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Belgrave, the golden mile.

Updated: Apr 29

Finding inspiration in the place I live.

When I came to the UK in 1977, I came with the hope that I will be attending an art college. That didn't happen. After I married my wife, we moved into a small rental flat on top of a little corner shop in an area of Leicester known as Belgrave.

I had some support from the extended family but the pressure to earn was always there so I sought employment. The first place I went to was the local GE factory but at the same time I came across a photography business on the Melton road called 'Lakhani art studio' and that is where I found my first break as an Artist here in the UK. here is a short blog video of my colleague, Kanti.

Kanti also had a young family, Kanti and his brother ran the business servicing the Ugandan Asians living locally. What I did for Lakhani was to colour old black and white and turn them into colour.

Here is an example of this.

Here I used oil colours to paint on top of a black and white enlarged photograph. This was a standard technique of a time when photos of family were in most part black and white.

The Golden mile in Leicester gave me space to grow as an artist and my community supported me through this. It wasn't all roses, we lived in crowded communities in cold, damp ridden terraced houses but I was surrounded by energy that can't be replicated, this came in many guises from local business owners to elderly neighbours frustrated by the noise my young family made. It all counted.

A yearly highlight was the annual Diwali lights switch on Leicester: Thousands turn out for 40th Diwali lights switch-on event - BBC News this was local to Belgrave .Over the years I have taken part in various different ways but my Diwali cards always featured and still do in many homes today. The local printers who comissoned the works, distributed these cards globally. From small town Leicester to as far as Canada and Australia.

Here is an example of a Diwali card. This is designed gouache on mount board, often on Daler boards bought from Gadesby, the only art material shop in Leicester at the time. I used airbrushing techniques to get those subtle colours in the background and a traditional village woman by the water scene. The transparent water colors gave the artwork a clean look that worked for greeting cards market. At the same time, the non religious theme had a wider appeal. I created over 30 original designs.

Belgrave connected me with other thriving local businesses, Sabras radio, Jenwill printers, Jalpur mill to name a few. Leicester was quite a hub of creative and commercial energy in the 80s and 90s. The growing youth community had a thirst for a fusion of music and art.

Recently, In preparation for my upcoming exhibition, I reconnected with the printers to find out if any designs still survived, unfortunately none of the designs were kept. I have however managed to find two originals at my home, these will be displayed in the Leicester museum. Watch this space!


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