Over recent months, as part of the AHRC-funded project ‘Cultural Intermediation and the Creative Economy’, a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University have been exploring the cultural life of the residents of Balsall Heath.

One of the things that the project seeks to do is to recruit local people to form part of a panel to work with us in order to commission a funded project for Balsall Heath.

We are not looking for experts or people with experience and we’ll be offering support for the group: what we need are people who are interested and willing to get involved.

Thus, as a way of introducing this project and a means of inviting individuals to get involved, we’ll be holding a meeting on 4th June at the Hillac Restaurant, 568-570 Moseley Road, Birmingham.

At the meeting we’ll also be screening a long lost gem from BBC television called ‘A Touch of Eastern Promise’.

‘A Touch of Eastern Promise’ was broadcast on 8th February 1973 and was produced by the English Regions Drama Unit at BBC Pebble Mill. It was originating by Tara Prem, a young writer-producer of Anglo-Indian parentage who felt that migrant communities such as those in Balsall Heath were under-represented on TV.

The light-hearted drama concerns a young man (Dev Sagoo) with fantasies about a Bollywood film star (Jamila Massey) who he seeks to meet when she pays a visit to the city. The programme was shot entirely on film and on location in Balsall Heath, amongst the local Asian community. In fact, the show drew much of its cast from amongst the same community. As Tara Prem recalls: the BBC had problems in casting dramas that dealt with people from migrant communities such as those from Pakistan as the pool of available professionals appeared quite small. As she says, she and the director Michael Lindsay Hogg toured around the streets of the Balsall Heath, ‘literally picking people off the street and saying – “do you want to be in a play?” and getting them in.’

a-touch-of-eastern-promise

The film is around 30 minutes in length and shows some aspects of Balsall Heath that have disappeared. It features a huge range of local people who some may recognise and in fact, some may recognise themselves!

You can find out more about the film and its producers online at the Pebble Mill Studios website and in my 2011 article:

‘Representing Race, and Place: Black Midlanders on Television in the 1960s and 1970s’, Midland History, 36(2); 262–77

If you are interested in attending this event, do get in touch:

paul.long@bcu.ac.uk or saskia.warren@Bham.ac.uk

‘A Touch of Eastern Promise’ will screened by kind permission of the BBC. Thanks are due to Garry Cambell and Jenny Wilkes.

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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