West London artist explores Ealing’s rich history of activism

  Posted: 13.09.21 at 10:10 by Hannah Davenport

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FILMMAKER and artist Narvir Singh is working in partnership with the Ealing Local History Centre Archives, the National Portrait Gallery and artist Asia Ahmed to explore the boroughs rich cultural history.

Ealing Rises Up is part of Citizen UK, and will feature in a final exhibition at Gunnersbury Park at the end of the year and at the National Portrait Gallery in 2023.

Singh, who grew up in Hounslow but visited Ealing regularly, has been documenting the borough’s vibrant communities and life through his art.

He also inherited Ealing through his partner who is from Southall, as well as his Punjabi roots, referring to Southall as a ‘home away from home’.

“There’s just so much resilience and so much beauty in the area”, Singh said, “if I go for a walk and I don’t have my camera I regret it every time, it’s inevitable I’ll come across something magical.

“It’s like the cracks in the concrete are just dripping with inspiration and history, I’m just trying to capture just a tiny drop of that and share it with different neighbouring towns.”

He added: “West London has so much to explore when it comes to diversity and what different areas look like and what makes them special.

Ealing, an inspiration. Credit: Narvir Singh.

“Ealing has a really interesting history generally as a borough, but I think it's really interesting how Ealing has consistently risen up against racism in particular.”

He gave the example of when the National Front hosted a meeting in Southall in 1978 and the anti-racist protests that followed.

Singh believes this, and the death of teacher Blair Peach during the demonstration, played a strong part in the formative character of the borough.

“This has formed the cultural identity of the area ever since and how we respond to even the hardest of odds.

“This was part of the conversation and the identity growing up in West London and being South Asian.

Credit: Narvir Singh.

He added: “My father –in-law has been active in the borough since the ‘70’s and it’s made me think about how this became home to my family and their involvement in trying to improve this borough, trying to do our bit.

“I’m trying to do the same and follow that tradition, although I’m doing it as an artist.”

The final exhibition at Gunnersbury Park will be a visual experience, with Singh’s use of mediums ranging across poetry, film and photography.

He is looking particularly at film and oral histories as well as walking tours led by local activists, where, “Ealing as the location becomes the main character in a story.”

Through his research, he discovered the work of photographer Dennis Morris who took photos of Ealing in the ‘70’s, alongside his renowned photography of stars such as the Sex Pistols and Bob Marley.

Narvir grew up in Hounslow. Credit: Narvir Singh.

Singh mentioned the work of the Southall Youth Movement, Indian Workers Association, Southall Black Sisters and the collaboration between the different groups, with even the Black Panthers coming to Southall.

At the heart of the project is research into missing voices from the Ealing community, many of whom are not captured in archives and collections.

Volunteer Citizen Researchers from the borough of Ealing will be using their interest in activist histories and the experiences of black and Asian communities to delve into these stories.

The Ealing Rises Up project are still appealing for your old VHS tapes of Ealing to use in the project.

For more information about the project look, Here.

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