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Tackling Racism in Dundee (part one) – The Tayside Community Relations Council

Updated: Jul 29, 2023


Tayside Community Relations Council logo (courtesy of Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library, Leisure and Culture Dundee)

The 1960s saw a notable increase in the number of people from ethnic minorities coming to live in Dundee. At that time there was little provision made by the local authority to address the particular needs of these new communities, and in 1969 a small group of individuals began to meet regularly to share their concerns for the welfare of incomers to the city, especially Asian children. One of these was Margaret Faulkner (1911-1997), a tireless social campaigner who had lived in Dundee since the Second World War. She had previously served as secretary of the Dundee Association of Girls’ Clubs and was now teaching English at Dundee College of Commerce and acting as secretary of the local branch of Amnesty International. Faulkner later described the situation that many immigrants to Dundee then faced:


“There were few resources for Teaching English as a Second Language, either for children or adults, housing conditions were poor and the communication difficulties experienced by the ethnic minorities sometimes prevented them from making full use of the Health Service. Some children suffered from cultural shock in the new and strange environment of school and had problems with school meals, school uniform and being treated as ‘different’ by their white peers.”


The 1968 Race Relations Act had established a Community Relations Council in London to promote “harmonious community relations”. It encouraged the establishment of local branches and in Scotland, councils were formed in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1971. Faulkner and others persuaded the Lord Provost to call a public meeting which led to the establishment of Dundee Community Relations Council in 1973–with regionalisation of local government the following year, it became Tayside Community Relations Council (TCRC).The group quickly became formalised and began receiving regular grants from the Commission in London in 1974-75.


Faulkner described the TCRC’s early concerns as “the welfare of the ethnic minorities, social integration and the education of what was then called the ‘host community’ in the cultures of the newcomers.” They organised international concerts and food evenings, hosted exhibitions, organised English language classes, helped to establish a multi-racial club known as the ‘Contact Us’ and arranged conferences for teachers at Dundee College of Education. All of this activity was volunteer-run and certain individuals served on the TCRC committee for many years, including Mrs Faulkner, Mr J P Hazra and Mr Kalam Chowdhury.


In 1976, a new Race Relations Act led to the Commission in London being merged with the Race Relations Board to become the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). This led to a shift in focus for the TCRC, which now had to deal with individual casework concerning racial harassment and immigration difficulties. In 1977 the CRE paid for the TCRC’s first part-time member of staff, Anne Partington, who was given a room at Dundee International Women’s Centre as an office. She established relations with the local police as vandalism of Asian shops and other forms of racial abuse were becoming increasingly common.


Tayside Community Relations Council leaflets in multiple languages (courtesy of Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library, Leisure and Culture Dundee)

At the instigation of a local GP, Dr E R Younger, a Health Working Party was set up in collaboration with Dundee International Women’s Centre, after it was recognised that Asian patients showed greater incidence of rickets, osteomalacia and anaemia. The group arranged talks and demonstrations in health clinics and tried to make sure there were suitable meals in schools and in hospitals.


In 1979 Partington was replaced by Iris Bowles. One of her immediate duties was to help with the resettlement of refugees from Vietnam, following the establishment of the communist regime there. This was also a time when racism was increasing in Dundee and in 1981 a series of alarming disturbances in the Beechwood area acted as a wake-up call to the police and local authorities. Soon after, the chair of the CRE, David Lane, visited Dundee where he met the Police Community Relations Support Group, the head of Tayside Regional Council, the Beechwood Multiple Deprivation Committee and a number of Asian shopkeepers.


This led to greater funding from the region and CRE, and in 1982 Raj Palasooriar was appointed as the first full-time Community Relations Officer. Mother Tongue language classes were extended, and Palasoorier embarked on a campaign for equal opportunities in employment, which led to both Tayside Regional Council and Dundee District Council formally becoming equal opportunity employers. At the same time, he was also liaising with local police, helping families living in poor housing conditions and organising racism awareness courses. The TCRC office moved to the Radio Tay Complex in North Isla Street and Manpower Services Commission funding paid for interpreters and admin staff.


Sadly the overwhelming amount of work led to Palasoorier having to take extended sick leave and eventually resigning in 1985. Colleagues Jim Callaghan and Andrew Jeffrey both took over his duties at different times but both would also find that the stress of the work involved took its toll. More funding was found from the Urban Aid Renewal Fund, the European Social Fund and the Unemployed Voluntary Action Fund. In 1985 the TCRC office moved again to an annexe of St Peter & Paul’s Primary School in Paterson Street.


A new Education sub-committee now tried to put pressure on Tayside Regional Council to establish a formal policy for multi-cultural education. After numerous meetings and a conference at the College of Education, the regional council eventually agreed a Position Statement in 1988.


Dundee was experiencing increasing levels of racial harassment at that time including offensive graffiti and poster and leafleting campaigns by the National Front and the National Socialist Action Party. This led to TCRC commissioning a landmark report entitled Racial Tension in Tayside, published in 1987. It was compiled by Andrew Jeffrey and largely researched by Dr Albert Jacob, then vice-chair of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. It opened many people’s eyes to the scale of the problem but did not lead to any increase in TCRC’s funding. At the same time the Manpower Services grants now came to an end and Jeffrey as Community Relations Officer was now left as the only member of staff.


Racial Tension in Tayside, the landmark report produced by TCRC in 1987 (courtesy of Local History Centre, Dundee Central Library, Leisure and Culture Dundee)

As a result, the board of directors were forced to take on more responsibilities themselves and new sub-committees were established on Staffing & Administration, Community Languages and Racism Monitoring among others. With the local supply of part-time MSC-funded interpreters now exhausted, Dundee District Council agreed to pay for three professional interpreters (two full-time and one part-time), something TCRC had been campaigning for over many years. Mr Iftikhar Chaudhry (Urdu), Mr Thong V Lam (Chinese) and Mrs Shukla Bose (Bengali) began work in 1989 and in their first year undertook 1,633 pieces of translation.


Translators for Dundee District Council in 1994 - Thong V Lam, Shukla Bose and Farhat Farid (photo by kind permission of DC Thomson & Co Ltd)

That same year Thomas Dailly took over from Jeffrey as Community Relations Officer. He and the board immediately faced a challenge as a rethink of the role of the Commission for Racial Equality led to a limiting of the scope of Community Relation Councils “to working for racial equality and against racism. Projects concerned with youth, playgroups, community languages etc would have to be managed by other bodies”. The CRE would only continue to give grants to those councils that accepted its new constitution – the TCRC reluctantly agreed in January 1990. It would be the start of a new era in the organisation’s history.



Written by Matthew Jarron, University of Dundee Museums


Sources


Margaret Faulkner, A Short History of the Tayside Community Relations Council (TCRC, 1990)

Tayside Community Relations Council, Racial Tension in Tayside: A Regional Report (TCRC, 1987)

Tayside Community Relations Council – various annual reports and Focus newsletters held in Dundee Central Library Local History Centre

Dundee Courier & Advertiser – various issues

Press & Journal – various issues


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