Tag Archives: SADAA

Romesh Gunesekera

Post by Verity Anne Jones, creative writing student doing a work experience placement in Special Collections. Been wondering what the writing process of an author looks like? Want to reassure yourself that even professional authors edit? Love Sri-Lanka born Romesh Gunesekera and can’t get enough? Look no further! Special Collections has a collection on Romesh Gunesekera, the Sri-Lankan Novelist and author of titles: Reef, The Match, Moonfish Monk, The Sandglass, Heaven’s Edge and Noon Tide Toll, waiting for you to make use of. Not only is he a novelist, Gunesekera also writes poetry and short fiction too. Gain an insight into the drafting of these pieces and into Gunesekera’s processes, through handwritten notes, sources of inspiration and draft work for his various novels. Even Gunesekera had to do drafts –

Copy of a draft

Copy of a draft. Copyright SADAA

The collection even includes bits like this handwritten gem:

“Full fathom live thy father lies, of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls were his eyes, Nothing of his that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange, Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell- Hark! Now I hear their Ding-Dong bell.”


Copyright SADAA

Titled “DARWIN, Ariel’s Song, written when he was researching “Reef””. Romesh Gunesekera is a British author born in Sri-Lanka, who is a novelist, short fiction author and poet. He was short-listed in 1994 for the booker prize, for his novel “Reef” and now chairs the Commonwealth Short Story Prize board of judges.

LGBT history month

A blog post by Jemima, library graduate trainee.

Each year, over the month of February, the lives and achievements of the LGBT community are celebrated, the history of the gay rights and civil rights movements is remembered and awareness is raised for issues still faced by LGBT people across the world today. Since LGBT history month was last celebrated in 2014, equal marriage has been recognised and legalised in England. Whilst in the world of film, the release of the award winning The Imitation Game has brought attention to Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s naval Enigma code which helped to win WWII, only to later be criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality, leading to Turing taking his own life. This last year has also seen Estonia become the first former Soviet country to recognise same-sex partnerships, Michael Sam, an American football star, made sporting history by coming out as gay and Russia’s anti-gay law sparked protests across the world in the run up to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Here at Brunel Library we have our own collections of work by LGBT authors which will be promoted over the month of February through our Pinterest page and ground floor book displays. However, works by or relating to the LGBT community do not exist only on our shelves. If you wish to discover the work of Maya Chowdhry who explores lesbian relationships and female identities in her writing, or to introduce yourself to the Indian photographer Sunil Gupta who produced work on the experience of gay men in India, or if you are interested in the exploring the area of sexual orientation in sport, you need to visit Brunel’s Special Collections.

Bitch lit

Bitch lit

Our Maya Chowdhry collection includes Bitch Lit, a cleverly subversive celebration of powerful, female anti-heroes; Acts of Passion: Sexuality, Gender and Performance, which focuses exclusively on lesbian performance work from representations of lesbian sex in the media to what the term “lesbian playwright” means within contemporary culture, and Lesbian Self-Writing: The Embodiment of Experience, a collection of writing by lesbian women on their own lives and experiences. The Sunil Gupta collection includes information on his gallery exhibits and newspaper reviews of his work, with significant media focus being placed on his decision to document himself receiving treatment for AIDS through photography.

Visit Special Collections over February and discover something new this LGBT history month.

Newly catalogued collections

Over the last year a lot of work has been done cataloguing the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA) collection, and we’ve already featured various blog posts about it.

Three of the most recently catalogued collections are Attia Hosain, Autograph ABP and the Pushpalata Dance Company.

Attia Hosain was born into an upper-class feudal land owning family in Lucknow, India in 1913. She gained a degree at Isabella Thoburn College, one of only a few women of her background to do so and the first in her family. She married and in 1947 moved with her husband and two children to England. In England she took up broadcast journalism, joining the BBC Eastern Service in 1949 where she worked on a variety of regional services. She was also involved in a number of popular shows for women and read for several plays. While continuing to work for the BBC she also acted in the West End, and was an active part of the social scene and friend to many theatrical stars. Hosain is best known for her writing. She first published a collection of short stories, Phoenix Fled in 1953 and then a novel, Sunlight on a Broken Column with Chatto & Windus in 1961. Both draw on experiences from her upbringing and afford insights into the society of India’s landed classes. Her work has influenced many writers of the younger generation. Her collection at Brunel includes original material on the creation of the archive and copies of her BBC broadcasts.

Autograph ABP (formerly Association of Black Photographers) was founded in London in 1988 by Sunil Gupta, Monika Baker, Roshini Kempadoo and Rotimi Fani-Kayode with the aim of supporting and sponsoring black artists and photographers in Britain and around the world. Employing several high profile directors, including cultural theorist Professor Stuart Hall, they wanted to create a forum “to make black photography a central issue of photographic practice”. The organisation achieved this through exhibitions, commissions, residencies, awards and publications. Major exhibitors include Ghanaian photojournalist James Barnor and Nigerian/British fine-art photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode. The collection at Brunel includes original promotional material.

The Pushpalata (Pushpalata translates as “clusters of flowers”) Dance Company was founded in 1992 by Priya Pawar. Pawar is an Indian classical dancer, who had previously danced around the world and had formed the Triveni dance company with her then husband Pratap Pawar. Launching her solo career Pawar became Artistic Director of Pushpalata and was the driving force, and chief performer, for many of their productions. The company focuses on Odissi and Kathak dance practices, but also performs in a number of collaborations with Western dance forms, most notably investigating the point at which Flamenco and Kathak dance meet. As well as performing, Pawar has set up a Pushpalata Dance School, which holds workshops and classes, and also founded schools in India and Madrid. The collection contains information on the history of Priya Pawar as well as the dance company.

You will find descriptions of these collections on Archives Hub. Details of how to make an appointment to see these collections on on our Access guide.

On tunnels and female freedom fighters: archives inspire local writers

Guest post by Emma Filtness, Creative Writing Tutor

Over the course of this academic year, I have run two more writing workshops with Brunel’s Special Collections. The first involved a session with the Creative Writing class from the Brunel Arts Centre – a mix of staff, students and members of the public – the second with the London Borough of Hillingdon’s Creative Writing group based at Uxbridge Library.

The participants spent an evening browsing a selection of materials from across the collections. The materials were introduced by Katie Flanagan, Special Collections Librarian, who provided the writers with some information on the specific item and the archive or collection it was from, including entries from The Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiogrpahies, editions of the Ladies’ Home Journal from the 1940s and 1950s, items from the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive (SADAA) and books and memorabilia from the Channel Tunnel Association collection. Participants then picked an item that particularly appealed to them and used it as a springboard for creativity, producing poems, short stories and articles in response to the item they chose.

All our own workA poem and a short story inspired by materials in the collections were recently in an anthology on display as part of the All Our Own Work exhibition at Brunel’s Beldam Gallery.

Memory is a poem by Viraj Chouhan, an Anthropology Master’s student, inspired by an article in issue 18 of Outwrite, a feminist newspaperfrom the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive. “It described the plight of Zimbabwe’s female freedom fighters who had participated in the guerrilla struggle for independence from white colonial rule,” said Viraj, speaking about the article that inspired his poem. “Soon after achieving an independent state, they were somewhat spurned by society, particularly older women who were loathe to let their sons marry these strong-willed girls.”

TunnelsOubliette is a short story by Joseph Norman, an English PhD student and Brunel staff member. His story was inspired by The History of Tunnels by Patrick Beaver in the Channel Tunnel Association archive. “If I’m honest,” said Joseph, “I judged the book initially by its cover: for this edition, a wonderfully gloomy photograph of workers down a coal-mine. This image spoke to me of hardship and toil in an environment largely unfamiliar to myself, and – allowing my imagination to stray somewhat – with connotations of mystery and buried secrets. Flicking through, I isolated key words and phrases that caught my attention. I was struck by the variety of uses that tunnels have had throughout history, but more by the small details of life underground. Most important of the phrases that I chose was “an underground global system to connect the major cities of the Earth,” which forms the premise of my story. During the workshop I wrote a very loose and rambling first-person account of one man’s time working underground. Later I used this as a basis for a dystopian narrative of a man enticed into working underground, seeing the work as an escape from a suggested traumatic past. This gave me plenty of scope to play with metaphors linking tunnels and digging with remembrance and forgetting.”


Against the grain

The culmination of various workshops held in Special Collections this academic year, using our SALIDAA (now re-named SADAA) collection, was a Saturday afternoon event at the West Wing Arts Centre in Slough.

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Founders of the AWWC Ravinder Randhawa, Rahila Gupta and Rukhsana Ahmad in conversation with Shyama Perera

The afternoon included reflections from the original creators of the Asian Women Writers’ Collective on how the group had started and then evolved, turning from a writers’ group to a writers’ collective.

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AWWC founding members with their daughters.

Later on some of the founding members returned to their stage accompanied by their daughters and discussed how they too went against the grain to pursue uncertain careers.

One of the founding members, Maya Chrowdhry, read some of her poetry to the gathering, and was interviewed by Lakshmi Holström (one of the founding trustees of SALIDAA).

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Maya Chowdhry reading some of her poetry

The afternoon was a celebration of achievement: the two community groups who had visited us earlier in the year for workshops on Preserving community heritage and culture, where they learnt about caring for historic collections, had then gone on to learn skills in oral history, and gained certificates in Heritage Skills. They were presented with their certificates by the Mayor of Slough.

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The Mayor of Slough presenting Heritage Skills certificates

And another group, this time of local women, who had worked on a creative writing project based around the SALIDAA collections, had the opportunity to read their work aloud, and also see it published in a booklet.

The booklet will shortly be available in Special Collections.

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Creative writing group participants reading aloud from their work.

Maya Chowdhry Collection

A creative writing workshop

A creative writing workshop

One of our collections housed here at Brunel as part of the SALIDAA (South Asian Diaspora Literature and Arts Archive) archives include a collection of work by the writer Maya Chowdhry. It is proving to be an inspirational resource for teaching creative writing.

Maya Chowdhry grew up in Scotland. She began as a film maker, but went on to write short fiction, poetry and plays. Her experience includes running workshops for young people and a residency in a theatre.  She is an interactive artist, who uses modern media to make her work more accessible. Chowdhry has written on the experiences of Asian women, and on lesbian relationships.

Maya Chowdhry's notebook

One of Maya Chowdhry’s notebooks

Our collection focuses on her work as a writer for the theatre. It includes some of her play scripts, and extracts from her plays. We are fortunate to have some of her writer’s notebooks. These show the research behind her writing, and how it develops.  The notebook for “Tara” has drawings, photocopies, photographs, postcards, her poems, notes, and diary entries. She writes pages that explore the characters and the story that she is creating.

This archive has recently been catalogued and now appears on Archives Hub. As well as being of interest to researchers of Asian literature and the experiences of Asian women, it also gives a valuable insight into the process of creative writing.

Preserving community heritage and culture

Recently two community groups from Slough visited us in Special Collections. They were here specifically to find out more about preserving their heritage and culture for future generations of their families, as well as researchers. For many members of the groups it was their first visit to a university library or art gallery.

We started off by looking at the variety of collections housed here at Brunel. This includes the more obvious book and manuscript material, but also posters and other ephemera from the Transport History Collection, as well as the occasional piece of furniture, and even a costume worn by Ram Gopal from the SALIDAA collection.

Showing off one of our railway posters.

Showing off one of our railway posters, with a chair from the same collection also on display.

One of the groups looking at some of our railway posters

Looking at items from the Transport History Collection


Looking at the materials that make up a book.

                                                                    Once we’d looked at the variety of items in the collections, we discussed how best to care for them so that future generations will be able to see them too. This included talking about how paper is made and how this affects how well it has survived, how to handle books and manuscripts to avoid causing more damage to them and safe ways of packaging items to keep deterioration to a minimum.


Demonstrating the use of Melinex sleeves in preservation

We also talked about how the items are used in research, why people might want to use them and what to do to arrange a visit to a special collections library or archive.

Finally, both visits ended with a trip to the Beldam Gallery, part of Brunel University, where the participants enjoyed an introduction to the current exhibition, Suspense,  from the University Curator, George Mogg, followed by a well-earned cup of tea in the Eastern Gateway building.


George Mogg introducing the Beldam Gallery exhibition