I think as long a Bobbys is around I’ll be enjoying their baguettes.
14. The Jewel Box, Ladypool Road
This is a jewellery shop that practically every woman and girl I know in Birmingham comes to regularly. Its got wonderful bangle sets and jewellery sets. These are the main two things people come here for – the massive selection of Asian bangles in every colour I can imagine. For as far back a I can remember, whenever there was a wedding or special occasion to go to, the Jewel Box was always the first stop. What I enjoy doing is actually choosing my colour of bangles first from this place then I work out what the rest of the outfit is going to be like. This is pretty unusual because most girls and women choose their outfits first, then they find the right coloured bangles to match it. I think I do this because I enjoy coming here so much and that I think the bangles and jewellery are more important than the outfit. The jewel Box is definitely a place of heritage for most Pakistani girls and women of all ages in Birmingham because they all depend on it for their bangle and fake-jewellery needs, and I certainly can’t see this place going out of business anytime soon!
What does the word ‘Heritage’ mean to you?
I think heritage is about places and things that stand the test of time. These are places that are used and enjoyed by more than one generation.
Its something that Id like to keep as the years go on whether that’s a place or a thing. You’ve spoken to my father too (Saifer Rehman) and the difference between his heritage and mine is that most of the places that were part of his heritage have long gone, whereas I can still go past my old school and see the kids coming and going exactly like I did. That place hasn’t changed. I think heritage when you think about places means places that are like our monkey steps used by an age group through more than one generation. The trouble with the new generation is that they have been almost brainwashed into valuing the more superficial material things in life like their iPods and Xboxes. They are fast running out of places where they hang out because they only seem to hang out in front of a TV screen.
This neighbourhood is a very vibrant place, consisting of everything from a gurdwara to a synagogue. Heritage has and is playing a central part in all of our lives because that’s exactly what we’re all building for ourselves and our future generations in Ladypool. But its so important that we start to share our heritage with other community groups too. At Hamza Mosque we’ve got such strong links now with the churches, gurdwaras etc. for example this weekend we’ve got an open day here at the mosque where we say to everyone in the community “come and see this place and see what goes on here” after all it’s a place that’s on their doorstep. We have a Methodist priest from the Moseley Village mosque who actually stands together with us in prayer at prayer time. He plays table-tennis with us there too and just like us he’s interested in keeping this long term relationship going with other community groups. Heritage really is all about everyone sharing these places and experiences.
The word heritage to me means something that’s passed from one generation to another but not just any place – this is a place or thing that’s got some powerful link to the people that use it. Its all about attachment.
Heritage kind of means traditions of my parents that are passed on to me but in terms of places, the places that I’ve talked about are definitely places of heritage for me and my friends. For example Bobby’s Baguettes has set the standard in Baguettes that no-one else has reached, which is why my friends and I only go there. Also Baguettes aren’t just kids food so I bet Ill be coming here for as long as Bobby’s is around. Or as long as I’m around!