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An online exhibition showcasing personal journey stories, artists and events in HarrowThis virtual exhibiton was curated as part of#SouthAsianHeritageMonth 18th July 2020 - 17th August 2020

Celebrating South Asian Heritage in Harrow

- Minority Rights Group International

  • Indians 1.45 million (2.3 per cent)
  • Pakistanis 1.17 million (1.9 per cent)
  • Bangladeshis 451,500 (0.7 per cent)
  • And other Asians. who include Sri Lankans, as well as third-generation Asians, Asians of mixed parentage, people from Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldive Islands and some from the Middle East."

"In the UK, South Asian minority groups include:

- Minority Rights Group International

"The main religions are Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. The Indian community is Hindu, Sikh and Muslim. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are each predominantly Muslim. There are also Jains and Buddhists."

- Minority Rights Group International

"Most of the community comes from three areas of the subcontinent: the Punjab (Pakistan and India), Gujarat (India) and north-east Bengal (Bangladesh). Some Gujaratis and Punjabis came to Britain from East Africa, especially Kenya and Uganda. The main languages are Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali (or Bangla), Hindi, Urdu and English"

What does it mean to be South Asian living or working in Harrow?

- 2011 census data

"Harrow 's population is one of the most diverse nationally. 31.9% of residents stated that they were White-British, with 69.1% of residents coming from minority ethnic groups."

- 2011 census data

"26.4% of Harrow 's residents are of Indian origin, the largest minority ethnic group. Harrow is also home to the country's largest Sri Lankan born community."

A storytelling map of South Asian heritage in Harrow


Councillor Nitin Parekh & Stacey Anne Bagdi at the Museum

"I was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. My parents are both Indian although my Mum's family is Hindu and my Dad's family is Sikh. I was brought up exposed to both religions but we are not practising. I moved to London in 2017 to Enfield for a traineeship in Museums. I remember being suddenly aware that I had moved to an area that was diverse but, there were little South Asians living in that community. I came to Harrow for the role of Curator for Headstone Manor & Museum in 2019. I remembered stepping off the overground at Headstone Lane for the first time and being so overjoyed to see so many South Asians! I felt welcomed and, at home. My role at the Museum involves working with our objects and forming new narratives with the support of our communities. We are an inclusive museum and I look forward to enaging with Harrow's diverse communities through my day to day work"- Stacey Anne Bagdi

Stacey Anne Bagdi

Kerry Blackburn

"My role of Cultural Development Manager gives me overall responsibility for Harrow Arts Centre and Headstone Manor & Museum. I have lived in Harrow for most of my life and am now raising my own family here so it’s in my personal interest to have these fantastic local heritage and cultural resources and help them to flourish. My mother is of South Indian descent and brought me up on her own (at a time when bi-racial families were definitely not common) and this has been instrumental in shaping my values and perception of the world, namely that you can have a valuable impact in your community, no matter your background, with the support of the important people in your life." - Kerry Blackburn

"My journey to Harrow is a blend of change, culture and growth. I moved here after getting married, an incredibly important milestone for anyone’s life but more so if you are a South Asian female. I left my home of 26 years and also my job to move here, needless to say it was difficult; that experience makes me hugely empathetic towards women of my mothers generation who immigrated into a completely foreign land. I’m sure they have some fascinating stories to tell! For me, the most beautiful aspect of living in Harrow is the acceptance of the community for new ideas to better ourselves. I’ve met some amazing people leading a host of projects reaching out to those most in need. This is where Reroute was born, a support group for young South Asians I started a year after moving to London. We wanted a space where people can come together and have a constant conversation about mental health, illness and wellbeing. The aim was, over time, all attendees start becoming more confident in breaking the silence and stigma which still associates with mental health in our community. From this we have grown into three groups; Mental Wealth (for older South Asians) and Mindful Mens Club (personal development forum for men only)."

Sonam Patel

Founder of M for Menopause & Co-founder of Mental Wealth

"My name is Madhu, I am 54 years old and I am a British Asian. I was born in Newcastle Upon Tyne. In 1990, I travelled on the A1 carriageway and headed south down the M1 to Harrow to complete the Institute of Personnel Management. I never left and have since founded M for Menopause and Mental Wealth here. The aim of Mental Wealth is to break the stigma surrounding mental health among south asians. Why M for Menopause? Whilst I was employed with the same employer for 23 years I was loyal and gave 100% to them in my job role. However, I changed as my menopause symptoms became severe and I did not know what was happening to me and resigned abruptly. Home life became a struggle and my personality was changing and I was suffering physically and emotionally. I was no longer the same mother and wife." - Madhu Kapoor

Madhu Kapoor

"actually menopause is something that a lot of women do not speak about openly, particularly within the south asian community. I set up M for Menopause to break the taboo, and support women, families and employers" - Madhu Kapoor

"Born in 1982, Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow and 37 years later I am still here living in Harrow in the same house. Having always been surrounded by people of all nationalities, it was very easy fitting in. In fact I never had to think about fitting in. From the time I started nursery, right through my school years, it was always so easy meeting people of different cultures and backgrounds and making friends. Over the years, however, a lot of people have moved away further outside of London due to the high living costs and people just wanting a much quieter life than what Harrow is now. One of my greatest memories of Harrow would be our local high street on Northolt Road. We had some fantastic stores, lots of small family owned independent stores which you just don’t see these days. You never needed to go into Central London to do your shopping, everything was on your doorstep. My favourite place was the local library. My grandad introduced me to my huge love of reading and together we would spend hours in there, reading books and deciding what books to take home.Continues on the next page ->

Jennal Amin

To find out more about Mental Wealth click on the social media logos here ->

Growing up in Harrow was a lot of fun. Both me and my sister would spend time going out to ride our bikes, mum took us for swimming lessons at Swimarama – now called Northolt Leisure Center, we would have friends over as well as go to their houses to play and we absolutely loved the old cinema in Harrow Town Center which is now Golds Gym. I think the first movie I ever watched in the cinema was The Little Mermaid. Just a year ago, I decided to set up a Mental Health and Wellbeing Support Group for the South Asian Community in Harrow. Through working in mental health I have seen a huge need for South Asian spaces on mental health. Something that was really lacking, especially for the over 35’s so In 2019 I created a group called Mental Wealth for South Asian Men and Women aged 35-60 and we run this group alongside our sister group reroute ( 18-35). Earlier this year, Mindful Men’s Club was formed. A group for all men on self development and growth. "

<- Click on this image to discover Neelam's personal website

Founder of The Listening Service

"I was born and brought up in Pakistan where I enjoyed a happy life surrounded by extended family. When I came to England in the mid 1970s, I wanted to continue the traditions with which I had been raised and the photo attached here is of one of those customs – in a traditional wedding dress, I’m carrying a glass of milk to give to the groom at a wedding, as was the tradition." - Neelam Farzana

Neelam Farzana MBE

<- Click on the TLS logo for more information

"My connection with Harrow began long before I moved here in 2003. The first thing that struck me was the natural beauty. This is something that has always pleased me about living in Harrow – one of the greenest boroughs to live in. I fell in love with the place and the rest, as they say, is history. It was also in Harrow that I began to further my work of serving the community. I’m a Counsellor of almost 30 years and have also been working to break down mental health stigma amongst all communities, but particularly the South Asian and Muslim communities. One of those ways was through my founding in 2007 of The Listening Service (TLS)...provided in the languages of Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi, in addition to English, of course (www.thelisteningservice.org.uk). I have delivered a number of workshops, seminars and group sessions through TLS, including in partnership with Mind in Harrow at the Jaspar Centre, at Harrow Mosque and with groups of South Asian and Jewish women using glass painting as a form of art therapy." - Neelam Farzana MBE

Hasita dancing.

Krishna & Hasita

"At the age of 21 I arrived in Harrow full of dreams and expectation but also naivety. My first home was in Devonshire Road at Mr and Mrs Pandya’s, who had a daughter who was five years old at the time. I had come to live as a paying guest and had a box room for myself. At the time there was a young girl called Hasita who lived in the next room with her elderly father and two brothers. Hasita was from Kenya and I am from Kenya too. We had a lot in common and we reminisced about the times in Kenya we soon became good friends. I still remember the hot steaming chai always available in a container, it was very welcome on cold winter’s days as homes did not have central heating. Hasita was a classical Indian dancer and was often practising her dancing…her father was also a dancer and as had her mother been."- Krishna James

Krishna James' Story

Eva & Hasita

"At that time the Indian population was not as we have now, one day Eva knocked on our door! Eva was an Indian girl from Goa and she was looking for some Indian friends She worked as a nurse at Northwick Park Hospital. We of course welcomed her with open arms and the three of us soon became firm friends and are still in contact to this day. We shared a love of Bollywood films, I in particular had been starved of Indian Films which I had adored while in Kenya, and I welcomed the chance to see them after a 7 year gap of any Indian culture. We also went on to many Indian music shows around London, it was just the beginning of the shows and people were starving to see Indian cultural events. I went on to become an anaesthetic and recovery sister. I also became an elected councillor for Labour in Harrow and served for six years. I continue to live in Harrow. I trained as a nurse at Northwick Park in 1981 and undertook further training in 1989."- Krishna James

Record Sleeve - Bollywood Magic

"20 years and counting.and we in fact just ended up in Harrow for no real reason at all. Cost of housing and a growing family plus concerns for schooling pushed us to move. I have probably found more reasons to appreciate our lives in Harrow over the last few months as we have had time to get to know our local area. The beautiful walks , parks and commons have been an eye opener. Its multi cultural feel has always made me welcome. Whether it was its integration of communities , its diversity of cultures it never failed to make me feel at home. Learning and growing from other’s experiences is a great way to belong."- Rita Soni

Rita Soni's Story

Painted by Rita's son

"A young family and scope to engage with the community that is what probably attracted us to Harrow.Then my love for music led to us the arts centre. Whether it was the old Bollywood song evenings or the plays,I was always there and it was a treat. The arts centre has served a great need in the community from its theatre productions , music shows and art exhibitions.Funnily enough I was once a student there when it was a further education college. Life does a complete turn and you often don’t see it coming.Recently following Covid I have discovered the kindest side of Harrow. Helping at the Harrow Hub weekly I have met some amazing volunteers. We are all better together." - Rita Soni

Click on SAATH's logo above to follow them on Facebook!

Mizanur Rahman: Founder of SAATH

"My name is Mizanur Rahman aka Mizan and I am a British citizen of Bengali origin. I was born in Northwick Park hospital to immigrant parents and I come from a family of two brothers & one sister. I would say that I had a normal upbringing in Harrow, I went to Belmont Nursery before transferring to Whitefriars School in Wealdstone. I then went to Hatch End High School and then went to University of Westminster (Harrow Campus) where I graduated in IT. I would say that my teenage years were normal and i was into what everyone was into. One of the things I love about Harrow is its multiculturalism. I feel as though this has helped insulate me from the very real racism that others have experienced in other parts of London. Although groeing up wasn't easy, I was the victim of bullying for several years, I feel very proud of the fact that I am a resident of Harrow. I love the area and those who I know in Harrow... ->

Check out SAATH's recent webinar on Decolonising Partition

...However, growing up in these times radically changed me. The politics of the War on Terror affected our university Islamic Society and the whole process resulted in me being politically active. Although my activism focused more on International issues, the events of the Labour party and the election results of 2017 & 2019 forced me to look at issues locally. For the first time, I saw how politicians were using Identity politics for votes in Harrow & I found this unnacceptable. This is why I, along with several other colleagues, set up SAATH (South Asians & Allies Together Harrow) to counter the use of identity politics and to empower our local community. We have several events planned and we hope to motivate our South Asian community to work towards transforming Harrow for the better for everyone"


Stories from South Asian Artists in Harrow

Kashmira Sunni

Kashmira is a Dance Artist and Choreographer who specialises in Indian Folk, Kathak and Expression. Her work breaks the mould with unusual interpretations of music, and fusions of contrasting, international dance styles. After working in Bollywood for several years as an Actor & Choreographer, Kashmira opened UK-based performing-arts company - KASHAK Arts. The company has performed for dignitaries including Indian Prime Minister - Narendra Modi and for a range of events from Wembley to Guildhall.Kashmira lives in Harrow.

Watch Kashmira Sunni of KASHAK Arts perform here!

"I’m from North Harrow. To be south asian in Harrow, to me, is great. There are many south Asians here and I do feel like i really fit in. I don’t often write poems, but I used to when i was younger. However, I wrote this poem almost as a symbolism for lockdown and what i did during that time. I did all the things I never had time for usually during lockdown - like artistic things such as writing a poem." - Devina Shah

no metropolitan line rumbles or pub troubles and tumbles only empty streets have we reached the peak? of our lives no open chip shops or fried chicken shops but the greenery here remains a saviour for our mind and soul as we are forced to focus on the mundane call of life

A poem by devina shah

Hardiki Patel

"My name is Hardiki, I am an artist based in stanmore. I am a professional facepainter too... I am a self taught artist and I truly believe art is a therapy, helps you medicate, connect to yourself and the whole creation. I hold drawing/painting sessions where everyone gets to learn from basics and grow as per their ability"- Hardiki Patel

Click here ->

Check out Hardiki's Facebook Page for more

Poulomi Desai with her saris at STEAM European Researchers Night at Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, 2017. Photo credit: Maddie Farris. Find out more about Poulomi here

Creative Director & Founder of Usurp Art Space

Poulomi Desai is a self-taught, outsider, multi-media artist and curator since 1980. Born in Hackney, London, her works are performative, textual, image based, and acoustic. She co-founded the first South Asian LGBTTQ campaigning organisation, Shakti in 1987 and also co-founded the first HIV / AIDs charity in India, the Naz Foundation International in 1991.In 2010, she set up the Usurp Art Gallery and Studios, the first and only artist led creative space and studios in the London Borough of Harrow.

Poulomi Desai

Click on the picture to find out more about Usurp Art ->

Usurp Art, a BAME led arts group, launched its arts space and studios in 2010, the first public art gallery and affordable artist studios in Harrow. We create experiences for culturally and neurodiverse communities, artists, musicians, scientists, poets, filmmakers, activists, writers, performers and designers to come together and create.

Usurp Art

You can find more videos of Niranjana Desai on YouTube

Niranjana Desai

"My mother has now lived in Harrow sine 1972 - she is a well known Gujarati poet and was a multi-lingual teacher, educator, changing the law to recognise degrees from India / Africa, and Cambridge Uni examiner for South Asian languages - it's her fault I was made to come to to Harrow from radical Hackney in 1972! Here is a video made by Gujarati Yatra on aspects of my Mother's journey and work She taught at Vaughan Infant School (long gone) in West Harrow in the 70s and faced huge racism / sexism where even some little kids called her a paki." - Poulomi Desai, daughter of Niranjana Desai

Daljit lives in Harrow. He teaches poetry at Brunel University London and is the Poet in Residence for Radio 4 and 4 Extra.His parents are Sikh Punjabis who came to Britain from India in the late 1950s. They grew up in Yiewsley then moved to Sheffield when his parents bought a shop in Gleadless Valley in 1982.It wasn't until the age of 19 that he first picked up a book of poems. It inspired him to study for A levels, including English Literature, at evening classes. In 1988 he moved to London to study for a BA and MA in English at Royal Holloway. However he lacked the confidence to continue writing and didn't start again until he was 30. Daljit also narrated our film in the Small Barn at Headstone Manor & Museum!Discover Daljit's poem on the next slide ->

Daljit Nagra: Poet - Teacher - Presenter

Click here to discover Daljit's poems

These sepia shades of tall-trees and slant-parks were home for Romantic Lord Byron, home too for India's jewel of Independence Jawaharlal Nehru and we'll fight on the beaches Winston Churchill! Home too for our time-bending Roger Bannister - imagine him pegging-it down the lanes for school at Vaughan Primary where nowadays my daughters are at home in the countries and continents of tongues! May my children and all the children of Vaughan, all who claim their origins from over the rainbow, learn to love whatever is kaleidoscopic or contrary in our youthful Harrow with its arms flying in the air!

Ode to Harrow

All shades to the good in my heartfelt Harrow with its Metropolitan Line for the sticks or the city! Look at us side by side and mucking-in for the graft for Harrow's no one's centre - everyone's home! Harrow is stalls bustling with enormous gourds, aubergines and plantains! Harrow is Polski Sklep, seasonal matzos, and the daily splash-island-song of pomegranate, guava, melons and mangoes! Harrow is ball-clacking shinty, cricket, bowls and a workout for zumba, bhangra or freestyle! Harrow is Diwali, Eidh, St Patricks, Channukah alongside summers of jazzy razzamatazz melas!

Click here to discover Daljit's poems

These sepia shades of tall-trees and slant-parks were home for Romantic Lord Byron, home too for India's jewel of Independence Jawaharlal Nehru and we'll fight on the beaches Winston Churchill! Home too for our time-bending Roger Bannister - imagine him pegging-it down the lanes for school at Vaughan Primary where nowadays my daughters are at home in the countries and continents of tongues! May my children and all the children of Vaughan, all who claim their origins from over the rainbow, learn to love whatever is kaleidoscopic or contrary in our youthful Harrow with its arms flying in the air!

Ode to Harrow

All shades to the good in my heartfelt Harrow with its Metropolitan Line for the sticks or the city! Look at us side by side and mucking-in for the graft for Harrow's no one's centre - everyone's home! Harrow is stalls bustling with enormous gourds, aubergines and plantains! Harrow is Polski Sklep, seasonal matzos, and the daily splash-island-song of pomegranate, guava, melons and mangoes! Harrow is ball-clacking shinty, cricket, bowls and a workout for zumba, bhangra or freestyle! Harrow is Diwali, Eidh, St Patricks, Channukah alongside summers of jazzy razzamatazz melas!

Check out Dotty Art on Instagramclick here

"Harrow is a borough with one of the largest populations of British Indians in London. This means that the younger generation are living in a sub-cultural bubble, and carving out an identity for ourselves with similar identities and idiosyncrasies. There seems to be an underlying common denominator of generations of struggle to get to this point, creating opportunities for a fiery young generation to make an impact. I believe that I'm part of this community in Harrow, and it makes my paintings relatable to other British Asians in this area."

Karun Soni has been a professional artist in Harrow for 10 years. With a pop-up Wallace Gallery, and Watford Palace Theatre exhibition, he has also collaborated with other great BAME artists such as Vik Kainth & Naina Hussain. His large social following has been built on a culture of expressing yourself & your identity- a combination of vibrant, colourful art and embracing wellbeing.

Karun Soni - Dotty Art

Watch Karun Soni in action here!

Click here to discover Mallika's website ->

Mallika Gardiner, born and raised in Singapore to Indian parents, settled in the UK aged 12 and is now a resident of Harrow. She has a degree in Fine Art from London University and for the past 30 years has exhibited in Asia and the UK. Mallika’s work is a multicultural fusion of the Western classical tradition of form with the Eastern influence of colour. She explores themes such as Mother and Child, Flowers and Landscapes through the lens of an Asian perspective. Mallika is an English teacher. and the lockdown has provided ample time to pursue her passion for Art.

Mallika Gardiner

Click here to discover Ekone online ->

Based in Kenton, Khilna is the Owner of Ekone. Ekone is a creative arts and crafts business creating personalised gifts and bespoke art. "Here at Ekone, we love using resin in our work. You can find them on coasters and bespoke lettering to side tables and feature wall pieces. Having studied at Greenhill College in Harrow and Harrow Weald College and attending university in Surrey. Worked all over in the city and locally, I feel incredibly proud to have set up a creative base in Harrow. I feel like I have come full circle. As a South Asian Artist, I am extremely lucky that my mum, my family and my friends are so supportive in what I do. It took me a little while to get to where I am now, but I know I am on the right path." - Khilna Shah

Khilna Shah

Our annual performance at Harrow Civic centre

"Harrow Tamil School (HTSA) has been teaching Tamil language and Fine Arts to Tamil children since 1987. HTSA is unquestionably one of the most sought-after Tamil Schools in London with well over 350 students. HTSA is based at Whitmore High school and provides classes in Tamil language, Bharata Natyam, Flute, Keyboard, Miruthangam, Veena, Violin and Vocal. Classes are run every Saturday from 12:30pm to 4.30pm and are taught by reputable, experienced and high calibre teachers." - HTSA

Harrow Tamil School Association (HTSA)

"During the pandemic we continued to run our classes via virtual class rooms which have been a great success. This is only possible with the commitment and the focus from our teaching staff and the committee." - HTSA


Our annual cultural program

Visit HTSA's website for more information. Click here -> Htsa.org.uk

Harrow Tamil School Association (HTSA)

The Covid Scream’ The frustrations of lockdown.

'Shiva in Thought'This painting shows Shiva reflecting on the current pain and sufferings of the world without his trusted trident by his side to destroy evil and injustices. This symbolises that his battles are internal rather than external, not something we usually associate gods. I wanted to show that even gods can have internal struggles and turmoil during tough times.

"I am a photographer and visual artist born in Harrow. My connection to Harrow started before birth. My parents settled in Harrow after moving around various places in London 46 years ago. They loved the area and especially the school that was a one minute walk away! My sister and I were both born at Northwick Park Hospital and so were most of the friends we grew up with. We felt proud of that connection from a young age. At that time during primary and middle school, there weren’t as many South Asians, a few in each year group. Our school did celebrate Diwali though and tried to embrace other cultures. The community spirit there among South Asians and other cultures and the community love for the arts is what still attracts me to Harrow." - Mala Vadgama

Mala Vadgama - Photographer and Artist

Click here to visit Mala Vadgama's website

Harmeet Kaur Bharya - photograph taken by Mala Vadgama for ‘Your Mental Health Story’ Photographic Series

‘South Asian Woman 1’ Dedicated to the BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) staff at the NHS who feel invisible in the media. We see you and are so thankful to you and ALL of the NHS staff working so hard right now. I drew a mask over a digital version of one of my paintings to say thank you encourage people to stay safe especially as these communities have reported high cases of covid 19.

"I have been photographing professionally for about 15 years and recently held an exhibition about mental health within Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. My work ranges from photography to mixed media art. I recently completed a refresher course on fine arts in Ruislip as I had not painted in a very long time. This really reignited my passion for the fine arts again. Here are some of my paintings that I did during lockdown that highlight on my South Asian heritage." - Mala Vadgama

Last slide ->

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We have a series of online events for #SouthAsianHeritageMonthDon't forget to follow us on social media and to join in with other SAHM event through Manchester Museum In Quarantine

Thankyou for celebrating South Asian Heritage Month with us!

Thank You!