Sukhdev Sandhu

Sukhdev Sandhu’s London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City was published in the summer. He writes about film for the Daily Telegraph.

Come hungry, leave edgy: Brick Lane

Sukhdev Sandhu, 9 October 2003

“Those who were bewildered by the teeming life in Whitechapel devised methods of finding their way around. They placed bricks along the pavements to mark their routes through the maze of alleys and back streets around Brick Lane. They created codes for identifying the buses to the West End: the No. 8 was ‘two eggs’, the No. 22 ‘two hooks’. Solidarity was crucial.”

At first I’m sure it’s going to be a great day. Sun out. Bright blue skies. The end of summer. Even the sirens and engines that have been wailing outside my apartment window for the last hour don’t seem that unusual. Just, I assume, part of the hysteric clangour taken for granted by those who live in Manhattan. Only when I step out onto First Avenue to head downtown do...

Paradise Syndrome: Hanif Kureishi

Sukhdev Sandhu, 18 May 2000

Hanif Kureishi got me beaten up. Admittedly it was by my dad. At home, as at the factory where for more than half of his life he had been a semi-skilled machine operator, he preferred to communicate with his hands. Yet as his fists whacked into my face I thought, then as now, how right he was to do what he was doing.

Welcome Home: Memories of Michael X

Sukhdev Sandhu, 4 February 1999

Elderly Jamaicans, still trim, their trousers shiny-kneed but meticulously creased, smile spryly and recount with courtesy their memories of treading down the gangplank of a former German warship onto a grey, gale-swept motherland. As they tell their word-perfect stories, a series of familiar archive images floods the screen: broad-brimmed, broad-smiled West Indians with their natty suits and meagre luggage; the scrum of cameramen snapping away at this strange and freshly-docked cargo; the calypsonian Lord Kitchener acceding to a Pathé newsman’s request and breaking into a reedy ‘London Is the Place for Me’. Suddenly, according to innumerable commemorative church services and TV series, a marvellous post-colonial transformation was about to be wrought on a monochrome, war-weary nation.‘

At the Hop

Sukhdev Sandhu, 20 February 1997

The ten thousand blacks in London in the 18th century had a visibility and presence completely out of proportion to their numbers. They featured in the prints of Hogarth, Cruikshank and Gillray; their heads were pictured on countless tradesmen’s cards; they appeared in advertisements (‘Ah Massa, if I am continued in your service, dat will be ample reward for Scipio bring good news to you of Packwood’s new invention that will move tings with a touch’) and they themselves were advertised: ‘To be SOLD. A Black Girl, the Property of John Bull, Eleven Years of Age, who is extremely handy, works at her Needle tolerably, and speaks English perfectly well. Enquire of Mrs Owen, at the Angel Inn, behind St Clement’s Church, the Strand.’ Huge, ornate images of negroes were displayed outside shops, taverns and coffeehouses, many of which bore names such as the Blackamoor’s Head. Thanks to its blacks London had an air of vibrant cosmopolitanism that attracted the young Wordsworth, for example, emerging from three years of blanched provincialism at Cambridge:

Sukhdev Sandhu loves a certain vision of London. He finds it realised in the 1987 film Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, scripted by Hanif Kureishi, especially the ‘extraordinary scene’ in...

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