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The King Of South Shields

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tina Gharavi

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Abstract

‘The King of South Shields’ is the story of how an individual can have a lasting effect on the lives of many other people. Something you could almost call ‘the butterfly effect’: the power of one person to effect positive change in the lives of those he or she touches. In 1977, the world’s most famous black man, most recognizable Muslim, and three time Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World came to a small industrial shipping town in the North of England. At the time, he was probably as famous as anyone in the world, right up there with Elvis, the Beatles, and the Queen. In fact, the Queen herself was in South Shields only the day before, celebrating her Silver Jubilee by touring the Country. But on the Friday, literally hours apart, South Shields had a visitor of a different kind… And the town roared! It seemed like nothing else had ever happened there - and for the first time, it felt like South Shields was the centre of the world. Muhammad Ali’s arrival was a major event and a long weekend of activities was planned: there was a bus journey around the town, an exhibition fight, a darts match, and visits to the Boys’ Club and a Special Needs School… However, on the Sunday of that weekend, Muhammad Ali and his second wife, Veronica Porsche, had their wedding ceremony blessed in the Al-Azhar Mosque on Laygate. Amongst the crowds who flocked to see the proceedings were many young Muslim-British men and women who had lived in South Shields all their lives. The ‘Greatest of All Time’ was getting married in their Mosque. This film traces the stories of those young men and women, discovering for the first time why Ali decided to perform this most sacred of ceremonies in a mosque thousands of miles from his home. Why did he decide to come to South Shields? And why was there in 1977 such a rich and long-standing Muslim community in the North East of England ready to greet him when he arrived? Today… a lifetime away. The shipping industry has disappeared from the Tyne, the men who came to work in South Shields - from exotic places like the Yemen, Somalia, and India - no longer come and the region is busying itself with cultural tourism, regeneration, and other distractions. A lot has been forgotten. And slowly slipping from the collective memories are the remarkable events which highlight that multi-culturalism is as British a tradition as fish and chips. The Yemeni Arab community in South Shields dates back to at least 1890. It is one of the oldest existing integrated Muslim communities in Britain, yet a perpetual myth is that Britain is white and that migration is a relatively new phenomenon (if you read the Daily Mail!). The people of South Shields are proof that Britain is not a monoculture. If only we took the time to remember. The King of South Shields opened the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in 2008.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Gharavi T

Publication type: Digital or Visual Media

Publication status: Published

Year: 2008

Source Publication Date: 01-01-2006

Publisher: Arts Council England

Place Published: UK

Type: DVD (Digital Video)


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