BBC Radio 4 series: Three Pounds in my Pocket 

Academic adds expertise to new BBC series on Asian migration

The 1950’s was a time when Britain desperately needed workers from its former colonies to regenerate its post-war economy. BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a new three part series about the tens of thousands of migrants that came to Britain from the Indian subcontinent. 

Dr Florian Stadtler, a global literature lecturer at the University of Exeter provides academic comment on the BBC’s ‘Three Pounds in My Pocket’ series starting on Friday 7 March at 11am. The title for the programme is in reference to South Asian migrants who arrived with no more than £3 in their pocket, the limit set by the Indian authorities. 

BBC presenter Kavita Puri, whose father Ravi came with just a few pounds himself, hears his and other stories of the pioneering men who arrived in the 50s to work in Britain’s factories, foundries and new public services. They recall their first impressions of the country that once ruled over their own: the shocking housing conditions, the curiosity of neighbours and kindness of strangers and also the memories of casual racism and animosity. These men led the way for the three million people of South Asian descent who live in Britain today.

Dr Stadtler’s expertise in this area stems from research into British Asian History and Literature, Indian Writing in English and Indian Popular Cinema. He has published in these areas and was involved in two major AHRC projects led by Professor Susheila Nasta and The Open University, ‘Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad’ and ‘Beyond the Frame: Indian British Connections, which investigated the cultural, social and political history of Asians in Britain. Out of this came the photo history book ‘Asian Britain’ co-authored with Susheila Nasta, about the long-standing legacy of South Asian contributions to British life over the centuries. The research involved charting Britain’s process of coming to terms with the historic realities of its culturally diverse past and present.

The involvement in ‘Three Pounds in My Pocket’ series provided an opportunity for Dr Stadtler to draw from this wealth of academic research to explore and contextualise the stories of the early South Asian migration to Britain.

Dr Stadtler said:“This programme charts the important stories of the early South Asian migration to Britain which remains little known. These men and women have made many contributions to Britain in the fight for equality and social justice which have remained unacknowledged. This research highlights that this narrative of migration and settlement has a longer back story that can be traced into the 19th century.”

The BBC Radio 4 series also includes the untold story of women and children from the Indian subcontinent who came to Britain in the 60s; their first impressions of Britain, the unlikely friendships, and their struggles at work and in school. The third and final episode is about belonging, focusing on the South Asians who have lived most of their lives away from their place of birth.

‘Three Pounds in My Pocket’ will be broadcast on Friday 7, 14 and 21 March at 11am on BBC Radio 4.

Date: 6 March 2014

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