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Programme Outline

The children arrive in the hall to see Mr G preparing to open his corner shop for the day. He welcomes them and points out some of the food he stocks from different countries. Urging them to make themselves at home as he prepares to listen to the cricket on the radio.

Janine his part-time Saturday girl bursts in agitated after an argument with her Nan about an old photograph. Mr G tries to calm her by trying to make her understand how difficult things were when people first came to live in England. He does this by showing her some old photographs that were left when a photographer used the shop as his studio (these are real images of real people). The children examine the pictures and speculate on who these people are and what they have in common. Mr G recalls some of the previous incumbents of the shop and the different use to which it has been put.

Mr G open a second case to reveal a scene of the Caribbean Mr G places a hat from the Case on Janine to transform her into her Nan. She plays out a scene of leaving Jamaica and tells the story of the journey (this is a real account).

Janine speculates on why some one would leave the sunshine of Jamaica to live in England. The children are invited to comment on how they imagine it would feel and what they would choose to take. Mr G recounts his expectations of England and his experience of arriving asking Janine to think what it must have been like for her Nan.

They open a third case to reveal an English winter scene. Mr G wraps Janine up against the cold and she recounts a true first experience of snow with the aid of another photograph.

Mr G introduces the idea that a colour bar operated preventing Black and Asian people getting rooms. This stings Janine and Mr G plays her an extract from Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech. They discuss what the extract means and with the children play out a scene in a café to illustrate how it gave licence to people to racially discriminate. Janine makes a connection to contemporary attitudes since the Brexit referendum. She wants to know why her Nan stayed and how people coped.

They open a fourth suitcase that shows the interior of a 1960’s house the children look in it to see what living conditions were like. Mr G talks of living in crowded conditions and sharing different food and the sorts of jobs he and his housemates did. How he first met Janine’s mother and how he met his wife at a dance. Needing more money to get married Mr G tells how he helped build the rotunda and considers himself a part of the city as he is like one of the unseen bricks that hold the building up.

Janine takes him to task on this and says life is still difficult for the recently arrived in Birmingham. They discuss the importance of sharing history as a way of finding common experiences and invite the children to offer Janine advice on how she should make up with her Nan.

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