The Stratford Road in Birmingham has been host to several waves of immigration since the mid-20th century. This study produced a social document of people using this road during 2011 and 2012.

One-hundred people took part in the project which spanned the areas of Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, Springfield, Hall Green and Shirley. Each portrait has been arranged in geographical order beginning in Sparkbrook and noted with the street number at which it was taken.

A simultaneously national and international landscape was recorded with glipses of people's lives.

Catrina and Tariq were on their way to see family in Sparkbrook today. Whilst originally from west of the city centre in Sheldon, she had recently moved in with Tariq more locally. [40]
Tariq is currently training as a courier driver and was excited about moving in with girlfriend, Catrina, despite unease about her work aspirations. [40]
Hussain was visiting friends in Sparkbrook today but lives in Aston. He had some great shoes with detailed embroidery, something also picked up by Stan. [44]
Stan is from Russia and was showing an acquaintance around a new business premises. [46]
Ishtiaq is currently studying Computer Game Design at university. He said he likes the area and would definitely call it his home despite others considering their motherland of Pakistan their real home. [66]
Craig is living at a hostel in Sparkbrook but was in Afghanistan as a paratrooper until 2008. He finished during his second tour after getting shot in the hip and is finding civilian life back in the UK significantly less exciting. [145]
Abdul is training as a dental technician and has arranged future work experience in Sparkbrook but hopes to have his own practise one day. He has been in the UK for six years and is originally from Somalia.[162]
Eesa was getting to the end of a haircut and was nominated by the barber to have his photo taken, to which he agreed after a little encouragement. Eesa works in a city gym and has always been in Birmingham but originates from the north side in Handsworth. [166]
Maxamed came to the UK from Dubai in 2000 and is currently on a gap year whilst studying Media. He felt frustrated about Somali TV channels and how they lack documentaries about immigrant success stories. With experience gained during a project about khat, he plans to counter the polarised broadcasting. [157]
Marcia was on her way to her brother’s house on the Stratford Road today and liked the idea of the project as a born and bred resident of the area. [193]
cardo lives in Sparkbrook but has been in the UK for seven years, currently working for Land Rover. He’s previously trained as a chef and plumber but now aims to become a radiologist in the medical field. [262]
Mr Khan is from West Bromwich but had come to Birmingham to collect a friend being released on probation. [263]
Ali was helping to staff a friend’s restaurant today and spoke at length about the apparently few differences between Islam and Christianity. He is originally from Pakistan like the many of Sparkhill and Sparkbrook residents and now works part time as a cleaner after finishing at a local factory. [284]
Brian was waiting for a lift with Wayne and has worked in concrete flooring. He lives further south down the Stratford Road. [293]
Wayne was sat with Brian and has worked in gardening/fencing. They briefly discussed the on-going looting and riots that were taking place in many cities. Although against the action, they partly empathised with offenders citing potentially limited employment and life prospects. [293]
Frank was with his wife Ophelia and son Ewan today. He came to Britain from Ghana ten years ago and has since served in the logistics division of the Army. [341]
Ophelia was with her husband Frank on a shopping trip to one of the local supermarkets on the Stratford Road. They live locally and both come from Ghana. [341]
Hussain is working in a haberdashery whilst his wife studies for a post-graduate diploma. He plans to return to Pakistan afterwards to avoid the current economic climate here in the UK. [350]
Aziz came to Birmingham with a friend six years ago after leaving Afghanistan and currently works as a butcher. [415]
Hina was keen to play with the camera and posed after being nominated by her mother who had come to Birmingham from Somalia. [416]
Rachel has been working as a prostitute since her children were taken into care during their father’s drug addiction and their relationship breakdown. The children are now with Rachel’s mother but today a low-money situation prompted a day-shift rather than the preferred night-shift. [416]
Mr Lally was shopping on the Stratford Road with family on a visit from Scotland with his wife for the Christmas holiday. He prefers the cleaner and greener Birmingham to his permanent residence in Glasgow. [431]
Mrs Lally was with Mr Lally and proudly spoke of her husband’s head chef status of a restaurant in Glasgow. Although shopping with family in Birmingham today she’ll return to Scotland after the Christmas holiday. [431]
Elizabeth has always been in Birmingham but moved to Sparkhill with her husband several years ago. She spoke about the insular nature of groups that make up the Stratford Road and the associated oppression. Elizabeth also offered insight into the conflicts faced by younger generations in these groups as parent and British cultures collide. [459]
Ali came to the UK recently from Pakistan and is studying business at college whilst looking for a job. [512]
Mohammad lives in Aston but was visiting family in Sparkhill today as part of the Eid celebrations. [552]
Hassan works in sales for an energy company in Birmingham and unlike most people, took interest in directing his photograph. [566]
Arif has lived in almost every major British city but was certain of Birmingham being the best. This is no doubt why he’s chosen to spent his retirement living near the Stratford Road. [567]
Salim worked for Rover in various locations across England and the West Midlands for forty years before taking early retirement from the now-closed Longbridge plant in south Birmingham. [567]
Yousafzai is from Holland but came to Birmingham for his retirement, sitting with Hassan, Arif and Salim. [567]
Asmina has always lived in Birmingham and spoke about the abuse that is regularly received in some areas because of wearing the hajib. However in Sparkbrook where she lives with her three children, she feels safe and people aren’t likely to ‘point the finger’. [573]
Aftab has been working at one of the numerous fast-food specialising in fried chicken for two years. He said business was going well and generously offered some food. [579]
Kelly moved to Birmingham for university but decided to stay as a teacher working on the Stratford Road. [591]
Muhinder emigrated from India about forty years ago and operates a local embroidery factory, affirmed by the elaborate stitchwork on his clothing. [591]
Tony, with Rachel, plans to move out of Sparkhill and back to his hometown and family in London when possible. [605]
Tony, with Rachel, plans to move out of Sparkhill and back to his hometown and family in London when possible. [605]
Danny told me he was a born and bred Brummy as he headed to pick his son up from school but a couple of years in London had defined his accent. [613]
Ian spent most of his working life with Birmingham City Council and eventually retired to Spain. Unfortunately he has since returned following ill health but manages to get out on a mobility scooter. [636]
Khan worked at Rover for 25 years until the company collapsed and has struggled to find work since, partly due to literacy issues. He spoke about his frustrations with the Job Centre but was still able to take a positive spin on the situation saying he’d had a reasonable life of work and jobs should go to the younger unemployed. [644]
Mick was visiting his parents in Sparkbrook today where they have lived for around thirty years. Whilst currently unemployed, Mick is a Gardener/Groundsman by trade. [664]
Breagon was out with his dog today and had just bought a newspaper. He’s originally from Ireland and worked as a skilled labourer before retirement. [805]
Andy is part of the construction team building a new Primary Care Centre for Sparkhill and was taking his lunch break with a couple of colleagues. [806]
Fahad is a new resident in Sparkhill after moving from Pakistan three weeks ago to read a masters in Travel, Leisure and Tourism - something that his five languages will no doubt help. He mentioned differences between Pakistan and the UK in education and life but embraced his new environment. [815]
Sam moved to Birmingham from London to be with his partner and child. He’d just finished college for the summer break on a plumbing course. Whilst aspiring to run his own business eventually, Sam will be tolerating agency work over the summer. [837]
Mahamud has previously lived in Somalia and Holland but now resides in Sparkbrook with his wife and three daughters, two of which were nominated; Sommaya and Sabrin. [964]
Sommaya. [964]
Sabrin. [964]
Shamus is co-running a car electronics and window tinting business in Hall Green. He has lived in the area all his life and is getting married in Spring. [970]
David is a retired mechanic and has lived in Hall Green for the past six years, enjoying the diversity and nature of people in the area. [976]
Rory came to Birmingham from Ireland in 1969 to find work and has generally lived locally to the Stratford Road. He commented how back then all the faces in Sparkhill were white during his time working in construction and as a lorry and plant driver. [1004]
Roger is originally from Small Heath, an area neighbouring Sparkbrook, but now lives in Knowle in Solihull. He was waiting at one of the many hand car washes whilst his wife did some shopping. [1014]
Julian moved to the UK from Romania about two years ago and is working in construction. He was in Hall green today for work but lives in Walsall. [1016]
Chris has always lived in the Shirley area of Birmingham and has had a variety of jobs since leaving school. He is currently unemployed but has been taking courses to expand his skills base. [1046]
Yasin was on his way to shops in Springfield from Hall Green today. He’s studying internal design at college and looks forward to joining the family business of property development afterwards. [1080]
Rushabh was in India until eight or nine years ago and is currently studying computer science at Birmingham City University. He lives locally and was on his way to the bus stop going into Birmingham. [1080]
Rushabh was in India until eight or nine years ago and is currently studying computer science at Birmingham City University. He lives locally and was on his way to the bus stop going into Birmingham. [1080]
Terry is originally from just outside the north-west of Birmingham but would like to live in the countryside one day. [1110]
Annie was late for a salon appointment but hadn’t had to travel far from her house in Hall Green. She moved in eight years ago thinking it would be a home for life and beneficial to her late son but changes to the local parade since warrant a change of scene for her. Annie works for the NHS Stop Smoking Service and visits schools to give advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. [1130]
Michael has always lived in Birmingham and began his career as a solicitor in the city centre during the 1980s. Although living in Moseley, he now works in Hall Green specialising property and was on his way to a near-by bank. [1144]
Chris works for the post office in the city and has been in Birmingham since he was ten years old. Whilst he was born in Shropshire, part of his childhood was spend in Essex until his parents moved to Birmingham. [1158]
Mark has lived in many Birmingham districts over his ninety-odd years but now resides in Hall Green. He served in two wars and spent forty-four years at Birmingham City Council in an administrative role. Mark had a stroke more recently but luckily he is still able to get out and about relatively independently. [1061]
Margaret has been in Birmingham since 2007 but hails from the island of Bute in Scotland. Life in Hall Green with fabric shops and haberdasheries in close proximity is ideal for the keen seamstress and she avidly had no intention of returning to Scotland. [1191]
Justine lives locally in Moseley working as an osteopath but was visiting Hall Green today with her father to look around the cluster of used car dealerships in the area. [1191]
Shiraz was picking up one of his sports cars from a Hall Green garage today to return to his home near-by. A keen car enthusiast, he also owns an iconic 80s two-seater. For work, Shiraz has been running Carpet Elite in Dudley and seemed to be enjoying success with it. [1191]
Rob graduated as a Civil Engineer in 2008 but was made redundant two years into his first job. He was lucky to find another role quickly and started a photographic project. Rob moved to Hall Green in 1998 but hasn’t stayed anywhere for long in the last eight years. He’s currently enjoying the community spirit in Stirchley and is due to start a new job soon. [1205]
Celia was on the Stratford Road today walking Ziggy, one of her three show dogs. She has some reservations when it comes to how the suburb’s demographic has changed over the decades but still loves living in Hall Green. [1256]
Amaanullah was on his way into Birmingham from Hall Green but lives in Sparkhill. He was born a Muslim and has Asperger syndrome but the past four years had seen a significant improvement and change, one in particular - his handedness. Amaan has been a high-achiever in education and will be studying Chemical Engineering at university. [1319]
Joseph has been in Birmingham for about a year and owns a Chinese takeaway business in Hall Green. He had just returned to his premises with food from a local shopping trip. [1331]
Muhammad and his business partner Majidali were scouting for potential sites to expand their motor business on the Stratford Road. Today they were assessing the potential of a derelict car dealership and garage in Hall Green. [1362]
Majidali and Muhammod already have successful automotive businesses in Sparkbrook and the large derelict site in Hall Green suited them because of the residential surroundings. [1362]
Paul has been working with Birmingham City Council since 1986 and was mowing the central reservation of a dual carriageway section of the Stratford Road today. He lives in south-west Birmingham and spoke about the merits of early-start early-finish shifts. [1410]
Harj works as a medical supplier’s representative and was visiting a business in Hall Green to promote their services. Whilst she lives in London, Harj spends a lot of time working in the Midlands and Manchester areas. [1522]
David had just finished his work day at a semi-precious scrap metal merchants. Trade was going well due to rising commodity prices since the 2008 economic crash. David appreciated the purpose of the project as he also knows about photography. [1540]
Jen and Isaac were on their way to a friend’s house via the Stratford Road today. Jen is studying for her A-Levels and mentioned Medieval History and Geography. [1531]
Isaac and Jen are students studying in Solihull. Isaac is currently doing a Photography BTEC and was under pressure with coursework deadlines. [1531]
Sainab moved to Ireland with her husband before coming to England with her two children. She’s originally from Gambia in West Africa and appeared proud of her bright green dress embroidered with orange jewels. [1551]
Babelle was waiting with Sainab at a bus stop and came to England from Angola several years ago. [1551]
Kazmi lives in Pakistan but has been in Birmingham for the past few months to celebrate Eid with his family. He runs an engineering consultancy specialising in the lucrative liquefied petroleum gas business and will return home that month. [1550]
Mrs Ladwa was waiting for a bus and spoke about social make-up of the Stratford Road. She suggested Hall Green was where most Hindus like herself, from India, lived in the project area. [1659]
Martin was on his way home but had taken a break on a bench with an energy drink. Whilst currently unemployed he aspires to be a social worker. [1548]
Robert and Peter are bus drivers who came to England from Poland around six years ago to find more lucrative work. [40]
Peter and Robert discussed how exchange rates had changed over the years and that some Poles moved back as a result. Peter compared the diversity of a city like Birmingham and the potential for tension between groups to a more monoracial community such as his in Poland. [40]
Alan was waiting at a bus stop to drive the #6 bus which runs along the project section of the Stratford Road and connects Birmingham to Solihull. Despite having a London accent he’s been in Birmingham since 1961 and explained why the fleet swapped to single-deckers a few years ago; to stop unruly youths causing problems upstairs. [38]
Renu came to the UK around 45 years ago from Kenya and works in adult education teaching English. She was using the Stratford Road today to walk to the Shirley high-street for some shopping. [34]
Nikki was heading to her sister’s house in Shirley after a day at college training to become a security guard. She said she’d always tended towards typically male jobs based on the theory that they’ll be easier to get as a woman. Nikki lives in Winson Green and doesn’t travel on much of the Stratford Road, sticking to the Hall Green and Shirley areas when possible. [134]
Joan was in Shirley today and on her way to a pensioners bingo and games social. She’s always lived in Hall Green but has moved around within it several times. [153]
Gary has always lived near the Stratford Road and owns Tower Blinds based on School Road. Business was said to be more challenging than usual but things were still going well enough. [185]
Angie works in one of the homeware shops on the Shirley high-street and was nominated by colleagues for the project. She has always lived locally in Shirley and like her workmates, was most worried about how her hair would come out in the picture. [200]
Steve and Amy were on the Stratford Road today with their baby girl. Steve has lived all over Birmingham following various jobs but originates from the Hall Green area. He was happy about a new band he’d recently got going called FEA. [231]
Amy, who was with Steve, is a full-time mother said things were going well with her first child. She’s originally from Leicester but came to Birmingham when she was 11. Amy and Steve have just settled into Hall Green primarily because of the good value home they found. [231]
Dave had made a rare trip to Shirley today, partly to shop at one of the supermarkets on the parade. He was a Children’s Literature lecturer in Birmingham but also ran the university library. He is now retired and lives in Solihull. [247]
Michelle regularly takes advantage of the free parking around the Shirley high-street for shopping trips with her daughter, Megan. She accepted her part in the project as a ‘good deed of the day’ provided her best side was captured. [249]
Adam is a roofer by trade but has been working as a part-time postman and supermarket driver since losing his job last year. He had a positive outlook on life but had to dash to make a delivery. [260]
Mic is from West Bromwich and had just finished checking some ducting on a new signal system at the Solihull Road junction in Shirley which he was happy to explain. He enjoys photography and carries a film SLR to capture any graffiti or unusual characters he encounters. [264]
Ronald was out shopping with wife Janet today and worked in Birmingham for twenty-six years before retiring. Originally from Scotland, one reason they decided to stay in Solihull for retirement was because of the good transport links to other cities in which their family and friends live. [266]
Janet, whilst originally from Scotland now volunteers at a local community centre but was out choosing the finishing touches for a new bathroom with her partner Ronald. [266]
Hannah and Mat were out in Shirley with their happy dog, Jas. She had just finished a degree and was due to start a new job soon. [271]
Mat was with Hannah and mentioned her interest in photography whilst he works in optics. [271]
Tracy lives in Knowle but works in Shirley for a property developer. Speaking about the current economic climate, she discussed the engineering market and how businesses such as her’s have had to diversify. [325]
Dave is originally from Nottingham but came to Birmingham in the 1970s and the local area of Solihull in the 1990s. He works for the Job Centre and spoke about the planned supermarket and shopping centre developments to the aging Shirley shopping parade. He was out today to make a regular trip down the high street and said he liked the way he’d often bump into friends and acquaintances. [369]

All images copyright Rob Gilbert.