Amrick at the Fourways - a lenticular by Jagdish Patel

Amrick at the Fourways - a lenticular by Jagdish Patel

 

About the Desi Pubs Project

Desi Pubs is an extraordinary story about migration, survival, love and food. For over 40 years, the Black Country has been quietly incubating a gastro revolution, the ‘Desi pub’.

It’s an East meets West story, where the classic English pub with its ales, darts and dominos meets Punjabi food and Bhangra. Landlords Beera, Jinder, Jeet, Dal, Slack and Amrik, have opened their pub doors to six artists sharing their personal life stories and experiences over a pint.

The pubs have helped shape bespoke creations which capture the heart and soul of each venue and their punters. Portraits, stained glass windows, photography, mosaics, and handcrafted pub signs have been produced for permanent display in each pub. This collection is part of an ongoing body of work produced by Creative Black Country that includes an archive, broadcasts and a publication.

Parminder Dosanjh, Creative Director at Creative Black Country, comments: “The project is about telling this extraordinary story in the sincerest way and paying homage to the people at the heart of it. The story has many layers and includes tales of migration, survival, love, and the remarkable meeting point of the English Pub and once Indian migrant.”

Asian landlords have been salvaging the struggling pub trade in the area for decades by reinventing failed pubs for new communities and as a result redefining British pub culture. The Black Country is uniquely populated with around fifty successful Asian run pubs which serve traditional ‘Punjabi dhaba’ style curry.

The pubs have their own signature dishes that attract punters from all over the region. Desi pubs have been popping up since the 70’s initially frequented by mostly Asian men working in the foundries. Award-winning TV chef Cyrus Todiwala visited the Black Country during the project to discover more about the importance of food in Desi Pubs.

“I’ve never known a situation where a pub run by an ethnic minority group has given reason for others to create art from it and for other people to try and understand how this came about. It’s interesting to see how they’ve managed to build two things – a very typical British institution, the pub, with a very typical British-Indian aspect, the food.”

2017 sees a Desi Pubs book being launched along with a website.


Desi Pubs


PRESS RELEASE: The World’s first Desi Pub Signs go on Display in the Black Country

- The World’s first Punjabi pub signs go on display at seven Desi Pubs throughout the Black Country this month


- Punjabi migration to the region / Malcolm X and Indian Workers’ Association inspired stained glass window is installed

- Photo call: Desi Pub Crawl - See the landlords with the newly hung pub signs and artwork on 29th September.

The World’s first Punjabi pub signs will be hung at seven Desi pubs across the Black Country this month celebrating 18-months of artist and landlord collaboration for a landmark project. 



When Avtar Singh Johal of the Indian Workers' Association invited Malcolm X to Smethwick to highlight the segregation faced in pubs and bars little did he know that some 50 years later many of those very pubs that had refused entry to the workers would actually be saved by the entrepreneurial community.



The civil rights campaigner (who visited on 12 February 1965 and was assassinated just nine days later) came to the region because he was "disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethwick are being treated badly”.



This significant event is just one that has been captured by Creative Black Country commissioned artists and Desi Pub landlords in the Black Country over the past year producing a new body of work that tells the stories of migration from the Punjab to the region. 

Via the stunning stained glass windows at The Red Lion (West Bromwich) featuring the Punjabi Workers Association and Malcolm X in the 60’s; a beautiful large-scale mosaic mural depicting dancers and dhol drummers for the Prince of Wales; portrait photography at the Ivy Bush, The Fourways, The Sportsman and Island Inn; and a large oil painting of the landlords and staff at The Red Cow, the extraordinary stories about migration, survival, love and food are told.



Landlords Beera, Jinder, Jeet, Dal, Slack and Amrik, have opened their pub doors to six artists sharing their personal life stories and experiences over a pint. The pubs have helped shape bespoke creations which capture the heart and soul of each venue and their punters.

Alongside the artwork will be the World’s first bespoke Punjabi Pub signs produced for permanent display at each pub. 



Creative Black Country collaborated with Nottingham’s New Art Exchange (NAE) to enlist Smethwick-born visual artist Hardeep Pandhal to create the images for the signs, which were then given to specialist pub sign painter Andrew Grundon to produce. 

“I was reproducing an unfamiliar and very individual style of illustration, designed by Hardeep, and working with cultural and language references that were new to me” comments Andrew Grundon on the unique collaboration.

“I was very conscious of being respectful to the artist, the landlords whose narrative was being incorporated, and the community. Trying to fuse these sympathetically with traditional British pub sign design meant slightly adapting both the lettering and layout to accommodate this new style without compromising either.”



Asian landlords have been salvaging the struggling pub trade in the area for decades by reinventing failed pubs for new communities and as a result redefining British pub culture. It’s an East meets West story, where the classic English pub with its ales, darts and dominos meets Punjabi food and Bhangra and now they will be easy to recognise. 


“The handcrafted pub signs are not only works of contemporary art but they are bold landmarks that unify the pubs and narrate this remarkable story.” comments Creative Black Country’s Artist Director Parminder Dosanjh. “The landlords have been very much involved in the process of creating the work.”



The Black Country is uniquely populated with around fifty successful Asian run pubs which serve traditional ‘Punjabi dhaba’ style curry. The pubs have their own signature dishes that attract punters from all over the region.

Desi pubs have been popping up since the 70’s initially frequented by mostly Asian men working in the foundries. 

The Desi Pub story is told via the bespoke commissions created in partnership with each landlord and displayed at each venue from the end of September.



Desi pubs is an ongoing art project in partnership with New Arts Exchange, BBC English Regions, Midland Pub Association, Southbank Centre  supported by Arts Council England’s  Creative People and Places.