Birmingham’s British Chinese Heritage Project

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•  Chinese Community Centre Birmingham has produced a ‘British Chinese Heritage Project – Chinese Lives in Birmingham’ over the last 15 months.

•  Pillars of Birmingham Chinese Community including; Mr Woon Wing Yip OBE and Professor Rayson Huang CBE, the project will be exhibited at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts and  archived in the Library of Birmingham.

•  The owners of Birmingham’s Chinese businesses including; Wing Yip Superstores (Nechells), Chung Ying Group (Chinatown & Colmore Row) and Cafe Soya (Arcadian & Upper Dean Street)

•  Steering group includes;  Library of Birmingham, University of Birmingham, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham      City Council and Southside BID.

•  Awarded grant of £35,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

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The ‘British Chinese Heritage Project | Chinese Lives in Birmingham” was created to capture the hidden histories of Birmingham’s Chinese community. The project was awarded a grant of £35,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in April 2013 and is expected to be completed in June 2014.

There are approximately 20,000 ethnic Chinese living in Birmingham and the surrounding areas – this project helps to provide a valuable snapshot of their lives through individual stories and memories to preserve for future generations.

The British Chinese community is thought to be one of the oldest Chinese communities in Western Europe, with the first Chinese having come from the ports of Tianjin and Shanghai in the early 19th century. Later on in the 20th century, the majority of net migration came from former British colonies such as Hong Kong and Malaysia. 

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Large Chinese communities are found in many major UK cities including: London,  Birmingham,  Manchester,  Glasgow,  Liverpool,  Newcastle, Edinburgh,  Cardiff,  Sheffield,  Nottingham,  Belfast and Aberdeen.

The British Chinese community has a varied landscape – comprising of many sub-groups, such; Hong Kong Chinese, Malaysian-Chinese, Vietnamese- Chinese, Taiwanese- Chinese and Mainland Chinese. Cantonese (Yue Chinese) is the most popular spoken dialect in the UK, followed by Mandarin Chinese and Hakka Chinese. The term ‘Chinese’ can refer to both Cantonese Chinese and Mainland Chinese; those born in the UK are known as British-born Chinese (BBCs). 

Anna Yim, CEO of Chinese Community Centre Birmingham said; “We are delighted to be able to create this historical project that looks at the lives of individual migrants and British Chinese, as well as the development of the Chinese community in Birmingham – an integral part of the city’s history over the last half-century or so.

The project, featuring likes of Mr Woon Wing Yip OBE and Professor Rayson Huang CBE (former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong) has recorded the development of the Chinese community in Birmingham through different life stories. A permanent archive will be created which will be kept in the Library of Birmingham.”

The output will include; a blog, a booklet, as well as recordings of interviews and focus groups for the Library of Birmingham archives department. 

A first of its type in the West Midlands, the project will culminate with a free, pop-up exhibition for the public at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, between 17 May -8 June 2014.

In the run up to the pop-up exhibition, CCC-B are calling out to members of the public to submit their photos and videos of their Birmingham “Chinatown memories” and help piece together six decades of the community’s history in the city. The best of these will be displayed alongside the exhibition at The Barber Institute and archived with the project in the Library of Birmingham.

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Please make submissions to:  [email protected]  or via post to:  ‘Chinatown Memories’ / BCHP, Chinese Community Centre, Q-Lorc Resource Centre, 99 Bradford Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0NS. Please note submissions cannot be returned and implies consent to use as part of the “British Chinese Heritage Project”.

For more information, please visit:  chineselivesinbirmingham.com 

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