Appetite and New Vic Theatre are inviting local people to tell them their stories as part of a project called Punjab to the Potteries. Building on work with local South Asian communities, two scriptwriters have been commissioned to each research and write an exciting new short play based on the journeys of those who have migrated from the Punjab region to the Potteries and surrounding areas.
The idea behind Punjab to the Potteries came to life when Appetite met Val Bansal in 2017, who shared his families journey to Stoke-on-Trent with the team. This was followed by the creation of the Settling photography project by Sam Ivin as part of the Big Feast and subsequent showings at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, and Keele University. That exhibition, delivered in partnership with GRAIN Projects, documented the stories of those who have migrated from around the world to establish lives in the Stoke-on-Trent area.
Val Bansal, who will proudly tell you that he is a Potter born and bred, came to realise that he had a lot of questions about how it must have felt for his father, Baldev, to migrate to the area as a teenager in 1964.
Val said: “Punjab to the Potteries was an idea that came about when sorting out old photos at home. Looking at them sort of inspired me in a way as it opened an abundance of questions of what it must have been like living in a small village in Punjab and travelling half way around the world to Stoke-on-Trent in the early 1960s to settle: how hard or difficult the journey was, leaving family behind, learning a new language, adapting to a new culture, education and work, food - the list is endless. There must be countless stories and memories as well as many more photos in numerous households of people and families who took a similar journey.”
That journey began for Baldev when his father, Rattan, moved their family from the Punjab in India via Kenya to find work. A carpenter, he established a joinery business in Stoke that is still running today. One of the first Sikhs to arrive in the area, Rattan mobilised the small community to establish a temple that grew to become the Guru Nanak Gurdwara & Sikh Cultural Centre in Stoke, and the Ramgarhia Sikh Temple in Fenton.
Now, two scriptwriters with strong links to the South Asian community have been commissioned to capture this wealth of local stories and experience and turn them into plays.
Shahid Iqbal Khan is an experienced playwright and an alumnus of Graeae Theatre’s Write To Play programme. He was part of the 2020/21 Writers Group at Royal Court Theatre and is a member of the Writers Access Group 2020/21 at BBC Writersroom. His first full-length audio drama for BBC Radio 4, Love Across the Ages, aired in September 2022.
Sarah Bedi is a writer and director with many credits to their name including Memories of the Pot Bank Workers (V&A Museum). Sarah is developing research on Wellbeing in the Arts and has worked extensively with young people, from directing Further than the Furthest Thing for the Young Vic, to facilitating drama workshops for the National Theatre, the BRIT School and many others.
Gemma Thomas, Appetite Director, said: “Punjab to the Potteries is the title Val had in mind from when we first met, and now is the right time to develop it further. Val’s dad, Baldev, worked in the Potbanks and that's a story we’re familiar with. However, some of the stories of people from the area haven’t been captured or are sometimes missed. We want to hear from, celebrate and capture people’s lived experiences of migrating to the Potteries, or being born here and raised in a South Asian family, to inspire our writers. Get in touch to book in a chat with one of our writers or join our Community Conversation event. We’ve planned it as part of Global Intergenerational Week; the perfect opportunity to share stories of the Punjab, Potteries, family and community.”
The commissioned writers will begin work on the project with a period of research and story gathering throughout April and May, and are inviting members of the public to share their stories of migration from the Punjabi region, oral family histories or experiences of being raised in the Potteries with South Asian heritage, at an open Community Conversation event on Friday 28 April, between 10am-12pm at Porthill Cricket Club. Alternatively, people can share their stories in conversation with the writers individually. Contact Appetite by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01782 717962to arrange a time. The project will culminate with the final scripts developed from conversations being presented at a public play reading at New Vic Theatre on Saturday 12 August.
For more information about how to get involved and share your story, visit appetite.org.uk