Shooting “The Winter of Love” (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) in Southall was paramount to its manifestation. Without Southall – the film would be meaningless. It was not just the question of the story being played out in the streets of Southall – but enmeshed in it was my long standing relationship with the town.
My connection with films in Southall goes back to the heady days of the three cinema’s on South Road, leading up to the Green starting with Liberty Cinema, with Century in the middle and the Dominion Cinema towards the end. Our journeys to these cinemas were with our parents – larger than life images of Hindi film stars; great movies such as
and Amar Akbar Anthony
played havoc on our imaginations as children. Southall like many small Asian communities throughout Britain created a hub and buzz around Hindi Cinema and made it popular outside of India and brought it to its present day success in Britain and generally in the West – a success that British Asians should be given a full credit for.
With the demise of the cinemas and the rise of video’s that collective viewing soon disappeared along with the closures of the three cinemas – the Dominion Cinema was bought by the Indian Workers Association who renamed it The Dominion Centre. An act of pure charity, the cinema was bought by the IWA with a view that the centre would be funded by the local council and service the entire community regardless of race or gender. As part of the purchase, the IWA in their wisdom demolished a state of the art building and replaced with a monstrosity designed by what can only be described as a creatively deprived architect who created a building without a heart and soul as well as acoustics! But the users and the people of Southall embraced the building as their own and now it operates as the only secular community building in Southall.
Many creative individuals since have emerged from Southall. A key inspirational figure in making a marking on the film and theatre scene was Harwant Bains. And film for a brief moment seemed to have returned to Southall. His ‘Wild West’, shot in 1992 caused a stir amongst the local community as well as nationally. The story is set in Southall where a young Pakistani sees himself as a cowboy and has ambitions of fronting a country and western music band – his dream is to go to Nashville. A zany caper, ‘Wild West’ gave many of us inspiration to create and produce our own films.
Since then a number of documentaries have appeared on television covering various issues around Southall; “A Fearful Silence”, about the work of Southall Black Sisters on domestic violence in Asian communities produced by Azad Productions; Acting our age directed by Gurinder Chadha and a powerful and moving search by Melanie Sykes for a sense of belonging in her Melanie Sykes Southall Stories directed by Fatima Salaria.
Deeply inspirational, Southall has been an example to British Asian communities through out the British Isles and many communities in Europe. My decision to shoot and locate ‘The Winter of Love’ (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) in Southall stems directly from a sense of deep belonging to a place that has influenced and shaped my outlook on life.
Southall means many things to many people. Acting as a town near a point of entry (Heathrow) it has traditionally sheltered all immigrants coming into its borders; Jewish refuges from the second world war; West Indian settlers from the Windrush; Pakistani and Indian settlers in the 50’s and 60’s; Ugandan Asian’s escaping Idi Amin’s regime along with Kenyan’s and Asians and most recently Somalian’s.
Southall’s ability to absorb a diversity of life is a testament to its openness and embracing nature. Perhaps we will see many more stories coming from Southall with a Somalian; Polish, Jewish or Irish slant nestled within universal themes.
Visiting Bill Cooke & Terry Tkachuk website, the Southall Film Studios History Project confirmed its place in the creative history of British film making.
You can pre-order your copy of ‘The Winter of Love’ here.