"Creating safe spaces for Muslim young people to explore personal,
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Faces and Places Mapping Project

Dudley, West Midlands

1. Dudley Mosque

Alia – age 30

Dudley Central mosque has always been a key place not only for me but also for my children now. When I was young the mosque was the only place that Id be aloud to go to mix with the others that I knew. Also my other siblings attended the mosque too so we’d all be together there as well as at home. It was a good place because we really got to focus on learning about our religion and I think its really paid off in how I deal with my own kids.


I know that for my parents when they first came over, the mosque was the only main place that they were able to use and meet their friends in. That’s where all the gatherings, weddings and funerals took place and still take place here. I think though that the most important part that the mosque has played in my life is that this is where I learnt to read and recite the Qur’an. Its this that ties me so closely to this place than anything else.


Anika – age 11 (daughter of Alia)

The mosque is where I can meet all my friends and cousins. But really this is where I can come to learn about my religion and how to read the Qur’an. I know that my mum came here too and did the same so this is why I feel more comfortable about coming here.


Rehana age 30, Samina age 34, Sumera age 11, Nishat age 15, Kiran age 17, Adeela age 35

The mosque has given us the Islamic side of our learning but they don’t just teach us the Qur’an, we all pray together at prayer times, we get to listen to talks about the Prophet (PBUH) and their life, as well as a big variety of subjects to do with our religion.


It wasn’t always like that though. In the past there was very little offered to the kids other than simply Qur’an recitation. We’d send our kids there for an hour and the teacher there wouldn’t even speak to them. They’d come back having just sat and had a chat with their friends.



There’s a new mosque that’s been in the planning stage for years now and it’s a mosque that the community here needs very badly. It is planned to include everything from a youth and women’s centre to a funeral centre, sports facilities as well as the mosque and teaching facilities. But organisations like the BNP and certain members of the council have spent a lot of time trying to stop the development. We’ve got planning permission now but there’s still a big issue over the financial side of it.


2. Castle High School


This place was a very special place for me as it was where I could be with all my friends as well as learn about the world. I remember how difficult it used to be to get to school as at that time my mother couldn’t drive.


3. Dudley College

Kianush Travi

I came to Dudley from Iran 10 years ago when …Dudley College is certainly one of my places of heritage because this place is all about my life and my future. I’m studying Maths, English, Science and ESOL there. I’ll be completing next year and then I want to go and study web design at university. I don’t really have any real friends at the college but just colleagues who I mix with when I there. My real friends and my girlfriend are in Birmingham where I work part time too. I think I’ve been brought up to take my place of education very seriously and to not confuse it with my social life. I remember when I first began going to the college and it was all very new. The tutors and the other students spoke so confidently and there was such a free social atmosphere there that even now I don’t like that much. Its definitely my Iranian background where I get this from.



4. Dudley Zoo

Kianush Travi – age 22

Dudley Zoo and Castle is a place that I have only visited a few times since I came here but I know it is a very special place because there are very few towns in this country with a Zoo and a castle this old. It does seem a bit strange to have a zoo in such a cold place but I’ve always had a good time with my friends and family when I’ve come here. I especially like the Giraffes. They are so tall, seem so relaxed and I just love the patterns on them. But again I feel they look really out of place here where the weather is cold. There was a time when we came here, my mum, dad brother and sister. Just like today it was a cloudy day but we’d brought our own food too to eat on the grounds around the castle. What happened was that I got a little too close to one of the Giraffes, reaching out with some bread when it suddenly snapped its teeth at the piece of bread and caught the tip of my finger too.


Rehana age 30, Samina age 34, Sumera age 11, Nishat age 15, Kiran age 17, Adeela age 35

The zoo and castle are important parts of our heritage but we’ve never been here regularly. When we were at school there was always a trip made at least once to the zoo where we’d learn about its history and how it came about. But because we live in Dudley, we tend to go else where like Alton Towers, Safari Park or Blackpool rather than on our doorstep.



5. Asian Womens Centre

Rehana age 30, Samina age 34, Sumera age 11, Nishat age 15, Kiran age 17, Adeela age 35

We love coming here because we get to do a lot of courses here, learning new skills. This is a place we get to come out of school hours and for example we really enjoy the swimming that the centre has organised for us at the Dudley Leisure centre. That’s something that we would never have expected to be arranged for us. For that period in the pool, the leisure centre staff close all the blinds so that no one can see us and we can learn how to swim and have fun together.


We also get asked what we want to do here and they do their best to arrange it.



This Network centre has been here for a long time and is still the only community support organisation for us Muslim women and girls in Dudley. It’s a place where we can feel secure and at ease because we know its just for women here. We go on trips all over the place which we’d otherwise have no opportunity to go on. And most importantly, its used by almost every generation of Muslim women and girls in our community.  Its simply had a major impact on the lives of all the women and girls using it.




I like coming here with my mum and with my friends and cousins because its where we all feel really comfortable because we know its been made for us. I especially love the trips we all go on and the stuff we all get to do in the centre.



6. Buffery Park

Qasim Ali age 19, Haroon Ali age 18, Hafiz Rashid age 18

Buffery park is a big place, full of trees, playing greens, a great playground for kids, a big basketball court, an old bowling green and long pathways. As a group we’ve been coming here ever since we were kids. We learnt how to ride bikes here from our dads. Believe it or not we come here every single day. Its our park. We all meet here. What we mean by that is that if any others try to come here and tell us to leave, we’ll get rid of them. They’re welcome to come to the park and use it, but they need to know this is where we hang out.


What we like about this place is that we get talking to all kinds of people from different communities who we’d otherwise never be talking to.


The ‘Feds’ (police) come down here at least every other day to search us for drugs but never find any. The same feds come every single time, don’t talk to us friendly and just suspect us. We’re used to it now but what a joke eh.  But apart from that there’s no tension here. The only bit of tension you might see here is when the fair comes through the summer. The Feds are out in massive numbers then and that’s when you get kids from other neighbourhoods coming.


7. Merry Hill Shopping Centre

Rehana age 30, Samina age 34, Sumera age 11, Nishat age 15, Kiran age 17, Adeela age 35

If you look at what has happened in the past you’ll see that Dudley town centre used to be quite a buzzing place to walk around and shop in. But as soon as the Merryhill Centre popped up on the site of an old farm, that was it. All the big stores in Dudley closed their doors and moved to Merryhill. M&S, BHS, all the big names just disappeared and Dudley started turning into a ghost town.

But we do love the Merry hill centre. The parking is free and everything is in-doors so weather isn’t an issue.


We’ve even been there as a group of women and girls as part of the Network centre to just walk around. We also feel safe there as its always very well lit and security guards are always walking around. Compared to Dudley town centre say in the winter when its dark in the afternoons, Merry Hill is a lot better. We can’t see it going anywhere because it just seems to get bigger and bigger.


8. Sandars Grocery Store


This is the oldest grocery store we know about. I remember we used to walk a really long way with our mum to get there and at that time there were no other stores around. That’s why whenever we went there, ther’d always be others from our community shopping there, so we’d always stay and chat there too.


9. Queens Cross Mosque


We’ve been getting all our religious teachings from this mosque right from when we were kids. We’d also get lots of ‘beats’ from the teacher then during Qur’an class. I remember a couple of times when I’d go home with stick marks on my hands and my dad would go to the mosque and tell the teacher to hit me some more!


There were good times here too when we’d have ‘Jalsa’ days. Other people used to come from other mosques and we’d be told to recite the Qur’an in front of them and an audience. We’d then get scores and the winner would get a prize.



What does the word ‘Heritage’ mean to you?


Kianush Travi

I think heritage means places or something that is passed down from the older generations to their younger generations. I think even the local bank that people from every community need to use all the time can be called a place of heritage. These places should be protected but it’s the people who should decide which places are named places of heritage.


Heritage to me means what you’ve gained from your past, both in terms of places, objects and our own skills and personal development. I feel that I’m a lot more confident now than I was before, and I feel that confidence and sense of belonging in my community has only happened because, like the places I’ve talked about, I too have been through changes and development, through skills that I have inherited from my elders and teachers.



Like my mum, I’d say learning things from my family and learning determination to do things.


Rehana age 30, Samina age 34, Sumera age 11, Nishat age 15, Kiran age 17, Adeela age 35

Our culture, our dress are parts of our heritage.


Qasim Ali age 19, Haroon Ali age 18, Hafiz Rashid age 18

Heritage to us means things like Buffery Park. I mean at the end of the day we’ve made this place our own because it’s the only place we all feel at home. Anything else just isn’t as strong for us.