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Exhibition explores how Tameside community stayed in contact with relatives using cassette tapes

An exhibition at Ashton Market Hall will be based on Tameside's British Pakistani community's use of cassette tapes to stay in touch with relatives and friends.

Tape Letters covers forgotten practice, which was undertaken mainly by Pothwari speakers in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

It was rediscovered by Modus Arts director Wajid Yaseen, who grew up in Ashton, when he was searching through his father’s belongings.

The exhibition draws on first-hand interviews and from the informal and intimate conversations recorded on cassettes which were sent through the mail. It features people speaking honestly and openly about experiences such as migration, identity and language.

Wajid said: “Rediscovering the cassettes in the family home triggered childhood memories of when I’d be cajoled into recording messages to distant relatives in Pakistan.

“It dawned on me that the cassettes were snapshots of time, revealing the migratory experiences of my immediate family and a heritage I previously didn’t have access to.”

Donor Halima Jabeen added: “Phone calls were too expensive so we’d record messages on cassettes. Listening to one felt like someone was sitting right next to you and talking to you in your own home.”

Cllr Sangita Patel, Tameside Council’s assistant executive member for culture, heritage and digital inclusivity, commented: “As someone from Ashton whose family came to England from India I can fully understand the chord Tape Letters will strike with our British-Pakistani community.

“In these modern times of instant communication using the internet it can be hard to understand the importance of these cassettes and the excitement and delight there would have been to hear the voices of loved ones.

“Tape Letters is poignant and touching and something that can be appreciated by all people, no matter what their background.”

The exhibition opens on Sunday, February 25, and will be in Ashton Market Hall until the late summer. Visitors will be able to listen to the recorded messages and also to interviews with members of Tameside’s Pakistani community who once used cassettes to stay in touch with friend and family back home.

It is organised by Modus Arts in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and Tameside Council. The project is part-funded by the Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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