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‘Strikers in Saris’ Mural Lights Up Birmingham’s Railway Bridge

‘Strikers in Saris’ Mural Lights Up Birmingham’s Railway Bridge

In a collaborative effort between British Asian magazine DESIblitz and Network Rail, a striking hand-painted mural now adorns a railway bridge in Birmingham, serving as a poignant tribute to the South Asian immigrants who courageously fought for equal working conditions 45 years ago.

Located on the Soho Road bridge in Handsworth, the mural commemorates the historic 1977 Grunwick dispute, which saw women workers, known as the ‘Strikers in Saris,’ lead the charge for justice and fair treatment. Vibrantly coloured panels depict scenes from this pivotal moment in history, highlighting the resilience and unity of the South Asian workforce.

Originating from Africa, India, and Pakistan, these immigrants encountered discrimination and exploitation in the UK job market, often relegated to low-paying factory jobs despite their skills and qualifications. Undeterred, they formed their own group, organising strikes and rallying support for improved workers’ rights.

Renowned Pakistani artist Haider Ali brought the mural to life over five weeks, employing his distinctive truck art style to capture the spirit of determination and solidarity. Yesterday, the mural was unveiled to the people of Handsworth, marking the culmination of months of planning and design.

Indi Deol, representing DESIblitz, emphasised the mural’s significance, stating, “Our (DESIblitz) collaboration with Network Rail pays homage to the resilience of the Strikers in Saris and the local community. It tells a story of strength and unity, serving as a lasting tribute to those who fought for justice.”

Steven Ireland of Network Rail expressed pride in the project, saying, “It’s been an honor to transform our railway bridge into an impressive piece of art that reflects such a turning point for South Asian workers’ rights in Britain. We hope it inspires people to learn more about this important chapter in history.”

Prior to the painting, Network Rail ensured the bridge’s structural integrity and compliance with regulations, ensuring minimal disruption to passengers. The mural now stands as a vibrant symbol of solidarity and progress, reminding all who pass of the enduring legacy of those who fought for fairness and equality.