Sharon Galsinh

Good morning, my name is Deborah Norrey, I’m working on the History at Hobsmoor Project. Today’s date is Monday the eleventh of December 2017 and I’m here with Sharon. Sharon, can I please ask your name, your date of birth and where you were born, please?
Hi, my name is Sharon Galsinh, my date of birth of twentieth of January eighty-two, and I was born in Yardley.
[Clears throat] And can you tell me, where about in Yardley you, you lived? What road you lived on?
I’ve been living on the same road all my life and that’s Clements Road.
So, can you tell me, Sharon, a little bit about some childhood memories, what you remember as a child?
OK, well, I had, think I had really good childhood. My parents owned the local shop so, and we lived next to the shop so I have lots of fond memories of… going up in the shop, getting to know the locals, having lots of friends, having lots of conversations and even w, walking down the road and, even now, walking my dog. I can say hello to lots of different people and, it’s nice, I just feel, like it’s a proper community place and I like that, it’s good.
What sort of shop was it that your dad owned?
It’s a local, it was a local, newsagent, so, people would come in just for their everyday stuff, so… you would see the same people and you’d get to know their names so, so everybody knew everyone so it was nice.
And can you describe the shop to us?
Er, it was just a small shop, it’s like a l, little corner shop. Erm… and it sold your everyday thing, so people used to come for their newspapers… erm, their bread, all the little everyday things that you wouldn’t go to the supermarket for. So… it was just a nice… feel, it was like a community place, people used to come in just for a chat sometimes… you know? So… they had lots, we made lots of friends so I loved it, it’s good.
And did you used to help out in the shop or –
– try to?
I did, I mean growing up, just the little things like filling the shelves, putting the chocolates on the shelves… erm, helping clean up. It was fun. I, yeah, I enjoyed it.
And how old were you when you moved into the house next door to the shop?
I think I was ‘bout, I was just a baby, I think maybe a couple of years old? So I’ve literally been here, in the same house my whole life. It’s good.
So what was your – can you describe your house for us?
[Tut] Erm, it’s a nice, it’s a semi-detached house, but our house is next to the shop so when I was first born, when we first bought the shop I was just really little, like less than a year, and we used to live above the shop. So it was quite a squeeze because I’ve got an older brother and sister. Er, and then the house next door come up for sale, which was perfect, ‘cause it was right next door. And then it was just, I remember, just growing up… half in the house, half in the shop but it was, it was lovely. And then we h, could go in the back garden, our back garden was huge because my dad took the middle fence out so it was just running in and out the shop all the time… to the house and it, it was, it was great. Lots of fond memories [Chuckles].
And what school did you go to, Sharon?
I went to Blakesley Hall School, which is literally round the corner. Erm… and that was really, that was great, I mean I had lots of friends… and, you know, the teachers and the staff were lovely. Erm… I couldn’t have faulted it really, it was just, it was brilliant. It was great.
And what was the school like?
Erm, it was, it was strange actually because, when I started, the, the community is very different now to what it was then. So I was the only Asian person in my class… but it didn’t worry me at all, b, it didn’t bother me at all because I was just made to feel so welcome and, people didn’t look at the colour of the skin. I was just the same as everyone else. And, it was just, erm… it was just great. I didn’t feel a, any different from anyone else. It was very welcoming.
So you made lots of friends?
Yeah. And even now, actually, I’ve done some voluntary work in the school and some paid work, so, it’s great to go back to the school but, I mean, they’ve changed the school now, they’ve done a lot of redevelopment. But, it’s nice to go back and actually seeing some, teachers that was there when I was there. So, it’s lovely to give something back… as a, an older person to the younger generation, in the school that I went to. So that’s lovely.
And when you left Blakesley, what secondary school did you go to?
I went to Sheldon Heath, which is literally, still in the Yardley district. Erm… and that was quite a big change for me, it was, I found that difficult simply because, Blakeley were so welcoming and, such a tight community, that I found the secondary school quite the opposite. So it did take me a while to settle in, but I think once I did, it helped me grow up quite a lot and… get used to a completely different environment. So that was a big change, but I think it was i, important and it was needed, so.
So, how did it make you feel then if, if it was so different to being in the, the primary school? What was the differences you noticed that made you… not feel so welcome?
I think ‘cause I had no friends, all my friends went to different schools… so I was pretty much on my own. And my sister was there but she was not in my class, didn’t see her all the time, so I felt very much erm… quite lost if anything. And, it was quite scary because… you know, going, a whole different… you just suddenly felt like a grown-up and you’re kind of just thrown in. So it was, it was quite scary… and I think it took me a long time to settle in. But these things help you grow up, don’t they, so… you know, looking back now it does help you be a better person… so. You grow up, yeah… it’s good. And I think by the time I left I was a completely different person to by the time I started as well… so it, it can, I can see how much I grew in confidence. So it was a good thing.
Did y, did you have the same thing at Sheldon Heath that you had at Blakesley whereas, you were, in the minority as an Asian person?
No, it was quite the opposite. Uh, there was a lot more, Asians and Indians… compared to my primary school, which I fou, I found that strange if anything ‘cause I was used to the opposite. And also growing up in my shop, we were Indians, but a lot of our customers wasn’t… so I wasn’t used to being in an Asian community so I found that, quite odd really. So, erm, I actually prefer, when I first started the secondary school I think I actually preferred, that side of the primary school. So, that took a while, that was another adjustment to get used to as well. [Chuckles]
So, coming back to your home –
– can you describe your street for us, what was it like growing up on your street?
The street, I feel is a lot different now to what it was then because… erm, my dad’s shop, they’ve sold it… and the owners, the new owners, haven’t re-opened it. So it’s quite sad to see my dad’s shop, what was my dad’s shop, closed now. And it’s been closed for five years, and that saddens me because, that was a real community place so, people just used to come for a chat, you know? And it use, used to create l, lots of hustle and bustle, you know, and that’s gone now and I think that’s a shame because you need, places like that in your local s, community. And also the, we had a pub next door as well… erm, which… my dad used to go to now and then, and that’s closed as well. So, it’s, the community side of things has completely disappeared now… so I think that’s quite sad.
I think erm, people need something in the community that brings you together, and now it’s q, seems quite quiet on the road, as in before you, you could look out the window and people would always be walking past. So, and I think for the older generation it’s a shame because, they was retired and they just used to go for half a pint or just, have some lunch or something. So it’s quite a big change for them as well, and… you know, I don’t know what happened to them, I mean you, we don’t see them anymore so it’s quite sad.
Do you think that… there are more cars on the road n, now than when you were growing up?
[Tut] Erm, I think so, it’s hard to say because… growing up, I was kind of stuck to, stayed in this side of Yardley so, we’d, we, we was quite odd because we had the shop so we didn’t need to go to the supermarket, we just did our shopping [chuckles] as we needed it at the shop. So p… what I just, I just used to walk everywhere with my mum or my dad, we didn’t really have to drive, er, outwards so, I don’t… I don’t know if, I wasn’t sure as a kid how much traffic was on, I, traffic wasn’t known to me so… but I would say, on my road, it, it’s probably less because we haven’t got the sh, the shop and the pub… . But… I think looking back now, because we’ve simply got the Tesco’s and, the Swan and, we’ve got, Asda… there’s lots of traffic towards the Yew Tree and the Swan now t, which, I don’t think we used to have when I was a kid. So, it seems more of a …
So, when you finished school what did you, you move on to do then, Sharon?
I did some ‘A’ Levels, erm… which was at South Birmingham College. Erm, I did struggle with my ‘A’ Levels, erm ‘cause I found, I just used to have a struggle with reading and then I, I knew, I always knew something was wrong and then I… finally, spoke to some teachers about it and I found out I was actually dyslexic, which made sense because I always struggled since I was a kid, but, although I could read, I couldn’t process it. So, it was quite a big thing and so I did struggle with my ‘A’ Levels. But after that, erm, I did a course in graphic design and I graduated in it, and because it was more creative it’s not something I struggled with, erm… and it’s still something I follow now, I still love to do graphic design now, so. I’m more of a creative person, than someone who likes to read or write… yeah.
So what did you do as a teenager?
Erm… apart from helping with my dad’s shop, it was very much, erm… being with the family I guess, erm, I had cousins about the same age, so we was at that age where we started to go out more, like just doing simple things like going for bike rides in the park, and you know, not going out with… parents, but just going out with each other. But I just remember having s, long summers, just riding and riding in the park and having fun. It was great. So, it was just mainly family times… you know. It was just fun. I just remember long summers, it was good. [Chuckles]
So, if we look at Yardley –
– having grown up in he, er, i, in Yardley [tut] what are your erm impressions or your feelings, how, how has it changed over the years since… you’ve grown up?
Erm, I think it’s, because we’ve got more s, supermarkets now, I mean when I was born we didn’t have the Asda, the s, er, at Small Heath, and we didn’t have the Tesco’s so, I although they’re good, I think having them takes away the, the community side of things so, there’s more shops are suffering now so… and I think that’s one of the reasons why my dad sold his shop, because, you know, the supermarkets kill the small shops, don’t they? So… and I think it’s quite sad because, as I said before, the, small shops and people know you, whereas the supermarkets people don’t know you and they don’t really care about you, do they? You’re just another customer. With the small shops people know your name, you know? So they’re your friends. So I think that’s the big change. And I think, it’s such a sa, shame to see that lost now, so, for me… that’s the main thing that I see… er, that’s the main change.
But how do you think it… them the effects on the area, do you think it’s good for the area… in, in one respect, or, would, do you think it was better as it was previously?
I think ‘cause, with my dad have the shop I see both sides of the coin. So I see it as a bad thing, and I see it as a good thing ‘cause supermarkets do good as well, they do a lot of commu, they help a lot in the community… but… which is great, and I think they can make a difference… you know, I think the Tesco’s has helped towards Oaklands Park, I think, But at the same time, erm, the local shops bring something that the supermarkets can’t, just a, just having a chat with a friend, you know. Sometimes the elderly, you know, our locals used to come in, have a little chat for 10/15 minutes and then they used to go and then, they, they would have a nice chat with a friendly face… and you can’t, that’s not something you can get from a supermarket. So I see the good and the bad to both sides.
So growing up, although you had the shop next door, did you ever venture out down the Yew Tree or up to what was originally the, the old Swan?
Yeah, we used to go to the old Swan. Erm, my parents worked quite a lot, long hours, but we still had time to go to the Swan and, erm, I think, being a market, s, this was the Swan market, I think even that had more of a communitative [ph] feel to what the Tesco’s has now. It’s not the same feel to it. And I think commun … as, I work quite a lot in the community now and I, I see it in a different way now so… and I think the community side of things is really important. Erm… yeah, so I see the Swan Centre now is completely different to the Swan Centre we had before, although it looks lovely… in some ways it doesn’t feel, like it brings people together… yeah.
And what about the Yew Tree, do you, have you noticed any changes going on down at the Yew Tree over the time?
Mm, there has been changes but… erm, like we had the old pub there, which obviously I was a kid when that was there, but we have a new, s, bar now. But apart from that it feels the same to me as I’ve always remembered it, you know, lots of local shops, small shops, which is good… and lots, it’s quite busy so people are supporting their local shops which I think’s is quite important. But it seems like the same place that I’ve always known and remembered, which is great.
So, having grown up in the shop and having a lot to do with the, the, the local community, particularly around where, where you grew up… what changes in the community have you noticed?
[Pause] I don’t know, erm… I think there’s a lot more Asian people now, ‘cause when I was growing up… I felt like we were the only Asian family, just a couple of families, which I had no problem with… but now I feel that there’s, there’s a lot more now. [Swallows] So, it’s got a different feel to it. And also… a lot of the people that we knew growing up have, have moved on now so I think that’s quite sad, you know, the lot of the old friends you made… we don’t see them anymore so. And also the Asian people don’t, I don’t think they mix in as much as… the non-Asian people, so I think that can create a little bit of a divide sometimes. They do try to take part in things but… it’s perhaps not in the same way, so it’s… I think that’s the, the biggest change that I’d say.
[Coughs] Oh, sorry, excuse me. [Clears throat] So, growing up yourself, Sharon, did your p, did, as one of the very few Asian… families living in the area, did you ever have any, any problems?
No. I had no problems whatsoever, erm… and… I, growing up I, I knew I was different in the sense that we were, had different colour skin, but that’s as far as my thoughts ever went. I mean… erm, never had any problems, everyone was so welcoming… [tut] whether that was in the shop or, at primary school, and they made me feel like one of their own s, can’t say a bad thing about… anyone really. It was lovely growing up so… erm, when I look back now and I look at my old childhood photos, no, it was great. And I think it’s not the same anymore, which is a bit sad but, erm, yeah, never had any problems, it was really good. We had lots of friends… and, just made to feel really welcome.
So where, where about in India was your family originally from?
Er, my dad is from, the Punjab, which is very north of India… erm and it’s like a little village so it’s quite the opposite to, where we live now… in the sense that it’s more, living off the land, there’s not traffic… . Erm, so when my dad come here as a child, you know, it was a big change for him, but, I think he really embraced the change and he was at the age where he could really appreciate it. And, er, my two grandfathers above me, mm, my granddad and my great-granddad, were both in, the British Army. So… we come to England through, through them like that, and erm, I think, growing up my dad thought he wanted to be part of the community simply because, his, his granddad was part of, the British side of things so, erm… I think maybe he wanted to give something back in that sense. But yeah, and now my dad’s pretty much like… a British guy, you know, he’s got a Brummie accent… and you wouldn’t think that he’s from India… he looks like he’s just born from here, although he wears a turban, erm, he still remembers his roots. But he’s pretty much, embraced the British lifestyle and the Brummie side of things and I think that’s great ‘cause… you know, he’s taken, he’s t, taken it all in, and he loves it. He’s got lots of friends, so it’s lovely [chuckles]. Yeah, it’s good.
So what do you, what do you like about Yardley?
Erm… er, feeling quite welcome… and growing up because there was lots of cultures and I’ve, g, growing up I’ve got used to the different cultures as… you know, with all the different communities here. Erm, and, I do lots of work in the community myself so, I work in the local schools, all the libraries and the museums… so, I quite n, like that community side of things, like working with people, about helping people, and bringing people together. And that’s something that’s really important to me, that using art to, bring people together. And I also do lots of work at Heartlands as well, and I like to help with their mental wellbeing, so… if someone’s in, in the hospital for a while just… helping them take their mind off things. And even if it’s at Heartlands or if it’s in Yardley… I mean the concept’s the same, just, brings people together and I think that’s quite important, especially with the older generation, ‘cause sometimes they can get a bit isolated. So I think we need to be there to help them… and bring them out a little bit.
So the community projects that you’ve been working on in Yardley, can you tell us a little bit about those?
Er, yeah, I’m part of Arts in the Yard, so I’m a community artist. Erm, we have lots of events where we, we could hold… music, music days like music festivals, art workshops, art sessions and we, we bring the local community, we bring them and get them involved in it so they can take something back, bring them out of their shells, but… bring people together as a, it could be a family event, so the mums and the dads could take part with the little children… and they can meet families so th, they’re meeting other people like themselves. And it’s all free as well so it doesn’t cost people anything so… and usually that’s an incentive to bring people together so… it, and I think it’s good because it, it gets them involved in other things in the community so they’re not just sitting at home, and they’re not just sticking around their own families but they’re, they’re meeting new people so, and I think that’s really important. And I think with, the Asian community sometimes they just, stick to their own circles and they need something friendly just to bring them out a bit and introduce them to new things. So it’s a really good thing.
So have you noticed in the time you’ve been working in, in, in the Yardley community how, how has it changed with getting people involved with those projects?
Yeah, it has changed because, erm, at a lot of events, I’ve seen a lot of the same faces, so people have known us quite well where, they look on our website for what we’re doing next and they want to come back, so it’s not like it was as one-off but they actually want to come back, so they’re enjoying it and they get something from it. And, as I said, if, if I’m walking down the road I sometimes see these people and then sometimes I saw them before but they’d just keep themselves to themselves, but now I could be walking my dog and then I’m saying hello to people that I never used to say hello to before and that’s quite a big thing, again, of bringing people together. So I think that’s important. [Chuckles]
Is there anything, Sharon, you don’t like about Yardley?
Erm, it’s hard to say. I think every air, area has its, bad points… it’s just, it’s a shame just to see… erm, the local shop closed and nothing… I don’t think it’s, too bad, I can’t really say a bad, I mean we don’t get any trouble ourselves… erm, so I can’t really think of anything bad. I try to look at the positive side of things. But personal we’ve had, we don’t have any problems and we know everyone, all the local neighbours, and sometimes if we see something that’s not right we can just text ‘em or we tell ‘em. So, yeah, I don’t think there’s anything bad that I can think of [chuckles] but maybe I’m being biased. [Chuckles]
What do you think, has been the biggest change to the area that you’ve noticed over the years?
For me the biggest change was the new Tesco’s. Erm… that’s a big change… erm, and even the Asda coming because that was the reason why we had to sell our shop in the first place, because lots of our customers started to do their big shops, at the supermarket, and that really affects a small shop because you see your takings drop quite considerably. So, you know, what I’d known, what I had known my whole life suddenly went and it was quite sad and then when we sold it, I understand everything changes but I found that quite difficult ‘cause it, it was a big part of my childhood then it was just suddenly gone, erm, and I think that’s quite sad. That, for me on a personal level, that would be the biggest change. Erm… I can’t think of much else. The biggest change is perhaps the change in the community, get more Asian people, but it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a change that happens over time I guess. But yeah, apart from that, erm, it’s still the community place that I know, just in a different way I guess. [Chuckles]
You have some nice things, around the Yardley area, such as, St. Edburgha’s Church, known locally as Yardley Old Church –
– Blakesley Hall, the library. Were these places you visited yourself growing up?
I did, ‘cause I, my primary school was round the corner so, we had school trips to the museum and, and actually the church as well, erm, and it’s nice actually because they’re both old buildings and even when I visit now, that’s the one, there’s some places that haven’t changed, the museum is exactly how I remember it, which is lovely. They’ve updated it a little bit with the visitor centre but the museum itself is exactly the same. So it’s almost like stepping back in, time to my childhood so my old school memories come back, so that’s, that’s quite lovely actually and then, same with the church, erm, I could just be having a walk with my dog round the Old Yardley village, and again, it’s like stepping back into time, and it’s like a, like something that can’t change, they can’t change that site. Erm…[tut] and the library as well, I used to go to the library as a kid, and it’s still the same library I know now it’s, erm, and they do lots of things and I sometimes get involved in the things myself. But it’s great to go to all the local thing, places… and it’s something I did as a child and it’s something I still do now, it’s great.
Is there anything else you’d like to a, to add at all, Sharon?
Erm… just that, just that I, I’d just like to say I had a great childhood and, in a place that was friendly, erm, my parents have lots of friends here and a lot, a lot, lot of the friends have moved on now, you still manage to keep the old, some old friends and make lots of new friends at the same time so, and I think that’s, that’s quite a nice thing to have so. Yeah, I think that’s the, that’s the nice side of Yardley [chuckles].
Do you ever envision yourself moving out?
Yeah, eventually yeah. Erm, a lot of my family are all local as well so it’s nice to stay amongst family, but yeah, eventually yeah I’d say, even if I did move out I think I’d still have ties with Yardley all the time anyway so… it’s something that, that will always be part of me.
You might just move next door?[Chuckles]
Might just move next door [laughs]… yeah.
[Pause] So other than your childhood memories, and being very happy, what makes Yardley special to you?
Erm… I, it’s the people I’d say… just, just going for a walk and saying hello to people, sometimes I could just walk to Oaklands Park, and I could, s, you know, what could be half-an-hour walk, could be a one-hour walk simply because I’m saying hello to lots of people along the way, having little chats, and not necessarily people from my childhood but new people as well, could be other dog walkers I’ve met along the way in the park. So I feel quite safe in the park… erm, to what the park used to be a few years ago, I think it’s developed quite a lot and it’s got a lovely family feel to it, as an, as a kid, erm, I was always told not to go in the park because it wasn’t very safe, and so now when I go you’ve got like the er, play area and you’ve got the gym, and on a warm, day, you could get m, so many people like, 50, 100 people simply ‘cause there’s so many children there and their mums have come with the picnics and they’re sitting on the bench having a bite to eat, and you’ve got kids riding their bikes, got dog walkers, pl, people playing football. And you’re walking through and it feels safe and it feels lovely… and even if you don’t know someone’s name, you just get to know their face and so, you know, especially other dog walkers so… I think that’s lovely. It’s just, that’s one of the most important things just, the people side of things, really friendly.
‘Cause that was not the case, was it, and people, ha, have said to me that, that park was not great before?
That’s right, I mean it’s got, it had a bit of a bad reputation. Erm, I actually only started to go there a few years ago, erm, ‘cause I knew there was event happening on, in the park but on the other side, and I wanted to go but erm, I was a bit… I was unsure. And I ha, I was walking my dog through the park and I’d never actually been in the park on my own at that point, so I had my dog with me and we were just having a stroll and I could see it in the distance, and then we actually walked there and I stayed for a little while and I thought, no, this feels quite lovely, it’s not the park I remember as a child. So it’s, it’s changed quite a lot and they’re still doing lots of work, so it’s only ever gonna get better… you know. It’s only, and it’s, it’s a place where people come now, even it’s just to, with their kids to sit on the rides, people to use the gym or even just dog walkers. So it’s nice to see people use the park, rather than just sitting there, which is what happened before… so. It’s a lot better place now.
What do you hope Yardley will hold for the future?
Erm, I suppose creating more community places, and I think the park’s a big step towards that. It’s a park for the local community. And I actually designed the new logo that goes for the park, and the logo is actually, erm, trees that look like people, with their hands in the air which is a cl, represent branches, and the oak leaves, ‘cause it’s called Oaklands Park and it’s got oak leaves on the, oak trees. And so I’m a local person and I’ve created a, design that represents the park, a park for the local community. So it’s nice as a local person to have something that ties in with that, to have something that’s, on my doorstep that I can, call a little bit of my own. So I think that’s quite nice. So it would be great to see more things like that develop. And I think, compared to what it was a few years ago, I think we’re starting to see that more now so… I think it will only ever get better.
[Chuckles] Let’s hope so.
Yeah [chuckles].
Would you like to add anything else at all, Sharon?
No, I think that’s, I think that’s everything. [Chuckles]
In that case I’d like to say thank you very much for taking part –
No problem.
– in the History at Hobsmoor Project.
No problem. Thanks for having me.
Thank you.
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