Been busy working on projects…
I going to research and publish a book that is provisionally called ‘Tales of the Iron Lane’ about the route of the Surrey Iron Railway (SIR) from Wandsworth to Croydon and the link to my own life and that of other second/third generation migrants. The project is aimed at communities in the two boroughs of Wandsworth and Merton. I would want to aim it to elders in particular from our communities in the area but also the ancestors of earlier migrants and take it to Old People’s Homes. I’d also like to target schools along the route of SIR and link it to Key Stages and curriculum. I want to use the past to provoke discussions about the future, and use my own stories of growing up near the line with other urban tales.
I’ve been working with the legendary and mysterious Manchester based musician Jaydev Mistry to look at soundscapes that will accompany the book and we’ve applied for some Arts Council dosh to run workshops and pay for getting the book out.
Ok I have a confession to make.
I wasn’t born in London! So for all my proclamation’s and accent my place of birth is in Surrey. Of course the late sixties were a time of local government reorganisation. I think everything got reorganised back then. Did you really think it’s stopped with Beecham and the railways? I think every little town and village had their own little council up and till the sixties. What do you think white middle class men did with their time back then? Anyway my place of birth is recorded as being at Nelson’s Hospital in Merton, Surrey. Think this was before it became a London borough and all that.
So why am I a British born Pakistani writing a book about the Surrey Iron Railway? Gotta admit I’m not a railway buff or anything like that but it’s just that in late 2016 I found out that the world’s oldest public railway line ran at the end of my road! I also ended up working in Wandsworth close to where the line met the Thames near to where the Wandle flows into that main river.
It made sense to write a history of the SIR which wasn’t just a history of the line but it was my history and some of the interesting shit that has happened to me. To relate a second generation immigrant tale to a monumental time in British transport history. There are many urban stories on the route that I want to explore as well.
I know this will piss off people but hey I’ve spent most of my life doing that one way or another. It seems to me that writing this kind of literature is the preserve of well heeled White people not lowlifes like me, but it’s in my stylistic tradition and I love winding people up about what darkies like me are allowed to do and write! But seriously though it’s about placing our experiences as being central and not ahistorical. In this book I’m going to explore themes of identity and Empire, of being on ‘road’ and the paths that we take both physical and literal.
Will keep you all updated