February 16, 2024


The 6 month long exhibition highlights the town’s British-Pakistani community’s practice of recording and sending voice messages on cassette tape from 1960’s - 80s.

After touring nationally and internationally, the Tape Letters project is returning home to Ashton-Under-Lyne in a 6 month+ exhibition in Ashton Market.

The exhibit will platform oral histories from Ashton’s British-Pakistani community in a non-traditional gallery space for the first time - at the heart of a working market.  

The exhibition will be open to the public from Sunday 25th February and run throughout 2024 to at least 24th August.  It will be open to the public during the indoor market opening hours.

Tape Letters is an oral history project that highlights the little-known cultural practice within the British-Pakistani community of recording and sending voice messages on cassette tape between the 1960s and 1980s. Director Wajid Yaseen grew up in Ashton, and discovered the tapes when searching for his father’s cassettes.

Drawing directly both from first-hand interviews and from the informal and intimate conversations on the cassettes themselves, the project seeks to unearth, archive and represent a portrait of this method of communication, as practised mainly by Pothwari- speaking members of the British-Pakistani community, commenting on their experiences of migration and identity, the unorthodox use of cassette tape technology, and language.

Wajid Yaseen, Director of Modus Arts describes discovering the tapes: “The labels and inner sleeves of these cassettes were different from the pre-recorded music tapes that we were familiar with as kids – they instead had the names of relatives scribbled in either English or Urdu.

“Re-discovering them in the family home triggered childhood memories of when I’d be cajoled into recording messages to distant relatives in Pakistan, and it dawned on me that these cassettes would be sonographic snapshots of time, revealing the migratory experiences of my immediate family and a heritage that I previously didn’t have access to.”

Ashton Archive Donor Halima Jabeen said:  “Phone calls were just too expensive so we’d record messages on cassettes instead. Listening to one felt like someone was sitting right next to you and talking to you in your own home.”

Mohammed Zareen, Ashton Archive Donor, commented: "When I went to Pakistan, my daughter Asiah recorded a tape here in the UK so her grandparents and her uncle in Pakistan could listen to it. She gave it to me so I could hand it to them when I went on a visit there. They then recorded their reply and told me to play it to her and to all of my other children when I returned to the UK. The cassettes have their voices on them."

Modus Arts have produced multiple project outputs, including in-person exhibitions, a WebXR exhibition, a film, a photography series, a radio series, written publications, and a set of learning resources.

The exhibition is delivered by Modus Arts, in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and Tameside Council. This project is part funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Find out more at www.tapeletters.com

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