Published on 13/10/2023
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Grunwick Mural
  • The project aims to raise awareness about labour rights, especially for women and migrant workers
  • It celebrates a significant piece of history and the enduring spirit of solidarity during the 1976-78 Grunwick Dispute
  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Soho Road to unveil the Grunwick Strike Mural painted by renowned truck artist Haider Ali.

Birmingham’s community has come together on Soho Road to celebrate a significant piece of history and the enduring spirit of solidarity during the 1976-78 Grunwick Dispute.

The DESIblitz mural, which was completed with the help of Aston University, is a testament to the strength of the ‘Strikers in Saris’ and the local community that stood with them during their struggle.

Speeches were made by various notable attendees including Monder Ram, deputy lieutenant for the West Midlands and director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston University.

The mural encapsulates the courage and determination of those who made sacrifices, fought for justice, and inspired change during the historic Grunwick Dispute.

A group of workers led an Asian women worker, Jayaben Desai, walked out in protest against their treatment by the managers at the Grunwick factory on Friday 20 August 1976.

The workers wanted to defend their dignity and their rights and felt that enough was enough.

Many of the women striking were dressed in attire including saris and salwar kameez, while many of the striking workforce had arrived from Uganda and East Africa in the 1970s.

After the initial picketing by Jayaben and her co-workers outside the Grunwick factory, the strike gained incredible momentum. A testament to the Asian women and men who were striking for better working rights.

By June 1977, marches in support of the Grunwick strikers led to sometimes more than 20,000 people gathering near Dollis Hill tube station.

The mural event also highlighted the role played by the Indian Workers Association, who organised coaches from Birmingham to London in support of the workers and their protest.

The mural was painted directly on the walls of Soho Road by renowned Pakistani truck artist, Haider Ali, who flew over from Pakistan especially to help. Haider dedicated five weeks of his skills and unique artforms. His artwork vividly portrays the emotions, passion, and history surrounding the Grunwick Dispute, making it a source of immense pride for the community.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, community leaders and dignitaries underscored the mural’s significance, emphasising that it not only unveiled a piece of art but also honoured the legacy of those who fought for justice.

The event encouraged the community not only to admire the strokes of paint on the wall but also to remember the stories and the individuals behind them.

Indi Deol, DESIblitz managing director, said:

“I’d like to thank all our partners for their support and collaboration in making this project a reality.

“Partnerships like these can bring our shared history to life, educate future generations, and continue to strengthen our bonds as a community.

“Let’s not just admire the strokes of paint on this wall, but let us remember the stories and the people behind them.

“Let us pledge to carry their legacy forward, to stand up for justice, and to always remember the power of coming together for a common cause.

“Thank you to all who joined us on this momentous occasion.”

Dr Céline Benoit, associate dean for public engagement for the College of Business and Social Sciences at Aston University, said:

“It was such a privilege to partner with DESIblitz to mark the 45th anniversary of the Grunwick Dispute.

“Aston estates are now firmly beyond the triangle, right there in the middle of Soho Road - near several of our community partners.

“The introduction of the Grunwick Strike Mural along Soho Road transcends art; it stands as a poignant tribute to the legacy woven into this community. 

“It embodies a beacon of optimism for upcoming generations, pledging that the struggles endured in the Grunwick Dispute remain etched in memory.”

Attendees were encouraged to draw inspiration from the unity of the Grunwick Strikers and to pledge to continue their legacy by standing up for justice.

Numerous organisations and entities were thanked for their support in bringing this project to life, including Network Rail, Soho Road Business Improvement District (BID), John Feeney Trust and Dishoom. Their contributions played a pivotal role in transforming the mural from an idea into a reality.

Notes to Editors

About Aston University

For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.

Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.

Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Sam Cook, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7446 910063 or email: s.cook2@aston.ac.uk

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