“The Chinese community is changing with Cantonese speaking generation declining, we are delighted to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project will preserve stories of older Chinese who came from different countries and their stories will be heard for many generations to come.” (Steel, 2018)

Crossing the Borders is a new deposit of oral history project undertaken by The Wai Yin Society in Manchester.  The oral histories have just been deposited with the UEL Archives in October 2019.  We were very fortunate to be able to support this project on behalf of both the UEL Archives and the Oral History Society Migration Special Group from application to the Heritage Lottery Fund through to the book launch and deposit of the oral histories. A copy of the oral histories has also been deposited with the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at the Manchester Central Library.

Crossing the Borders focused on working with first generation immigrants of Chinese ethnic origin, who had migrated to Greater Manchester after the Second World War. These oral histories have captured the first-hand testimonies of people who had migrated to Manchester from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Macau and Malaysia. The full oral histories will be made available in both London and Manchester as an important resource for documenting the cultural heritage of the Chinese communities in the United Kingdom.

Wai Yeung, Wai Yin Society volunteer says “With the current and next generation of Chinese people being born in the U.K. a lot of Chinese heritage and history is not passed on and preserved by parents or grandparents, even some languages and dialects are lost. This project funded and supported by the National Lottery is ever more important to preserve the culture and history of these individuals.” (Steel, 2018)

When the Communist Party took over mainland China in 1941, my family flee from Shanghai to Hong Kong, since then, I stayed with my aunt. I was brought up in difficult circumstances, I had to learn how to behave as my guardians expected. I felt that my position was precarious, and that in order to be independent I had to become a woman who is knowledgeable and able to do things for myself.
Excerpt from Shirley Chang’s interview. (Manchester Art Gallery, http://manchesterartgallery.org/exhibitions-and-events/exhibition/crossing-the-borders/

If you are interested in the role that oral history can play in the documentation and preservation of the life history narratives of migration, explore our Oral History Society Migration Special Interest Group.