The Chinese Living In Sheffield & Their Stories Of Migration

Home Shrine
A shrine to the ancestors at the home of Mr and Mrs Chan. In Chinese culture, white represents death and so a red bulb is kept in the light above the shrine.

 

Photographer & Filmmaker Gemma Thorpe is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From project ‘Chinese Life In Sheffield‘.  To see Gemma’s body of work  click on any image.

 

Mrs Cheng came to Sheffield in 1976 to join her late husband. They both worked at the Golden Dragon restaurant (now Wong Ting), where she still goes every Sunday for dim sum. Mrs Cheng had initially moved to Hong Kong in 1953 due to the changing political situation in mainland China.

 

Mr Wan came to the UK in 1963 as soon as he finished school, to join his father. Aged 16, he worked first in London, then Swansea, Belfast, Glasgow and Cambridge before setting in Sheffield. ‘Then, there weren’t many Chinese people here, we had to travel to London or Manchester for speciality cooking. Sometimes Golden Dragon (one of the first Chinese restaurants in Sheffield) would close at midnight and show Chinese films’.

 

 

Like many UK university cities, Sheffield has become home to large numbers of Chinese students in recent years. There are more links between China and Sheffield than ever before yet the stories of earlier migrants and their contributions to the city are relatively unknown.

 

 

Judy Nairn first came to Sheffield in 1981 with her youngest daughter. ‘I never thought I would live in England. When I was in school I hated English lessons, I used to write the words on my hands, on my ruler, on the top of my leg! England has been kind to me. The only bad thing is the weather! I feel proud to be from Hong Kong. Hong Kong and England are both home to me.’

 

Mr and Mrs Lee met in the UK and ran a takeaway for several years while bringing up their young family and looking after Mr Lee’s mother. Mr Lee became the Chinese Welfare Rights Worker and is now a Benefits Advisor for the City Council, inspired by the support they were given when his mother became ill.

 

Majiang at the Chinese Community Center, an important social space for many older Chinese residents in Sheffield.

 

 

My interest in this project comes from my own experience of living and working in China, and the subtle changes in the Chinese community that I have noticed in my hometown of Sheffield over the years, indicative of the wider economic, cultural and political shifts in the relationship between the UK and China. I am now focusing this work on the older generation as I feel it is especially important at this time to recognize their stories and sacrifices, and acknowledge the contributions they have made to British culture.

 

 

A chairobics class for older people at the Chinese Community Center. The Center offers a range of activities, such as health and wellbeing sessions, exercise and computer classes, and English lessons focused on topics such as visiting the doctor.

 

Qian Qian cuts a student’s hair at her salon. She is the first Chinese hairdresser in the city and came with her husband and family from Tianjin in mainland China, where she owned a salon. She retrained at college, gaining her qualifications again, in English, before setting up her own business here.

 

Student presenters Rui Zuo, Site Wei and Jing Yun at Sheffield Live Radio, where they were broadcasting a Mandarin language program.

 

Rehearsals at Wanlin Dance School, set up by Wanlin Steele who trained at the Beijing Dance Academy and danced professionally before moving to Sheffield with her family. The school is internationally recognized and regularly perform at dance shows across the country.

 

See also:

Cha Yuan Village

By Gemma Thorpe

 


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