BBC 4 Sikhs in Smethwick

Strangers in a new town – by director Billy Dosanjh


Midlands filmmaker Billy Dosanjh celebrates 50 years of the Sikhs in his hometown of Smethwick, from their arrival in the late 1950s and early 60s to present day. Using rare archive and the frank personal testimony from generations of Smethwick’s Sikhs, Billy explores the experiences of the changing traditions and the challenges to centuries old traditions – especially in love and marriage – that life in modern Britain brings.

One of the stars of the film – Balbir Bhunjaingy, an original Sikh to the area and proud ‘Smethwickian’, takes the audience right back to his roots, from his local factory job where he has been working for the past 50 years, right up to now where he is the only chronicler of the earliest days of the Sikh community – his songs portray his earliest days within the Black Country.

Billy shows the customs that the Sikhs tried to keep from their impoverished villages in the Punjab. Examining the challenges of the modern world and how their traditions have evolved, especially when it comes to love and marriage, Billy gives a personal insight to the world of his community, and the way its culture has adapted across the generations to the challenges of life in modern Britain.

Billy comments: “I came to make the film because I wanted to know what the earliest days were like for my father who arrived on his own when he was just 14 and others, who were among the thousands of Punjabis who descended on the Black Country to work in one of its hundreds of factories.

“In Smethwick there were 90 factories in five square miles and life at the time was full of tumult. So I went on a journey and found lots of incredible archived film around the time and decided, with the BBC, to tell the story of the Sikhs in the town. I wanted to examine the changes in love and marriage traditions since the first generation arrived.”

The story of Sikhs in Smethwick will be on BBC4 9pm on Thursday 1st December and on the BBC iPlayer.

A preview clip can be viewed here


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