The National Trust’s A Home Away from Home: The India Club

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The National Trust’s A Home Away from Home: The India Club

The National Trust’s A Home Away from Home: The India Club is a site-specific exhibition that shines a light on the rich social history of this iconic club on the Strand. The exhibition showcases the significance of the India Club as an important meeting point and community space, initially for migrants arriving from the Indian subcontinent, and gradually spreading to a wider intellectual community. Recently this vital space has come under threat from potential redevelopment.

Originally located at 41 Craven Street before moving to 143 Strand, the India Club is perhaps best known for its links with the India League, with founding members such as Krishna Menon, the first Indian High Commissioner to the UK, President Nehru and Lady Mountbatten. As well as having one of the UK’s early Indian restaurants, the India Club quickly became an important hub for a rapidly growing British South Asian community in the aftermath of Indian independence and partition, making it an important site for understanding how the Indian diaspora in the UK established itself as an integral part of British culture and society.

Virtually unchanged for over 50 years, the India Club is a unique space that acts as a vibrant hub for a range of Anglo-Indian organisations and an extended community of journalists, writers, artists, academics and students who regularly meet there. This audio-based exhibition will provide visitors with the opportunity to intimately engage with the intangible heritage found at 143 Strand, offering a glimpse into the lived experiences of those who considered the Club a ‘home-away-from-home’, from the late 1950s to the present day.

The exhibition comes at a particularly poignant moment, following an extensive campaign and petition signed by over 26,000 people to prevent the redevelopment of the India Club. A Home Away from Home is a small immersive exhibition based around a newly-formed and fascinating archive of oral history interviews carried out by National Trust volunteers. These give voice to a wide variety of people connected with the India Club, from freedom fighters and descendants of its founding members to former staff, BBC reporters who worked in nearby Bush House, as well as artists and writers. Following the exhibition, these rich oral histories will be permanently housed at the British Library. The National Trust arealso working with Chocolate Films to produce a short documentary on the India Club to ensure the legacy of this new research.

Following the success of previous off-property initiatives by the National Trust in London – including Edge City: Croydon and Queer City: London Club Culture – this project aligns with the Trust’s ambition to tell inclusive and plural histories, whilst contributing to the preservation of special places relevant to urban audiences.

The National Trust’s Regional Director for London and the South East, Nicola Briggs comments, This exhibition offers us an opportunity to reflect on our national heritage and our shared history, which is and has been intrinsically linked to stories of migration. The India Club holds a special place in the hearts of many people, and remains a vibrant hub for Anglo-Indian communities to come together. From the outset, we felt a strong responsibility to build legacy into the project beyond this exhibition’s life span. We are delighted that the oral history interviews carried out by our volunteers will be given a permanent home by the British Library and are proud to be working with Chocolate Films to produce a documentary on the India Club.

Phiroza Marker, the manager of the India Club, says The India Club at 143-145 Strand has long served as a site where diverse communities come together to share cultural experiences. It is one of the few buildings in the capital pertaining to British South Asian communities, which still allows its historical and cultural associations to be experienced first-hand today. It is, in its current form, living history, particularly as a site of immigrant experience in Britain and through its connection with the India League. We welcome this opportunity to reflect upon the many past and present associations that have developed from India and Britain’s shared history.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of supper clubs, artist talks, screenings and conversations that will contextualise the project within the wider history of South Asian migration in the UK and the changing landscape of London’s highstreets and city centre. Collaborators will include the Migration Museum, Chocolate Films, Comfort Food Stories, Migrateful, and artist collective Specular Assembly.

The National Trust’s exhibition A Home Away from Home: The India Club will run from Wednesday 30 January - Friday 1 March