This shop, at 90 Abbeydale Road in Sheffield, has recently opened as The Flower Garden Florist.
In 1910, it was a laundrette owned by Yun Wong. It was inhabited by three males, and three females. This was the first business listed as owned by a Chinese person in Sheffield.
This year I have been working on ‘a portrait of the Chinese community in Sheffield’, a photo project which shows a bit about Chinese life in the city today. I have a long term interest in Chinese culture and society, and am especially interested in migration and cultural links between the UK and China. Since my own stays in China during 2007-2009, and again in 2012, I have been steadily adding to my photographic work here in Sheffield that shows how Chinese people and culture have become established and contributed to life in this South Yorkshire city.
Xin Yi Chen during a Mandarin class at Sheffield Chinese School, which has been running on a Sunday since 1973. The school was set up by a group of parents to teach their own children and has now grown to about 200 pupils attending weekly classes.
A couple of years ago, I worked on The Youzi Project -with Chinese students in Sheffield, most of whom were from mainland China and had come here to study. I spoke to a couple of restaurant owners during this time about the changes they had noticed in recent years; they had changed their menus from traditional to simplified characters, and were employing chefs specialising in regional cuisine to cater to the mainland population.
When the opportunity arose to work on ‘The City as Bricolage’, a successful Arts Council proposal by Clive Egginton and Cheryl Bailey (Senior Archivist at the city archives), I was delighted to be asked to fulfil one of three commissions to create new photographic work to go into the city records.
Other than trade directories and business listings, with yearly photos of the dragon dance and lion parade, there is very little recognition of the Chinese community (indeed any ethnic minority group) in Sheffield’s records. It was an ideal opportunity to go back to the mostly Cantonese-speaking population, to learn more about the foundations of the community here. Alongside photos of present day activities for Chinese speakers, and insights into individual lives, I am working on a portrait series with older residents who made the journey to Sheffield when they were younger and now call it home.
Some of this work will be on show in March 2015 at Sheffield Cathedral, as part of a three-week exhibition with Andy Brown and Rosy Nesbitt, the other photographers commissioned as part of the city Archives/Archive Sheffield project.