Three Pounds in My Pocket – a journey from India

eh woh seher to nahin, jis ki aarzoo lekar
Chale the yaar ki mil jaayegi kahin na kahin
Falak ke dasht mein taaron

This is not that Dawn for which, ravished with freedom,
we had set out in sheer longing,
Of the stars in the forests of heaven

(Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

Inspired by local stories collected by Let’s Go Yorkshire, ‘Three Pounds in My Pocket’ was performed on 21 August in St Georges Square, Huddersfield, as part of The White Line, a bigger celebratory event, marking the 75th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan. 

The piece was co-written by Chol board member Mahnoor Khan and co-director Carly-Ann Clarke, who amalgamated the real experiences and memories of people who came to Huddersfield during the largest migration in human history. Khan shared her own moving stories of her grandmother’s sacrifice and love of her family and country. The piece was a fusion of poetry, music, dance and storytelling, culminating in a vibrant and visual performance which took the audience on a journey through time. 

‘Grandmothers are the most powerful storytellers of all. Wise women radiating their lessons through their embraces. When I was little, I would hold her delicate hand and trace the lines on her skin’. – Mahnoor Khan. 

‘Three Pounds in My Pocket’ followed characters Fateh and Roshina as they arrived in their new hometown of Huddersfield with light suitcases and heavy hearts. Trying to find their way in this new unknown land, the piece explored the tensions and struggles that those migrating faced, at a time when they were forced to leave their beloved India. As violence erupted and the white line was drawn across the sub-continent, the audience saw Fateh and Roshina finding their feet in the UK, connecting with their new community, getting new jobs and eventually finding love.

“The British sun feels different. It feels harsher, colder, and slightly askew. Our sun had kites in its shadows and long telephone wires running across the skies. Our sky felt like a warm cup of chai on the muddy streets of Lahore. Dust danced on my chappals there, but here everything is clean.” – Fateh, character.

Alongside the poetic script, Khan and Clarke worked collaboratively with musicians John Ball, playing the tabla, and Vijay Vinket on the bansuri flute. The music provided an intimate feel to the piece, weaving in and out and spotlighting poignant moments.

Co-director Jess Woodhead choreographed the movement, adding to the multidisciplinary work, conveying the industrial work that women were undertaking at that time through monotonous motifs, Integrating vibrant fabrics within the movement felt important to reflect the cultures, as well as providing a powerful visual. 

Alongside two professional actors, the piece was carried by an incredibly talented community cast who brought their abundant energy, vivacity and spirit, making for an emotive and dynamic performance. 

We are very grateful to Let’s Go Yorkshire for inviting us to be part of this incredible event, which saw a diverse audience come together to have fun, join in and celebrate together. 

‘Three Pounds in my Pocket’ was funded by High Street Heritage Action Zones (HSHAZ), a heritage-led regeneration initiative led by Historic England, working with local councils and the community to create economic growth and improve the quality of life in our historic high streets.

The £95 million government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme, which is being delivered by Historic England, aims to unlock the potential of high streets across England, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery, encouraging people to say Hi! to the high street, and breathe new life into it for future generations. It is also funded by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Huddersfield’s three-year HSHAZ programme is being supported by Kirklees Council.

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