Artist brings 80s living room and Bollywood video shop back to life

We all like to reminisce and remember what life was like 'back in the day'.

Now an artist who grew up in Wolverhampton has tapped into our universal love of nostalgia and recreated her family's old front room and Bollywood video rental shop, bringing a lost world back to life.

Dawinder Bansal wanted to tell the story of what it was like for South Asian families, making their way in the UK.

But she didn't want to do a traditional exhibition in a museum. Instead, with support from Creative Black Country's Offsite9 project, she found an empty shop and transformed it.

Using family memorablilia and pieces she's collected, Miss Bansal's Indian-Kenyan living room, gives a real insight into what it was like for a first generation South Asian couple and their second generation Sikh children growing up in the city.

"The things that are significant to me in this room are this sofa - it's very comfortable but also the religious pictures. I remember going to the temple every Sunday morning and being with family and being with cousins.

"But also the Elvis picture and the piggy banks from NatWest for saving money. This story for me is about an Asian family coming to the UK and trying to make it here."

Situated quite deliberately in an unexpected location- an empty shop at the Mander centre in Wolverhampton, Dawinder hopes to attract a wide range of people inside and says whatever their backgrounds they always find something familiar.

Dawinder has transformed an empty shop in the Mander Centre Credit: ITV Central

The 1980s edition of the Express and Star newspaper on the coffee table invites parallels with today. The big news of the time was about conflict; the headline the latest development in the Falklands War.

One visitor told ITV Central how seeing the airmail letter on the sideboard brought back memories saying: "How my mum used to wait to get that airmail because that was the only communication she could have with her family.

"I remember when I was very small, an Aunt receiving a letter and crying and now looking back it was because she'd found out her mother had passed two weeks before through the letter."

It's not just Dawinder's front room where she's rewound time. After opening up her late father's briefcase in 2015, 27 years after he died - and finding his paperwork from his electrical store turned video rental shop - she decided to reconstruct that too.

"I started looking through his briefcase and I discovered all of these things in there that hadn't really been touched since since he's passed away, really. This was his life and his dream to set up the shop.

"I felt like it was really important to tell the story of our family, but also. the story of the contribution of the other South Asian families and immigrant families who set up businesses like this and how we contributed to society.

"Film was in my Dad's blood. He used to go and work as a projectionist and help out at the local cinema. And actually, he realised very soon that film was a way for Asian families to have some real escapism.

"For a lot of people who had come to Britain and left their families behind it was hard. It was dark. It was gloomy. It was a bit depressing, and the colour and the lively stories of Bollywood enabled them to have three hours of affordable family time and escapism into another world.

"I look around in here and see people beaming. It's allowing people to remember who was important in their lives at the time and the memories they shared through film."

Keen to be true to her story Dawinder doesn't shy away from her and her sister's job - the young girls were tasked with recording pirate Bollywood films on to VHS.

"We would spend two or three hours watching the films and making sure they'd recorded properly. Then we'd have to rewind them and then tell our Dad that they were ready for the shop."

Dawinder says she thinks the success of both spaces is because they allow people to immerse themselves into a time that no longer exists.

"It allows people to come in and switch off from technology. It's about real family time. That's what the living room is a representative of, of people coming together.

"I wanted to allow people to have a few minutes to themselves to just relax and forget about the outside world."

Dawinder was just 11 when her father died and she hopes he'd be proud of what she's created; a snapshot of her family's life four decades ago which so many will be able to relate to.